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Well, if the guy was on his own property, I would say there's not much you could do. The animal is his property to do with as he pleases. The best punishment for him in this case would be to ostracize him. If everyone knows what he's up to and thinks he's sick, losing his job, social connections, etc., would be pretty harsh.

In your scenario, you said he was in the street, which I assume is public property? If he's doing it in a public place, perhaps something could be done about it???

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A friend of mine has approached me with a slight conundrum he's been having and I now too am having. We both acknowledge that animals have no rights. That said, if we saw an individual senselessly torturing their dog/cat/whatever in the street, we (and many others I assume) would feel the need to use force to get the owner to stop, assuming a verbal threat was of no use. In doing this, we have obviously infringed upon the rights of a human being who has infringed upon no ones rights and consequently we are now liable for criminal charges. At the same time, I struggle to understand how any human being can stand by and watch an act of this nature take place.

You have no grounds for applying force, but that doesn't mean you can't visibly and obviously get out a video camera and stand in the street filming this guy, then loudly announce your intentions to post this on YouTube AND mention his name, then forward it to everyone you know and ask them to do the same. It's a threat, but not a *physical* threat and thus not a crime--you're confronting the individual with the possible long-term consequences of their behavior. If they continue, make good on your threat. They likely won't be too happy with the results.

Or, conversely, they may try to attack *you*, which means they're now guilty of assault and you *can* call the police. (In fact, it would probably be best to have a couple of people standing by ready to call the police before you try this.)

Just keep in mind that you aren't *obligated* to do this, you should only do it if you place a high rational value on animals and really despise people who abuse them.

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I have a similar conundrum for you that might help answer yours. Suppose you are a single guy, and you notice the most beautiful woman you ever saw--and not just beautiful, but the most attractive you ever saw--being kissed by someone else in the street. If you say that in this situation, you'd feel the need to use force to wrest the woman out of the stranger's arms, and into yours, you're probably not alone. But in doing this, you would obviously infringe upon the rights of a human being who has infringed upon no one's rights and consequently you would be liable for criminal charges. Still, how could any real man stand by and watch an act of this nature take place?

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Just because an animal does not have the capacity for rational thought (and therefore does not have 'rights' in the proper sense of the term) doesn't mean that an animal is incapable of feeling pain.

Assuming you saw someone "torturing" an animal (and in your hypothetical, that you have some means of determining it to be "senseless", as opposed to defending himself from the dog's attacks), I would act to stop the person.

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Just because an animal does not have the capacity for rational thought (and therefore does not have 'rights' in the proper sense of the term) doesn't mean that an animal is incapable of feeling pain.

Assuming you saw someone "torturing" an animal (and in your hypothetical, that you have some means of determining it to be "senseless", as opposed to defending himself from the dog's attacks), I would act to stop the person.

Why? Pain is absolutely not the source of rights.

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The best I can say is that if the man is in a public place, then the responsibility for regulating his behaviour falls to the public. Who the public is, and what the public's wish is, no one can know of course. Therefor, as long as there's such a thing as a place owned by the public, that place is a moral grey area: decisions will be made the same way all public decisions are made. Currently, beating an animal in public is considered against the wishes of the public, for whatever that is worth.

Objectivism's political system (capitalism) doesn't speak to how a human being's behaviour should be regulated in a place not privately owned. The place is already controlled by looters, so what's the point in prescribing what they ought to do with it?

That said, you have plenty of choices when you see that: avoid the area, call the police, ignore the man;

The last thing you should do is get into a fight.

My personal preference would be do go down the list, in the order I gave. If I can't avoid the area, I'd complain to the police, and if they wouldn't do anything, I'd try to ignore it. I don't know if I can or not, I never tried.

[edit]

Without thinking it through, I said that if I can't, I'd beat up the guy. I'd like to correct that: initiating violance would mean giving up the expectation of having my rights respected. (giving up what some people call the moral high-ground)

Upon further consideration, I would never be willing to do that, so I'd probably just have to try harder at avoiding the sight of this torture. There's no way that is impossible to do.

Edited by Jake_Ellison

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Assuming you saw someone "torturing" an animal (and in your hypothetical, that you have some means of determining it to be "senseless", as opposed to defending himself from the dog's attacks), I would act to stop the person.
But would you recognize that your act was an immoral initiation of force?

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I am having trouble reconciling something related. Animals are supposed to not have free will, but the "test of free will" that I often see repeated on here is to focus your attention on something, and then shift your attention to something else. Assuming that a person who has learned no language still has free will, how could you tell the difference between such a person *passing* this test, and a chimp *failing* to pass the test, or a dog or cat for that matter? I see animals shifting their attention all the time, so certainly there has to be more to a test of free will than just that.

Edited by brian0918

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"Free will", again, isn't the reason why humans have rights. Humans have rights because we have a rational faculty and its use is our means of survival--rights are necessary for us to survive. Since animals haven't demonstrated that they have a rational faculty or that it's necessary for their survival, they don't have rights.

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But would you recognize that your act was an immoral initiation of force?

It's an interesting question. It, of course, depends on whether that animal belongs to that person. If not, then force has already been initiated (against the rightful owner) and you can act morally to stop the torture. If the animal belongs to the torturer, then it's a different story. Is the torture of an animal in public shocking enough to be considered an assault on the senses? What if a person walked into a group of young children in a park, pulled a bunny out of his pocket and lit it on fire? What if he masturbated while doing it? Would you recognize that stopping him was an immoral initiation of force?

I think the issue is a little more complicated than one of animals' rights.

(edit: stupid. Thanks kmac)

Edited by agrippa1

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That said, if we saw an individual senselessly torturing their dog/cat/whatever in the street, we (and many others I assume) would feel the need to use force to get the owner to stop, assuming a verbal threat was of no use. In doing this, we have obviously infringed upon the rights of a human being who has infringed upon no ones rights and consequently we are now liable for criminal charges. At the same time, I struggle to understand how any human being can stand by and watch an act of this nature take place.

Would appreciate any reasonable thoughts on the matter.

Thanks.

Well, you can call the cops and report the man for being a public nuissance. Most people will rightfully loathe a man who tortures animals for fun, so you may get a good response from the police. Nor is the charge spurious. Animals shriek very loudly when in pain (if you ever accidentally stepped on a cat's tail you know this). So even if the man were indulging in that particular depravity inside his home, he'd still likely be a public nuissance.

And of course if the animal is not his, you can morally use force to recover stolen property, but only through the police. Private citizens don't ahve a right to use retaliatory force.

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I am having trouble reconciling something related. Animals are supposed to not have free will, but the "test of free will" that I often see repeated on here is to focus your attention on something, and then shift your attention to something else.

I'm not sure I understand this test, nor Megan's post. With regard to the latter, rights are intimately connected with free will, so the two should not be segregated or discussed seperately. Indeed, a being without free will cannot have rights, as, by definition, it has no choice of action to begin with. Free will is at least a necessary condition for the existence of rights. The text I always refer to on questions of free will is Aquinas' Quaestiones disputatae de Veritate. In it, he maintains that free will is the result of rationality. Granted that reason is our means of survival, we have free will. Extend this conclusion into the social sphere, and one concludes that man, who is by definition a being with free choice, has rights. The relevant section is located here. (Whenever Aquinas writes "the Philosopher" he is talking about Aristotle.) Second page, lines 20-24: "Hence the whole root of freedom is reason. Consequently, a being is related to free choice in the same way as it is related to reason. Reason is found fully and perfectly only in man. Only in him, therefore, is free choice in its full sense found."

With regard to your 'test': For Aquinas, it seems as if free will consists of the ability to judge one's own judgements (from the first page of the above article, lines 36-39): "Man, judging about his course of action by the power of reason, can also judge his own decision insomuch as he knows the meaning of an end and of a means to an end, and the relationship of one with reference to the other. Thus he is his own cause not only in moving but also in judging." Also check the second excerpt, lines 15-20. It seems to me that Aquinas has a better test than a simple demonstration of attentive focus. If a being is able to rationally judge its own action prior to acting, with respect to a particularly meaningful end which it understands fully, then it has free will. I have seen little evidence that animals are capable of this process.

Edited by adrock3215

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I'm not sure I understand this test, nor Megan's post. With regard to the latter, rights are intimately connected with free will, so the two should not be segregated or discussed seperately. Indeed, a being without free will cannot have rights, as, by definition, it has no choice of action to begin with. Free will is at least a necessary condition for the existence of rights. The text I always refer to on questions of free will is Aquinas' Quaestiones disputatae de Veritate. In it, he maintains that free will is the result of rationality. Granted that reason is our means of survival, we have free will. Extend this conclusion into the social sphere, and one concludes that man, who is by definition a being with free choice, has rights. The relevant section is located here. (Whenever Aquinas writes "the Philosopher" he is talking about Aristotle.) Second page, lines 20-24: "Hence the whole root of freedom is reason. Consequently, a being is related to free choice in the same way as it is related to reason. Reason is found fully and perfectly only in man. Only in him, therefore, is free choice in its full sense found."

With regard to your 'test': For Aquinas, it seems as if free will consists of the ability to judge one's own judgements (from the first page of the above article, lines 36-39): "Man, judging about his course of action by the power of reason, can also judge his own decision insomuch as he knows the meaning of an end and of a means to an end, and the relationship of one with reference to the other. Thus he is his own cause not only in moving but also in judging." Also check the second excerpt, lines 15-20. It seems to me that Aquinas has a better test than a simple demonstration of attentive focus. If a being is able to rationally judge its own action prior to acting, with respect to a particularly meaningful end which it understands fully, then it has free will. I have seen little evidence that animals are capable of this process.

I agree with you that it has to be more complicated than simply shifting focus, but I have seen that "test" repeated several times on this forum, and am wondering what the basis is for this assertion.

As for your suggested alternative test:

If a being is able to rationally judge its own action prior to acting, with respect to a particularly meaningful end which it understands fully, then it has free will. I have seen little evidence that animals are capable of this process.

What I was hoping for, in the description of a test, was something that avoided words like "rationally", for which I am also unclear on the meaning. It is too easy to construct a circular reasoning, in which the definition of "rationality" references "choice" or "free will", and the definition of "free will" references "rationality".

If it is to be a test, then certainly it is to be performed; so simply provide me with the steps to perform, and I will attempt them.

Edited by brian0918

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Is the torture of an animal in public shocking enough to be considered an assault on the senses?
No, it is not. (Well, it is a vile twisting of the real meaning of "assault", which should not be used in a context where an action is being judged for possible punishment under the law). It is assuredly shocking, and is not assault.
What if a person walked into a group of young children in a park, pulled a bunny out of his pocket and lit it on fire?
Anyhow, these cases again underscore the problem with public property. If a person is entertaining himself at the local bunny-burning hall, that is his right, and children should not be allowed in to the hall without parental permission (and most probably, parent should not allow their children into the bunny burning facility).

Actually, I think that Rand's analysis of public displays of sex acts is applicable here. The fact is that bunny burning is probably a sufficiently shocking act (I'm guessing, I have never watched it myself) that one simply cannot ever take assume permission has been granted by anyone to see such events unwarned. (In comparison to skater pants, which are gross but not objectively offensive). It's not about the animal's right, but rather the rights of innocent people who are involuntarily and unexpectedly being shown this despicable act outside the privacy of their own homes of bunny-burning halls. If you are determined to burn bunnies, you should stay at home.

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Can you be more specific as to how you would act?

Separate the two.

I do see the point about the dog being property and how that gives him the right to do whatever he pleases with it, but what if the sight/sound of seeing the dog be beaten causes me pain?

Question though: If a pet is property, then is the use of force moral in criminalizing bestiality?

Edited by Sir Andrew

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Separate the two.

I do see the point about the dog being property and how that gives him the right to do whatever he pleases with it, but what if the sight/sound of seeing the dog be beaten causes me pain?

So you would use physical force against someone's who is not violating anyone's rights?

As far as him causing you pain... if a person goes by playing rap music and it causes me pain, can I forcibly make them turn it off? How about a lady causing pain to my nostrils by wearing really obnoxious perfume?

Aside from that, the man is NOT causing you pain. He's causing the dog pain, you are responsible for your emotional reaction to that.

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Separate the two.

I do see the point about the dog being property and how that gives him the right to do whatever he pleases with it, but what if the sight/sound of seeing the dog be beaten causes me pain?

If the person doing this is on public property, then you can without further ado turn to the "public" -which in a laissez-faire society would be replaced by a legitimate owner of the property- to stop him. (as long as you were genuinely inconvenienced by his actions, because you have no choice but to use that street he's doing this on. If you're a do-gooder running around looking for animals who are being tortured on public property, then you are actively taking advantage of the injustice of the existence of public property itself, the same way politicians are when censoring "obscene" talk in public or on the radio/TV. That is wrong, because you are "stealing" their "share" of the public property from those who like behaving differently than you.)

On the other hand, if he's doing it on his own property, then you are facing a simple choice: put up with it, or move to a place in which the neighbors are contractually obligated to keep it down.

Beyond that, I think Dr. Peikoff answered a similar questing, on whether someone has the right to not be bothered by airplanes landing at the nearby airport: he said that between the airport and the private homeowner, the one who got there first is the one in the right. Basically the homeowner has the right to not be woken up every five minutes by an airplane buzzing by, if he had built his house before he became aware of plans to build the airport, and if the airport wasn't there at the time he built it.

In my opinion this is the proper way to settle legitimate "environmental pollution" issues, (including noise pollution): the person initiating the force is either the person starting the pollution (if the victim is already in place), or it is the so called "victim", by buying land under an airport (/next to a dogfighting ring), building a house there, and then trying to stop the other person from doing what he's been doing.

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So you would use physical force against someone's who is not violating anyone's rights?

As far as him causing you pain... if a person goes by playing rap music and it causes me pain, can I forcibly make them turn it off? How about a lady causing pain to my nostrils by wearing really obnoxious perfume?

Aside from that, the man is NOT causing you pain. He's causing the dog pain, you are responsible for your emotional reaction to that.

Alright, I understand the argument now.

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If it is to be a test, then certainly it is to be performed; so simply provide me with the steps to perform, and I will attempt them.

I don't think that there is an easy, formulaic test. My best answer to this question right now is that free will is contigent upon several conditions. Notably:

1. The being must be able to judge a given end;

2. The being must be able to evalaute a particular course of action and identify that it leads or does not lead to his or her chosen end;

3. The being must be able to contemplate the ramifications of performing said action, prior to its performance;

4. The being must be able to execute said action.

Obviously this process must be done cognitively, and not instinctively; hence the reason why philosophers have identified rationality as a necessary condition for the existence of free will.

Edited by adrock3215

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... if we saw an individual senselessly torturing their dog/cat/whatever in the street, we (and many others I assume) would feel the need to use force to get the owner to stop, assuming a verbal threat was of no use. In doing this, we have obviously infringed upon the rights of a human being who has infringed upon no ones rights and consequently we are now liable for criminal charges. At the same time, I struggle to understand how any human being can stand by and watch an act of this nature take place.

1. Call the police. Animals are property, the person uses force against property, maybe it's not his own property but from someone else.

2. When it is established that the animal is really owned by that person the police can ask who the breeder of the animal was.

If there was no law about animal cruelty and you were an animal breeder (and love animals) then you would include a paragraph about not torturing the animal in the contract.

3. If the contract allows torture or if that person himself is the breeder of the animal then proceed with the public defamation.

And last but not least: The street is for transportation, not for animal cruelty. The owner of the street could have banned such activity on the street. In addition the seller of his own piece of land could have written something like that in the contract.

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I don't think that there is an easy, formulaic test. My best answer to this question right now is that free will is contigent upon several conditions. Notably:

1. The being must be able to judge a given end;

2. The being must be able to evalaute a particular course of action and identify that it leads or does not lead to his or her chosen end;

3. The being must be able to contemplate the ramifications of performing said action, prior to its performance;

4. The being must be able to execute said action.

Obviously this process must be done cognitively, and not instinctively; hence the reason why philosophers have identified rationality as a necessary condition for the existence of free will.

Other than by predefinition, how can you tell that an animal is not doing these things cognitively, but instinctively. I can certainly imagine an animal appearing to perform these feats.

The simple fact that we evolved from animals that lacked reason seems to imply a gradual transition between the two, rather than a sharp divide, no?

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Other than by predefinition, how can you tell that an animal is not doing these things cognitively, but instinctively. I can certainly imagine an animal appearing to perform these feats.

You can tell from the observation that animals of the same kind tend to do the same thing. Aquinas states that animals act from "natural judgement...evident from the fact that all brutes of the same species work in the same way, as all swallows build their nests alike." He continues: "It is also evident from the fact that they have judgement in regard to some definite action, but not in regard to all. Thus bees have skill at making nothing but honeycombs..." It is not clear from any observations of animals that they can, upon deliberating on a particularly destructive course of action, choose it knowingly, and therefore willingly act to destroy their own lives. There is no evidence that suggests that an intentional comparision in the reason can be done by animals; that is, the process by which an action is evaluated with respect to a given long-term end and categorized as "avoid" or "seek". It is clear that men can perform such an introspective process.

Starting from the premise "I can certainly imagine an animal appearing to perform these feats", and then deductively arriving at the conclusion that animals could act rationally is not sound reasoning; it is an apriori argument. You can imagine whatever you want, but that doesn't mean that there is empirical evidence which can inductively lead to your conclusion.

The simple fact that we evolved from animals that lacked reason seems to imply a gradual transition between the two, rather than a sharp divide, no?

Not sure how sharp the divide is. Regardless, one does not need any sort of specialized knowledge to observe that animals, in general, do not act on the basis of reason, but that they do act on mostly immediate sensations.

Edited by adrock3215

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