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Chimps and gorillas make tools and can be taught to use limited language. They recognize themselves in the mirror. This certainly indicates a gradual transition to reason. What removes them from the possibility of having rights?

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Chimps and gorillas make tools and can be taught to use limited language. They recognize themselves in the mirror. This certainly indicates a gradual transition to reason. What removes them from the possibility of having rights?

They don't understand rights (or there is no proof yet that they do).

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They don't understand rights (or there is no proof yet that they do).

Neither do most people. Is it a prerequisite to having rights that one must understand those rights? Does a feral man have rights?

Edited by brian0918

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Chimps and gorillas make tools and can be taught to use limited language. They recognize themselves in the mirror. This certainly indicates a gradual transition to reason. What removes them from the possibility of having rights?
They cannot act on principle by respecting the rights of others. Their choices are not governed by reason.

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They cannot act on principle by respecting the rights of others. Their choices are not governed by reason.

What is the test to determine whether their choices are governed by reason? Also, would your definition be affected by my assertion that the evolution of reason is a gradual process, and that therefore there may be intermediary levels of reason?

Edited by brian0918

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What is the test to determine whether their choices are governed by reason? Also, would your definition be affected by my assertion that the evolution of reason is a gradual process, and that therefore there may be intermediary levels of reason?

What about my reply was unsatisfactory?

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Neither do most people. Is it a prerequisite to having rights that one must understand those rights? Does a feral man have rights?

How do you know that most people don't understand rights? The only people we know that don't (or don't want to, i.e. don't use their faculty of reason) understand rights are criminals. And we don't respect their rights, we put them in prison.

We know of no single example of an animal that demonstrated that it understands rights but we know of several examples of humans that demonstrated that they understand rights. Thus we have to assume that in principle humans do have the faculty to understand rights while animals don't.

If one comes up with an example of an animal that understands rights its species should be granted rights.

Edited by Clawg

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How do you know that most people don't understand rights?

Well, it depends on what you mean by "understand". By the strictest definition you could provide, only Objectivists understand rights. It's certainly true that many people affirm right, but is that the same as understanding? If all you're asking for is affirmation, you can easily teach a parrot to affirm rights. What is the test to determine if a person, animal, plant, or inanimate object understands rights?

We know of no single example of an animal that demonstrated that it understands rights but we know of several examples of humans that demonstrated that they understand rights. Thus we have to assume that in principle humans do have the faculty to understand rights while animals don't.

While that would be a reasonable assumption, is it not possible for reason to devolve in the same way that it evolved? If a society affirms "might makes right" (or religion?) for long enough, certainly there will be selective pressures moving them away from the capacity for reason (unless you want to claim that there is a single on/off switch for reason in our DNA)

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They cannot act on principle by respecting the rights of others. Their choices are not governed by reason.

I think this is a good point. They do not choose their values. They are also not conceptual animals. Even chimps. From the Ayn Rand Center:

Animals have rights, goes another argument, because animals possess the same capacity for rational thought as humans. There is no scientific evidence for this claim. Consider the most fundamental fact that contradicts it: chimpanzees, the most advanced of the primates, have been on earth for about four million years. During that entire period they have not produced even the rudiments of a primitive culture. If chimpanzees could reason even at a primitive level, this would give them such a competitive advantage in the struggle for survival that the earth would be overrun with chimpanzees. Attempts to teach sign language to chimpanzees revealed that they did not grasp the actual concepts taught at all, rather they used signs virtually at random to signal for things that they wanted. Here is a simple test that would prove once and for all whether chimps really grasp concepts. Place a pile of objects varying in size, shape and color in front of a chimp and sign: Bring me ten green triangles. Such a test would require that chimps count above seven (seven objects can be directly perceived without counting) and that they abstract the attributes of color and shape, as well as of number, from objects. No chimp has ever come close to such a feat. - source: http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=New...cle&id=5332

If they are not conceptual, if they are unable to form concepts, then conceptual terms are inapplicable to them - concepts like "morality".

Besides, how many times to you see a dog taken into court for assault and battery (even murder) of some other smaller animal, or some human? :)

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What about my reply was unsatisfactory?

Nothing, however the things for which you say there is no evidence are also currently untestable. That is why I am asking for such a test.

the process by which an action is evaluated with respect to a given long-term end and categorized as "avoid" or "seek".

Chimps also plan and coordinate hunts and battles with other packs. How does this fit in (or not) with "action evaluated with respect to a long-term end"?

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Would not the creation of a concept be both a demonstration of free will and of reason?

Certainly apes that have been taught limited language have shown the capacity for conception. They regularly use nouns to represent toys, fruit, etc. A gorilla that signs "I want banana" doesn't mean a specific banana (ie, a banana he remembers eating yesterday), but just a banana. Give him a banana that's a little larger or smaller, or painted a different color from the one he had yesterday - as long as it smells and taste alright he'll accept it. He is referencing the concept "banana", no? Likewise, infants, can be taught limited sign language, and will sign when they are hungry or want a bottle. Give them any bottle (not just a specific bottle) and they're satisfied. That does not mean infants have rights, does it?

If they are not conceptual, if they are unable to form concepts, then conceptual terms are inapplicable to them - concepts like "morality".

Well, that would be an abstract concept. Is that where the differences lies?

Edited by brian0918

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Well, it depends on what you mean by "understand". By the strictest definition you could provide, only Objectivists understand rights. It's certainly true that many people affirm right, but is that the same as understanding?

I think one example of a person that understands rights is enough to show that every human is in principle able to do so. So you would have to show for each single person that that person does not understand rights.

What is the test to determine if a person, animal, plant, or inanimate object understands rights?

You agreed above that Objectivists are able to understand rights and I added that you only need one example of such a person.

While that would be a reasonable assumption, is it not possible for reason to devolve in the same way that it evolved? If a society affirms "might makes right" (or religion?) for long enough, certainly there will be selective pressures moving them away from the capacity for reason (unless you want to claim that there is a single on/off switch for reason in our DNA)

In a society where either crime is rampant or where the laws have 'compromised' with the criminals (i.e. there are laws that are not objective) it becomes less and less rational to respect the rights of other people, i.e. assume that everyone in the society understands rights. Voting for irrational rights is a form of action, too. The question is where you draw the line in such an irrational society concerning your own behavior towards others.

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I think one example of a person that understands rights is enough to show that every human is in principle able to do so. So you would have to show for each single person that that person does not understand rights.

I can agree with that. Would you also assert that if we eventually find a single ape - anywhere - that understands rights, the whole species should be granted rights?

You agreed above that Objectivists are able to understand rights and I added that you only need one example of such a person.

My question was not what is the test of having rights, but of understanding rights.

In a society where either crime is rampant or where the laws have 'compromised' with the criminals (i.e. there are laws that are not objective) it becomes less and less rational to respect the rights of other people

So sometimes it is alright not to respect the rights of others, even if they have done nothing wrong to anyone's knowledge?

Edited by brian0918

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I think one example of a person that understands rights is enough to show that every human is in principle able to do so.
What warrants that conclusion? Usually, when you have evidence that most X's are not Y and evidence in in instance that a specific X is Y, you do not conclude that all X's are Y.

If a single strange ape does provably understand rights, that does not mean that all apes understand rights. Nor does one white crow prove that all crows are white.

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Certainly apes that have been taught limited language have shown the capacity for conception.
Since, as a scientific fact, no apes have been taught limited language, you cannot conclude that apes have shown a capacity for concept formation. No scientific evidence supports that belief.
They regularly use nouns to represent toys, fruit, etc.
Apes do not have nouns.
A gorilla that signs "I want banana" doesn't mean a specific banana (ie, a banana he remembers eating yesterday), but just a banana.
Not even the signing-ape fanatics maintain that apes have a distinction between definite and generic expressions. Signing apes do not have any grasp of definiteness-marking.
Give him a banana that's a little larger or smaller, or painted a different color from the one he had yesterday - as long as it smells and taste alright he'll accept it.
In fact, if you give a banana to an untrained ape, he will accept it. Or if you give an orange to an ape that emits the sign for "banana", he will accept it.

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What warrants that conclusion? Usually, when you have evidence that most X's are not Y and evidence in in instance that a specific X is Y, you do not conclude that all X's are Y.

If a single strange ape does provably understand rights, that does not mean that all apes understand rights. Nor does one white crow prove that all crows are white.

It means that all apes have the biological faculty to understand rights if we understand the concept "apes" as a set of living organisms with the same genetic code.

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Certainly apes that have been taught limited language have shown the capacity for conception.

No, they haven't. You are confusing the intelligence, and possibly the "consciousness" or "conscious awareness" of apes or chimps with actual conceptual ability to understand the process of abstraction. No doubt, apes and chimps are intelligent, but that does not grant them the faculty of reason that is required to form concepts. Dr. Locke talks a bit about the confusion in an article about psychology here.

They regularly use nouns to represent toys, fruit, etc. A gorilla that signs "I want banana" doesn't mean a specific banana (ie, a banana he remembers eating yesterday), but just a banana. Give him a banana that's a little larger or smaller, or painted a different color from the one he had yesterday - as long as it smells and taste alright he'll accept it. He is referencing the concept "banana", no?

Who is "they"? In other words, which apes have done this? From the information I have available to me, these types of experiments were flawed and filled with experimenter bias. On their own, without prompting, the apes in question were unable to understand concepts.

Likewise, infants, can be taught limited sign language, and will sign when they are hungry or want a bottle. Give them any bottle (not just a specific bottle) and they're satisfied. That does not mean infants have rights, does it?

Well, human beings aren't apes now, are they? Humans have a conceptual faculty, apes do not.

Well, that would be an abstract concept. Is that where the differences lies?

All concepts are a process of abstraction. The "abstract concept" is just abstracting higher level concepts from lower level ones. Apes and chimps can do none of this. A parrot can learn to repeat what I say, that doesn't mean that it has learned the English language. Essentially, that is what you are saying about apes.

Edited by prosperity

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Nothing, however the things for which you say there is no evidence are also currently untestable. That is why I am asking for such a test.

What do you mean by test? Do you mean that empirical observation is not conclusive enough?--because that is what I have been pointing to for the entirety of this conversation. I told you all the conditions necessary for free will to exist. Pressed further, I told you the reasons why animals do not have free will, on the basis that they do not use reason. I quoted Aquinas to demonstrate how one can come to this conclusion. Prosperity's quote is even better. Sign to an ape to bring you 10 green triangles, and see how far you get.

You are trying to answer this question apriori, instead of thinking in actual empirical observation. People who try to address the question of free will (in man) deductively always bring other categories of being into question, such as apes, monkeys, sea otters, computers, calculators, etc. As I said earlier, there is no evidence to support the conclusion that animals (or computers) have any semblance of free will.

This question about whether animals have rights can be addressed after we establish the fact that animals do not have free will. Only a being with free choice can have rights. This other "understanding rights" argument going on is inconsequential.

Edited by adrock3215

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A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

Ayn Rand repeatedly talked about man's rights. She, as far as I can determine, never took up the question of animal rights.

But in many cases like this one, when she talks about rights, she talks about the right to life.

"Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life."

Here she is clearly talking only about rational beings, but I've never seen anything from her that implies that "the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action" doesn't also apply to non rational beings.

So - is this assertion valid?

By nature of being alive, all beings have a right to live - that being the right to engage in self-sustaining and self generated action.

If the assertion is valid, then just as man's right to act freely is restricted in so much as he cannot morally restrict anothers right to act freely, should not man's right to act freely with animals be restricted to those actions which actually sustain man's life?

Torturing an animal does nothing to sustain man's life. It further deprives the animal of its right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action. In as much as it does the latter and is *not* a means of acting rationally for man's survival, does that not mean the man is *not* acting rationally?

And if the man is not acting rationally by torturing an animal, then the man has no right to expect to be allowed to continue, does he?

And yes, I know, I've been down this path before...

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Torturing an animal does nothing to sustain man's life. It further deprives the animal of its right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action.

Animals have no rights, because they have no free will. If animals had free will, they would have rights. Your quote from Rand confirms this: "self-generated action" means free will.

Edited by adrock3215

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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.

Well the thing that gives people rights is that they are able to volitionally trade values (this is the application of individual reason to a social situation). So if a chimp wanted to convince me that I should deal with it by reason instead of by force, it could make some sort of attempt to get an orange and then try to trade it for my banana, without using force against me. Instead all you get from chimps (as far as I know) is maybe an attempt to take your banana when you're not looking. If they, without exception, use force rather than reason in dealing with other beings (unless specifically and painstakingly trained to do otherwise, or at least to appear to do otherwise), they fail the test of reason being their means of survival. I think the attempt to "test for reason" in a being is misguided - if they were creatures of reason, they'd be trying to reason with us. If a human were captured by, say, some alien species whose language was completely unintelligible and there were no obvious means of communication, the human would still necessarily try to communicate with it, at least until it became clear that reason was impossible and then they would have to take whatever other options were open to them (stealing food when the alien kidnappers weren't looking, for example). So if you've got a reasonable creature, you shouldn't have to "test" for reasonableness.

I know you're asking about free will, but since free will can't exist without a faculty of reason then the same argument applies.

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In fact, if you give a banana to an untrained ape, he will accept it. Or if you give an orange to an ape that emits the sign for "banana", he will accept it.

What is your source for this claim? I've seen several stories on apes learning to sign. I'd be interested in finding out they're all hogwash!

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Animals have no rights, because they have no free will. If animals had free will, they would have rights. Your quote from Rand confirms this: "self-generated action" means free will.

Incorrect.

Per Rand:

Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.

That is what Rand means by self-generated. Actions generated by the organism to sustain its own life.

I submit that if you read up on Rand's writings on Free Will, you will discover that she means Man's ability for volitional rationality, which animals DO lack.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/freewill.html

Edited by Greebo

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Well, human beings aren't apes now, are they? Humans have a conceptual faculty, apes do not.

So then shouldn't infants and the mentally retarded be granted the same rights as normal adults?

Apes and chimps can do none of this. A parrot can learn to repeat what I say, that doesn't mean that it has learned the English language. Essentially, that is what you are saying about apes.

I agree and that would definitely be a good test for reason; ie, having a concept for something as abstract as "morality" is a sufficient condition for the presence of reason - but is it necessary? It seems like one must first have language to be able to acquire the concept "morality" - so would that mean that a feral man has no rights? I wouldn't think so - so what's the minimal condition for the presence of reason?

Edited by brian0918

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