Thursday, October 15, 2009

14b Do animals have rights?

The research for this lecture was the most horrible ever. If you look at the site (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) you find there samples of ultimate cruelty to animals. Horrible to see.

When a butterfly or even a wasp gets trapped agains the windowpane in my kitchen I take a glass and piece of paper, catch the insect and release it outside. What sense does it make to kill it and dump it in the trashcan?

On the other hand I eat meat, so I must conclude that I am a hypocrite and leave the killing of animals to others? This is a very confusing thought. What position do I take? Where to begin to figure that out?

Let's begin with the concept of right? What is a right, how does it work, when is a right valid to apply? Wesley Hohfeld (1879-1918), an American legal theorist, formulated the four basic components of rights

1. A has a PRIVILEGE to X if and only if A has no duty not to X.

This mean, when you are a newbie in your first 30 days and see some Lindens at a moneytree, you have a right to pick the money. You will not be violating any duty not to pick the money should you decide to do so.

2. A has a CLAIM that B X if and only if B has a duty to A to X.

A premium account holder has a claim, that Linden Lab pays his stipendium, which means that LL has a duty to the account holder.

3. A has a POWER if and only if A has the ability within a set of rules to alter her own or another's rights.

Ordering, promising, sentencing, waiving, buying, selling, and abandoning are all acts by which a rightholder exercises a power to change his own normative situation or that of another.

4 B has an IMMUNITY if and only if A lacks the ability within a set of rules to alter B's rights.

When you see someone here in class who you don't like you can't do anything about it. That person has the right to be here, or said otherwise that person has in that respect an immunity.

So, privilege, claim, power and immunity are the basic ingredients of rights, you could say. But how does this relate to animal rights?

Let me think, ….my cat has many privileges. It can but has no obligation to catch a bird, eat its food, sleep whenever it likes.

Can my cat have a claim? This is interesting. My cat has a claim that
X (which could mean, …feed it, treat it well, etc.) if and only if I have a duty to my cat to X.

Yes, that must be the quintessence here. Do I have a duty, a moral obligation, to my cat? Does my cat have a claim here? maybe we could even widen our horizon and ask the question: do we have a duty to nature in general?

Since the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859 we have gotten a completely different view on the place of man in nature. No longer the dominator of Nature as Genesis learnt, nor the complete opposite of nature because we had a ratio as Aristotle thought.

After the development of our individualism we all have become a part of of nature again, one of the elements is a complex ecosystem. Is that a way to understand my duty to my cat?

Let me end with a quote I took from an article on human rights. I will only exchange the word 'human' by 'animal' and this been done, it makes perfect sense to me.

Rorty (1993) has argued that animal rights are based not upon the exercise of reason, but a sentimental vision of humanity. He insists that animal rights are not rationally defensible.

He argues that one cannot justify the basis of animal rights by appeal to moral theory and the canons of reason since, he insists, moral beliefs and practices are not ultimately motivated by an appeal to reason or moral theory, but emanate from a sympathetic identification with others: morality originates in the heart, and not in the head.

Interestingly, though unambiguously sceptical about the philosophical basis of animal rights, Rorty views the existence of animal rights as a ‘good and desirable thing’, something whose existence we all benefit from.

His critique of human rights is thus not motivated by an underlying hostility to the doctrine. For Rorty, animal rights are better served by emotional appeals to identify with the unnecessary suffering of others, than by arguments over the correct determination of reason.

I think that this makes sense for man and animal. Thank you.:-)

The Discussion

[13:29] Myriam Brianna: mew
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Prof
[13:29] herman Bergson: Hi Myriam
[13:29] Myriam Brianna: talk for the day over, I think?
[13:29] Myriam Brianna: ah, thanx
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: I think Rorty is tactically correct
[13:30] Simulat Almendros: Interesting Herman - I agree with Rorty that morality or rights aren't based on reason, but that doesn't mean for me that they are just sentimental
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: but that his distinction between heart and head is artificial
[13:31] oola Neruda: agreed
[13:31] herman Bergson: No I agree
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: I liked Rousseau's assesment of animal rights
[13:31] Simulat Almendros: That they are instead based on the sort of attitudes that we need to live together as we do
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: it was one i could really agree with
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: if something does not make sense, it cannot be sustained
[13:32] herman Bergson: Rousseau, Gemma...tell us what was his idea?
[13:32] Frederick Hansome: "morality originates in the heart, and not in the head." This statement makes no sense. The heart pumps blood, and has no thinkning capaciity. When we make that kind of statement, we are still referring to a different part of the brain
[13:32] herman Bergson: no misunderstand....
[13:33] herman Bergson: you should think and recall the lectures on epistemology..
[13:33] Frederick Hansome: one of us does, not sure which
[13:33] oola Neruda: someone mentioned ecology... at one time, the chinese felt birds were eating all their crops so they had a national day of killing all birds
[13:33] Frederick Hansome: yes?
[13:33] herman Bergson: the reference to a heart is jsut a metaphore of course for the fact that some statements cant have a rational justification
[13:33] oola Neruda: then the next year... insects ate all the crops
[13:33] Tess Aristocrat: I wonder what would happen if we all became vegetarians? (animal populations-wise)
[13:34] oola Neruda: evolution... we have canine teeth and teeth for eatting meat
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: :-))
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: people would have more to eat, Tess
[13:34] Frederick Hansome: that is my point, there IS rational justification for choices that seem to be emotionalyy determihned
[13:34] Simulat Almendros: hmm - the animals we eat exist in huge numbers purely because we eat them
[13:34] herman Bergson: There is no logical sequitur that we should become vegetarians....
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: humans are herbivores...
[13:35] Simulat Almendros: omnivores :-)
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is not true Repose
[13:35] Myriam Brianna: but that doesn't mean it is 'right', or that we 'ought' to eat flesh, when we look at our super-predator-teeth ;D
[13:35] Tess Aristocrat: I like chicken...*confesses
[13:35] Simulat Almendros: should we give to animals a right that they don't give to us?
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: doesn't seem to be the consensus of opinion among biologists I checked last night...
[13:36] herman Bergson: I think we must keep things clear...
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: how can they give us rights (animals ) that are not cognitive
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: i eat meat and will probably continue to do so
[13:36] herman Bergson: on the one hand the historical facts...humans always were hunters and became later farmers too
[13:37] herman Bergson: but as farmers they also had domesticated animals
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:37] Simulat Almendros: I guess the point is Gemma that animals have no problem eating other animals - and usually the ones that carnivores eat are herbivores
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: predation yes
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: i see that Spain has made apes equal to man
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: or is about to
[13:38] oola Neruda: i think that rights being given or recieved is very much associated with who has the power
[13:38] Simulat Almendros: but apart from the issue of eating animals I think there is a separate issue of cruelty - and I say we shouldn't be cruel to animals, but its because I wouldn't trust some one who was
[13:39] Justine Rhapsody: There is also the question of medical research on animals.
[13:39] herman Bergson: Let me give you an argumentation by Peter SInger himself...
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: oh i dislike him
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:39] herman Bergson: especially about the cruelty issue regarding killing animals
[13:40] herman Bergson: Whether we are required to refrain from painlessly killing animals will depend on whether animals have an interest in continuing to exist in the future.
[13:40] herman Bergson: In order to have this interest, Singer believes that a being must be able to conceive of itself as existing into the future, and this requires a being to be self-conscious.
[13:40] oola Neruda: or if even we will exist in the future... don't mess up ecology
[13:40] herman Bergson: Non-self-conscious beings are not harmed by their deaths, according to Singer, for they do not have an interest in continuing to exist into the future.
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: animals and humans are equal
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: in his eyes
[13:41] herman Bergson: Not in this case Gemma
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: well in his mind i think they are
[13:41] herman Bergson: but equal in what sense?
[13:41] Myriam Brianna: no, they are not. He sees an ape, that is conscious of his suffering, equal to a human when it comes to a moral evaluation of its pain
[13:41] Simulat Almendros: That argument may be why spain is considering making apes equal in rights to people
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:42] Myriam Brianna: but that does not make apes and humans the same
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: then they have to pay taxes too, I would say!
[13:42] Myriam Brianna: (even though we are apes)
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: not any more Myriam
[13:42] herman Bergson: and that is not a joke....!!!
[13:42] oola Neruda: i got really spooked by the large wild monkeys in africa... they were very disturbing in their almost humanness
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: among other things Herman
[13:43] herman Bergson: Because it refers to a human feature called private property..
[13:43] Myriam Brianna: what else then? I am an animal, I am an ape, I am a human. Like a bird is an animal and a bird
[13:43] herman Bergson: And you have private property ape has that
[13:43] Myriam Brianna: true
[13:43] herman Bergson: You derive rights from possessing things
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: also true
[13:44] herman Bergson: so there IS a demarcation between animals and humans in that respect
[13:44] Tess Aristocrat: excuses herself..thank you for the discussion :)
[13:44] Myriam Brianna: I also have the ability to projiect pretty far into the future - most animals, including apes, don't
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: bye, Tess
[13:44] Myriam Brianna: bye
[13:44] oola Neruda: we tend to think we are more important than whomever we choose to think that of... like what was done to the native americans... and slaves
[13:44] herman Bergson: indeed...and that was the reference to Singer about..
[13:45] herman Bergson: That is another chapter oola
[13:45] oola Neruda: but we just assume we are better than the animals
[13:46] herman Bergson: So maybe we have a few clear ideas that makes us different (not superior) form animals
[13:46] oola Neruda: power
[13:46] Myriam Brianna: no, we assume that we have cognitive abilities they don't posses. That we are the ones who are able to choose about our behaviour towards them and each other
[13:46] herman Bergson: an concept of a future and the ability to have private property
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes Myriam…we could add that too....our ability to NOT follow our primary needs
[13:48] Frederick Hansome: We have a quality that animals no not, by definition, which justifies our higher standing. That quality is human dignity.
[13:48] herman Bergson: for instance...when we run out of water in the dessert....we share our last drop with our fellow man
[13:48] Myriam Brianna: the thing I'd call markedly human. It may be natural to eat your neighbors brain in the climax of a conflict (chimpanzees do, and humans did it, too - ritualized), but we choose not to ^^
[13:48] herman Bergson: I would not call it a higher standing Frederick
[13:49] Frederick Hansome: the separator, the distinguisher, then?
[13:49] herman Bergson: we are all part of the same ecological system....unless you want to claim that the human beings are an exception in nature....:-)
[13:50] herman Bergson: maybe we are...
[13:50] herman Bergson: the mistake of evolution perhaps :-)
[13:50] Frederick Hansome: not a position that I would take
[13:50] Free Radar HUD v1.1 by Crystal Gadgets
[13:51] Frederick Hansome: we certainly are a part of the ecological system, but that is just what it is, a system. With many parts and levels
[13:51] herman Bergson: Ok..if we are part of evolution we are in the same pool as the rest of nature..
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yes Frederick
[13:51] Frederick Hansome: but that pool is not homogenous
[13:52] herman Bergson: even makes us more responsible if we are the knowing part of the system
[13:52] Frederick Hansome: agreed
[13:52] oola Neruda: yes
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: ahhh...
[13:52] herman Bergson: chimps can be terribly cruel to each other, but that is their instinct..
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: something like humans you mean
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: humans*
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:53] herman Bergson: we can be terribly cruel to animals, and we KWOW we are causing suffering
[13:53] herman Bergson: that is the difference
[13:53] Frederick Hansome: this gives a hint as to our obligation to other (lesser) animals, and all living entities
[13:54] oola Neruda: yes
[13:54] Repose Lionheart: so our duty to animals is greater than their duty to us...
[13:54] Frederick Hansome: exactly
[13:54] Simulat Almendros: I return to my point about not trusting people who are cruel to animals - if I saw somebody who took pleasure in pulling the wings off flies I'd be not inclined to trust them much or like them much
[13:54] herman Bergson: Very true Simulat...!
[13:54] Simulat Almendros: not that I think flies have any rights
[13:55] Violette McMinnar: all animals have a right to live
[13:55] herman Bergson: No...but it is the attitude toward living creatures
[13:55] Myriam Brianna: the obligation to them is really an obligation to us. We've seen to what it can lead when we un-thinkingly disturb an ecological-system: Human suffering. A reason not to do it :x
[13:55] oola Neruda: yes
[13:55] Simulat Almendros: Thats true too Myriam
[13:55] Frederick Hansome: flies have a perfect right to fly anywhere but around me
[13:55] herman Bergson: That is an utilitarian point of view Myriam
[13:55] Repose Lionheart: but it is also an obligation to them...
[13:56] Myriam Brianna: yes
[13:56] Repose Lionheart: animals and nature have a moral claim on us...
[13:56] Simulat Almendros: why authoritarian Herman?
[13:56] Myriam Brianna: and an "egoistical" one. But I think egoism gets us pretty far when it comes to being nice together ;D
[13:56] herman Bergson: Well..what can be our conclusion in this case?
[13:57] herman Bergson: What I mean is...where ever on this world...a human being is able to see when an animal is suffering....
[13:57] Frederick Hansome: We have a right to consume animals, but to prepare them for that in as humanely way as possible
[13:58] herman Bergson: and in a lot of occasions people shut their eyes for that and go on abusing the animals
[13:58] herman Bergson: Yes Frederick..I wont become a vegetarian..
[13:59] herman Bergson: But I think we have to see the specifics of our culture..
[13:59] Repose Lionheart: can a basic right of animals be stated?
[13:59] Frederick Hansome: good question
[13:59] herman Bergson: if we just lived in a small prehistoric village we would have been animal killers, hunters...
[13:59] Repose Lionheart: true
[14:00] herman Bergson: Now in our society we are no hunters anymore but producers of life stock, cows, chickens etc.
[14:00] herman Bergson: and we still kill these animals
[14:00] Simulat Almendros: I must go - Thanks Herman and all
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: simulat
[14:01] herman Bergson: Be well Simulat
[14:01] oola Neruda: baiee
[14:01] Justine Rhapsody: I need to go also, thank you professor.
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: ah wow
[14:01] oola Neruda: baiee Justine
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: saturday begins burning life
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: i hope you all go
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: the theme is evolution
[14:01] herman Bergson: Well..I guess we all have got enough ideas to think about before our next dinner ^_^
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[14:02] Repose Lionheart: "sentient creature have a basic right to live out their lives according to their own natures and purposes"
[14:02] herman Bergson: So...class dismissed for today
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!!
[14:02] Repose Lionheart: Thanks, Professor
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: I think i will make it thursday
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: new topic??
[14:03] Frederick Hansome: Good nitht. Thank you herman
[14:03] Violette McMinnar: thank you all, good night
[14:03] oola Neruda: good night
[14:03] herman Bergson: Bye all :-)
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[14:03] Myriam Brianna: bye all
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