Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Ragnar

Animal rights

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

What do you mean by test?

You've said to look in animals for "the process by which an action is evaluated with respect to a given long-term end and categorized as "avoid" or "seek" - but I don't know how this can be tested.

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.

I agree, however I would like to know how to do such a test in reality to determine if this is true for a given animal.

Edited by brian0918

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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!
There is a basic article to read on the ape-language debacle, Seidenberg & Petitto 1979 "Signing behavior in apes: A critical review". (Cognition 7: 177-215.). There are numerous other articles by one or both of them on the area, and of course there is Herb Terrace who got the debunking business started.

My recommendation is to try to find one credible scientific source that concludes for example that "chimpanzees can learn language". The best of those sources will equivocate over what "language" is, so that any system of regular behavior-to-stimulus matching constitutes "language". Take note of the data-reduction problems mentioned by S&P (ape-experimenters never present the raw data for objective assessment). Then ask yourself, looking at the article claiming that apes have learned sign language, on what basis do they conclude that? How did they rule out the alternatives?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Bonobo chimps are well known for using sex to solve disputes, rather than violence. Even among males, or among females, they stimulate eachother's sex organs to resolve their differences. Would this count, and if not, why not?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bonobo chimps are well known for using sex to solve disputes, rather than violence. Even among males, or among females, they stimulate eachother's sex organs to resolve their differences. Would this count, and if not, why not?

Um ... if a chimp tried to deal with me by attempting to stimulate my sex organs, yeah I'd take that as an initiation of force. How could that possibly constitute an attempt at reason??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.
Then that would be the source of your error. Consider an ordinary crow and an albino crow: they are both crows, but are not genetically the same. A mutant example can be an exception to an otherwise valid generalization about the identity of the beings referred to by a concept.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There is a basic article to read on the ape-language debacle, Seidenberg & Petitto 1979 "Signing behavior in apes: A critical review". (Cognition 7: 177-215.). There are numerous other articles by one or both of them on the area, and of course there is Herb Terrace who got the debunking business started.

My recommendation is to try to find one credible scientific source that concludes for example that "chimpanzees can learn language". The best of those sources will equivocate over what "language" is, so that any system of regular behavior-to-stimulus matching constitutes "language". Take note of the data-reduction problems mentioned by S&P (ape-experimenters never present the raw data for objective assessment). Then ask yourself, looking at the article claiming that apes have learned sign language, on what basis do they conclude that? How did they rule out the alternatives?

Thanks for the recommendations! Do you think that it's possible that there exists a "gray area" for reason, in which a species has evolved some limited language but cannot grasp something like "morality" - or do you think it's all-or-nothing? If Homo neanderthalensis were still around, would he have rights to respect?

Um ... if a chimp tried to deal with me by attempting to stimulate my sex organs, yeah I'd take that as an initiation of force. How could that possibly constitute an attempt at reason??

Well that is their form of trade. You mentioned trading fruit to resolve differences. But they trade sex. While there is certainly physical force involved, none of them consider it an "initiation of force" in the sense you mean - that is obvious in that they don't fight back against the force.

Edited by brian0918

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

The assertion is not valid. Individual rights (including the right to life) are defined in the context of the interactions between human beings (or in one word politics). Using them outside of that context is invalid.

If you wished, it would (in my opinion) be correct to extend this context, and apply the same definition to interactions between creatures who have free will (in the way Ayn Rand used free will!!), if you wanted to have a fantastic discussion with no basis in reality. (for instance for the purposes of a sci-fi novel)

However, you can't borrow the concept from Objectivist politics, and apply it for whatever you wish to apply it. (for instance morality)

Now, if you wish to have a discussion of right and wrong (discussion which has nothing to do with politics, individual rights, laws etc.), then it would be valid to use the word right as an adverb or adjective, but not as a noun. (right=moral) I'm not saying you would be right (or wrong), but it would be valid to use it that way.

However, that discussion would have no bearing on human interactions, laws, the right to initiate force against a human being etc. , no matter what conclusions you may draw regarding the morality of harming animals.

Edited by Jake_Ellison

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what I understand of this issue, (there's another post that discusses this, I think it might have been in the viros debate.) the reason that human beings have rights and animals do not is specifically because -we use reason in order to survive-.

I think of it this way, it's definitely not possible that no animal ever, in history, or now does -not- have the ability to use reason at some minute degree. Else, we would not be able to. I'll use a computer analogy. Let's pretend computers 'evolve', the computer might grow arms and legs, it might gradually solve more and more complex functions, its processing power might grow, as well as its memory capacity, but without the tiniest -semblance- of some sort of will or volitional capacity, it could not develop one. My desktop computer will not and could never become a fully integrated sapient artificial intelligence, (barring the obvious constraints of reality) because there is no learning ability, no volition or even the semblance of volition.

But, regardless of my uneducated guess about animals having reason, the difference, and the reason humans have rights, is because animals can survive purely on instinct, or without instinct, animals could not survive using their minimal capacity for reason. Humans must use reason in order to survive, and thus, have rights.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Do you think that it's possible that there exists a "gray area" for reason, in which a species has evolved some limited language but cannot grasp something like "morality" - or do you think it's all-or-nothing?
It is likely that in human evolution, hominid cognition in our ancestors went through a stage where natural-kind concepts could be formed, without the capacity to form higher order concepts such as "color", "weight", "animal", or to form propositions. No surviving animal besides man has even that rudimentary capacity. Once you have recursion, I think you have the capacity to create a moral code.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well that is their form of trade. You mentioned trading fruit to resolve differences. But they trade sex. While there is certainly physical force involved, none of them consider it an "initiation of force" in the sense you mean - that is obvious in that they don't fight back against the force.

No, because animals who don't have a concept or means of trade consider force perfectly normal and acceptable. Of course animals don't consider force to be an initiation of force. They don't consider it, that's the point. Even if the monkeys use sex as a value to be traded for other values - say, one monkey wants another monkey's banana so it decides to offer a little "service", in return for which the banana changes hands, without any use of force - do you think the monkey would understand the concept of me not being totally down with that? Would he consider that I've refused his offer and leave me alone? In other words: does volition play any part in this exchange?

I mean, let's think about how this situation would actually go. I have a banana that the monkey wants. It starts trying to do some objectionable things. I yelp in disgust and move my sexual organs and banana a safe distance away. What does the monkey do then? Chase me? Try to force me to accept his "trade"? Accept my choice and offer something else? Find someone else with a banana he can try to trade for? The idea that use of physical force doesn't count as an initiation of force just because the "victim" monkey doesn't do anything about it is an illustration of exactly my point: the other monkey can't do anything about it because he has no alternative to force. They use physical force against each other, even in matters where the same thing could be accomplished by use of volitional trade, simply because they live by means of force - that is their means of survival, NOT reason. You can see it in action, you don't have to test whether they are hypothetically able to use reason to some extent as an alternative, because they simply DON'T use reason to any extent when force is available to them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

You can segregate lots of things that are intimately connected and discuss them separately, look at existence and identity, for example. While *human* volition and *human* rationality are vitally connected (the one can't exist without the other), *rights* are derived strictly from the existence of human *rationality*. In simpler terms, you cannot *convince* an animal to respect your rights, so an animal can't *have* rights. Even if it is shown that animals have a *form* of volition, it would not be the same *form* of volition that humans have--it would not pertain to voluntary control of the rational faculty that they *don't have*. So even a hypothetical "volitional" animal still doesn't have rights.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That is what Rand means by self-generated. Actions generated by the organism to sustain its own life.

Fair enough. I recognize that error and see how 'self generated' could refer to beings without free will. The rest of that short post stands, but the last sentence about Rand is incorrect.

You can segregate lots of things that are intimately connected and discuss them separately, look at existence and identity, for example. While *human* volition and *human* rationality are vitally connected (the one can't exist without the other), *rights* are derived strictly from the existence of human *rationality*. In simpler terms, you cannot *convince* an animal to respect your rights, so an animal can't *have* rights. Even if it is shown that animals have a *form* of volition, it would not be the same *form* of volition that humans have--it would not pertain to voluntary control of the rational faculty that they *don't have*. So even a hypothetical "volitional" animal still doesn't have rights.

There is no such hypothetical volitional animal. There is no free will without reason, as Aquinas demonstrates. Anything without a rational faculty does not have free will. Animals do not use reason, hence animals do not have free will. Without free will, there can be no discussion of rights, since rights to begin with pertain to freedom of action.

Going back to your first post, you wrote that "'Free will', again, isn't the reason why humans have rights." I agree that free will is not per say the source of rights, but my point is that free will is a necessary condition for the existence of rights. In other words, it has to be established that the being has free will, in order for the topic of rights to be discussed.

*EDIT: Actually, the more I think about it, I feel as if I must change the conclusion: Free will is simultaneously a necessary and sufficient condition for the existence of rights. One cannot exist without the other.

Edited by adrock3215

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Then that would be the source of your error. Consider an ordinary crow and an albino crow: they are both crows, but are not genetically the same. A mutant example can be an exception to an otherwise valid generalization about the identity of the beings referred to by a concept.

Well, if they are not genetically the same we can pinpoint the genetic difference. If everything but that mutation is the same between the "strange ape" and the "normal ape" we know what provides the biological faculty for reason.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You've said to look in animals for "the process by which an action is evaluated with respect to a given long-term end and categorized as "avoid" or "seek" - but I don't know how this can be tested.

What is the evidence you have that would warrant such a testing? Generally speaking, if a test is going to be done, there is some documentable evidence that makes the issue unclear. You agree that reason is a necessary condition for free will, and there is no evidence in existence that points to animals which use reason to judge their own judgement (except humans). Certainly if you and I were in the same room, we wouldn't have to do a scientific test to know that it is night outside in the DC area right now--we could both just look out the window to confirm it. Likewise, we can discuss our observations of animals. Do we need a scientific test to prove every piece of knowledge? Isn't that essentially positivism?

Edited by adrock3215

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What is the evidence you have that would warrant such a testing? Generally speaking, if a test is going to be done, there is some documentable evidence that makes the issue unclear. You agree that reason is a necessary condition for free will, and there is no evidence in existence that points to animals which use reason to judge their own judgement (except humans). Certainly if you and I were in the same room, we wouldn't have to do a scientific test to know that it is night outside in the DC area right now--we could both just look out the window to confirm it. Likewise, we can discuss our observations of animals. Do we need a scientific test to prove every piece of knowledge? Isn't that essentially positivism?

While it may not be necessary now, the test would have been useful in the past (say, on neanderthals, or other hominids) and may be useful in the future. There doesn't necessarily have to be any evidence to begin with, does there? Isn't the point of the test to find the evidence? If a chimp comes along and actually does start using basic language correctly, then we would certainly want some test to look for 'the process by which an action is evaluated with respect to a given long-term end and categorized as "avoid" or "seek"'.

Edited by brian0918

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hey guys

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.

Would appreciate any reasonable thoughts on the matter.

Thanks.

Responding to the OP, even though it is page 4.

The dynamic causing psychological distress in the witnesses is empathy for the animal. Though not rational, animals do have consciousness and do feel pain. The automatized reactions of normal people to pain include alarm, fear, flinch, cringe or retreat. Since these are normal and involuntary reactions, there is a basis for writing an objective law constraining such behavior on the same basis as any disruptive public behavior. Shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire is illegal because you put other people at risk. If a display of animal torture distracts drivers, causes pedestrians to form a crowd or walk into the street in an attempt to avoid the scene, or blocks a storefront then there is a rational basis to interfere.

Private property doesn not provide blanket protection from the law. Suppose a man, in his front yard facing the street, constructs an altar where he practices cutting the hearts out of live pomeranians. Even if he has a legitimate business exporting pomeranian hearts (to say Vietnam for example) the law can require him to block the sight and sound of his business practices to passerby.

Whether you are justified in enforcing a law yourself is another matter. You are certainly empowered to speak your mind, and can rally the crowd to apply peer pressure by shaming the man.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Private property doesn not provide blanket protection from the law. Suppose a man, in his front yard facing the street, constructs an altar where he practices cutting the hearts out of live pomeranians. Even if he has a legitimate business exporting pomeranian hearts (to say Vietnam for example) the law can require him to block the sight and sound of his business practices to passerby.

page 2,this post

(address my arguments from the second part of this post if you want to, particularly the comparison with the airport-house example, which I believe is the same scenario as yours, without the non-essential parts.(the pomeranians getting processed into lunch :) )

Edited by Jake_Ellison

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bonobo chimps are well known for using sex to solve disputes, rather than violence. Even among males, or among females, they stimulate eachother's sex organs to resolve their differences. Would this count, and if not, why not?

I tought Bonbo's are known to be canibalistic and violent.

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

I thought she said she wanted to include them but couldn't justify them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I thought she said she wanted to include them but couldn't justify them.
I can't imagine why you would think that. Since man's nature is so radically different from that of animals, it would be inconceivable that she would want to do the impossible. That would be evasion of the highest order.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I thought she said she wanted to include them but couldn't justify them.
Searching the Rand CD, I couldn't find the term "animal rights" used even once. I think Rand has written or spoken criticizing the notion of "animal rights", but I couldn't find a reference. The only use of the term was this criticism from Peikoff:
If one detaches the concept of "rights" from reason and reality, ..., then nothing but conflict is possible, and the theory of "rights" self-destructs. Just as bad principles drive out good, so false rights, reflecting bad principles, drive out proper rights—a process that is running wild today in the proliferation of such self-contradictory verbiage as "economic rights," "collective rights," "fetal rights," and "animal rights."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Technically, this is not cannibalism, because they are eating another species of monkey, not their own. This is only surprising behavior if you accept the common wisdom about bonobos, which is most likely wrong. Common chimps are known to hunt and kill lots of other monkeys, like colobus monkeys, often tearing them limb from limb while they eat. People only got confused because they bought into this "female-dominated societies would not be violent" nonsense. In Rhesus Macaques, whose social groups are dominated by senior-ranking females and males sometimes find themselves in the role of mediator, their aggression can become so severe that they kill each other.

I know this is a little off-topic but I'm a primate researcher in training and these pop-science misconceptions about apes drive me bonkers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If a display of animal torture distracts drivers, causes pedestrians to form a crowd or walk into the street in an attempt to avoid the scene, or blocks a storefront then there is a rational basis to interfere.

Right, but if the man tortures his animal in a noiseless and unobtrusive manner, not blocking any storefronts, on a pedestrian-only street where no drivers can be distracted, etc., etc., something tells me the questioner would still feel the urge to stop him--so you haven't really answered his question. If there were a basis to ban the activity based on individual rights, the question wouldn't arise in the first place. The question is: What if the act of torture causes no bother other than my negative emotional reaction?

The issue is a conflict between individual rights and the questioner's idea of what people should be allowed to do. The reason for the conflict is his apparent premise that, whenever he sees something he has a very negative emotional reaction to, he "has to" stop it, even though doing so is likely to involve the use of force. It is this premise that needs to be addressed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So in other words...

If a person is going to beat the monkey, choke the chicken, rough up the clam, etc. they should do it on their own private property where they would not be noticed doing so . :lol:

[edited for grammar]

Edited by Pianoman83

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...