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Archive for the ‘Animal Rights’ Category

Human and Animal Cognition

Posted by Jerry on February 19, 2008

This Harvard University study seems to suggest that scientists are finally catching up to the insights of the Objectivist epistemology.

Professor Marc Hauser recently presented his new theory, which postulates four key elements differentiating human cognition from animal cognition. Notably–as I have stressed in the past as well–Hauser regards human cognition as being not merely higher up on the same scale of cognitive complexity in comparison to that of animals, but as being of a fundamentally different nature in itself–in his words, a “great cognitive gap”:

“Animals share many of the building blocks that comprise human thought, but paradoxically, there is a great cognitive gap between humans and animals,” Hauser says. “By looking at key differences in cognitive abilities, we find the elements of human cognition that are uniquely human.”

The four key differences between human and animal cognition that Hauser identifies neatly aligns with the core elements of Objectivist epistemology. In the following, first is the element that Hauser identifies, which is then followed by the Objectivist concept that is its equivalent:

1. “the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding”

Integration–a cardinal function of man’s consciousness on all the levels of his cognitive development. First, his brain brings order into his sensory chaos by integrating sense data into percepts; this integration is performed automatically; it requires effort, but no conscious volition. His next step is the integration of percepts into concepts, as he learns to speak. Thereafter, his cognitive development consists in integrating concepts into wider and ever wider concepts, expanding the range of his mind. 

2. “to apply the same “rule” or solution to one problem to a different and new situation”

Principles–an abstraction which subsumes a great number of concretes. It is only by means of principles that one can set one’s long-range goals and evaluate the concrete alternatives of any given moment. You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Concrete problems cannot even be grasped, let alone judged or solved, without reference to abstract principles.

3. “to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input”

Concepts and Words–Concepts and, therefore, language are primarily a tool of cognition—not of communication. The primary purpose of concepts and of language is to provide man with a system of cognitive classification and organization, which enables him to acquire knowledge on an unlimited scale. Concepts represent condensations of knowledge, which make further study and the division of cognitive labor possible.

In order to be used as a single unit, the enormous sum integrated by a concept has to be given the form of a single, specific, perceptual concrete, which will differentiate it from all other concretes and from all other concepts. This is the function performed by language. Language is a code of visual-auditory symbols that serves the psycho-epistemological function of converting concepts into the mental equivalent of concretes. Language is the exclusive domain and tool of concepts. Every word we use (with the exception of proper names) is a symbol that denotes a concept, i.e., that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind.

4. “to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.”

Focus–The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make. When man unfocuses his mind, he may be said to be conscious in a subhuman sense of the word, since he experiences sensations and perceptions.

***

There are, of course, many more insights into human cognition that Ayn Rand identified in her Objectivist epistemology that in my opinion are not exhausted by Hauser four identifications: for example, Ayn Rand’s theory of measurement-ommission and its role in concept-formation.

However, all of the above–and the entire corpus of the Objectivist theory of epistemology–indicates a simple and self-evident fact about human cognition that is denoted by single concept: the conceptual faculty; that is, man’s consciousness is uniquely conceptual in nature.

[I learned of Professor Hauser’s study from the Objectivism Online forum. Note: All four hyperlinked Objectivists concepts and their brief descriptions are quoted directly from The Ayn Rand Lexicon.]

Posted in Animal Rights, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, Philosophy, science, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

The Incoherence of Rationalistic Rights

Posted by Jerry on November 29, 2007

I’ve been thinking about Christine Korsgaard’s article in defense of animals rights (I have a printed copy, but the link is inactive). Korsgaard employs a radical reinterpretation of Kantian duty ethics to mount her case for animal rights. This is unique because Kant himself was explicitly against granting rights to non-rational beings, i.e., animals.

Korsgaard’s article is lengthy and technical, but her reversal of Kantian ethics in support of a position Kant himself was explicitly against is impressive. Briefly, Korsgaard argues that human rights are derived from our nature as living organisms who seek to pursue things that are good for ourselves; further, she argues that all living organisms that pursue the good for themselves are acting as ends-in-themselves. Humans are different in that not only do we pursue the good, but we pursue it out of choice and reflect upon our choices. We ascribe value to our pursuits of the good and protect it (legislate it) in the form of rights.

Korsgaard argues that this ability to legislate our pursuits and protect it is not a sufficient condition to retain rights exclusively for humans, because we do grant rights to those humans who cannot legislate and protect the good for themselves: for example, little infants and the severely disabled cannot demand or legislate their right to pursue the good, yet we extend the protection of pursuits (i.e., rights) to them. Likewise, women and slaves at one point were not allowed to legislate for themselves and demand protection for their pursuits–yet society extended certain protections (rights) to them.

Therefore, the criteria for having rights–Korsgaard argues–is not our ability to reflect upon our pursuits and protect them by legislation but our ability to pursue the good which is necessary for our survival as living beings. Korsgaard argues that this necessity is a common feature among all living things–whether or not they are consciously aware of their acts in pursuit of the good. She admits that such an argument may result in an absurd reductio whereby the rights of even microbial organisms and plants would need to be recognized. However, she does not consider this a weakness of her argument, rather a matter for us to grapple with, to reexamine the alleged foundations and nature of our concepts of rights.

In my post Veals Are Not Innocent, I responded to philosopher Joel Marks’ defense of animal rights, which is based on utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer’s argument of minimizing suffering in the world; particularly, eliminating the unnecessary suffering of sentient beings.

Korsgaard’s approach is unique because it makes no appeal to the philosophically murky notion of suffering as the standard of morality. However, the problem with her approach is its rationalism–dropping the context of reality.

The problem with rationalism–of the philosophic kind–is that it can be put to argue any position that is deductively derived and logically consistent: for rationalism, reality is hardly a contraint to an argument, only logic is. Afterall, it’s noteworthy that Kant believed his ethical system did not permit the extending of rights to non-rational beings, and yet, it is precisely the Kantian ethical system that is used by Korsgaard in her logical argument for animal rights arising from the nature of living entities as ends-in-themselves. What does this say about the Kantian ethical system or the rationalistic method it employs?

By situating itself solely in the abstract realm of logically deductive analysis, rationalism perpetuates the false dichotomy between deduction and induction, analysis and synthesis; the price it pays for appearing to have mathematical precision is the context of reality.

Objectivism is fundamentally a reality-oriented philosophy: From empiric observation, Objectivism extrapolates its general principles in conformance with the laws of logic. Note that Objectivism is not identical to Empiricism, just as it is not Rationalism. Objectivism does not deduce from a set of first principles nor does it generalize from any number of empiric instances. It does not look at how many times a certain event by an entity has occurred in nature to form a general principle of the event or the entity.

Objectivism integrates empiric observation with logical and deductive principles in non-contradictory fashion to examine the nature and quality of the event-causing entities. The validity of a principle is not in how often it appears in reality but in its fundamental nature and adherence to the laws of logic.

Thus, induction is not merely a matter of extrapolating a principle from a large number of unfalsified observed instances; it is a matter of discovering the nature of causality of the event by ascertaining the identity of the entity (i.e., applying the law of Identity and its corollary the Law of Causality to the context: An entity acts only according to its identity).

In the context of reality, granting rights to animals is an undeniably incoherent position if you discard rationalism: if rights are intended to protect one’s pursuit of necessary values for survival, how does one safeguard the rights of one animal from being violated by another animal? For example, whose rights should one enforce–that of the prey to its life or that of the predator to its food as a means of survival? Reality offers no room for contradictions; therefore, our epistemic policy should also be to permit no contradictions in our formation of concepts, principles, and knowledge.

Likewise, to highlight the weakness of empiricism, just because we observe that human pursuits of the good are routinely and rampantly violated or thwarted by governments, dictators, societies, and other individuals across the world, we cannot legitimately conclude that rights do not exist or that human rights inherently conflict with each other or that rights are artificial constructs relative to cultural norms.

Only Objectivism offers the most robust foundation and defense of human rights–not on rationalistic or empiric grounds–but on objectively valid and universalizable grounds. For Objectivism, rights do not exist in a vacuum; it is not intrinsic to living entities; it does not exist on a platonic realm; it does not apply to a lone man on a deserted island. Rights arise from a specific existential relationship between man–because of his identity–and other men in his surroundings. What this results in is a notion of rights that is coherent, logically consistent with other rational principles, valid in reality, and universally practicable without conflict.

Posted in Animal Rights, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Veals Are Not Innocent

Posted by Jerry on October 1, 2007

When I started reading this article by philosopher Joel Marks, I almost felt a delightful sense of surprise. It was like a breath of fresh air after a long time. Ayn Rand has been particularly criticized for her “black and white” view of life; for stating that matters in life–and particularly moral issues–are black or white; that there are no grey areas if you look closely enough and think carefully enough, and while it may be incredibly difficult to arrive at a proper conclusion, know that one exists, it is certain, and the conclusion is attainable through the use of reason.

Therefore, when philosopher Joel Marks made the following comments that are so very similar to Rand’s own insight (although minus her unique flair and incisive precision), I was smiling in delight. Here are the particular comments I am talking about:

Life is so simple. I know somebody who complains about being overweight. She also keeps ice cream in her freezer. I suggested that she might stop stocking the stuff. “Oh, but I don’t eat it every day.” I mean, what more is there to say?

The good life, as I conceive it, consists in perceiving the truth by rational means and then acting accordingly. But is everything really so simple? I don’t mean that the right thing is always easy to do. It can be difficult to give up a habit, resist a temptation, stand up to evil, etc. I am talking in the first instance about knowing what to do to achieve these aims.

But is that simple – to know what to do? Can one just ‘perceive’ the truth of living, as one can see if it is daylight by opening one’s eyes (indeed, even through closed lids)?

I think it often is. But there is a method to it, which must be learned and practiced. Walking is simple too – put one foot in front of the other – but not at first. The rational method involves procuring and assessing reasons for what one believes.

Unfortunately, my optimism was squashed immediately thereafter. Having read the above, it came as a particularly sharp disappointment to see Marks advocating the right method but reaching a terribly false conclusion due to a failure in following his own advice. This is where he goes from the above:

The stakes are raised in reasoning when the issue is a moral one, by which I mean something that significantly affects others. The kind of case that comes most readily to my mind is the human treatment of other animals, who as a group are probably both more innocent and even more abused by us than the members of our own species.

Take the notorious case of veal. The calves are raised in pens so small that they cannot even turn around… for their entire lives! The purpose is to produce a tender meat for human pleasure. I cannot conceive of any good justification for such a practice. It strikes me as wrong pure and simple, indeed criminal (in the moral sense; but I would also make it so in the legal sense). The argument is simple: To inflict tremendous suffering on innocent creatures for a purpose that is ultimately frivolous, is very wrong. The production of veal does this. Ergo Q.E.D.

Note that Marks is not lamenting the wanton mistreatment and slaughter of animals for some pathological delight in bloody animal sports or some such malevolent end. He is railing against the treatment and slaughter of animals–veals in this case–for food, for nourishment, for the delightful satisfaction of human desires (which he calls frivolous), and even argues for making the act of killing veals for food a legal act of crime. This is a case of emotionalism gone haywire, not a case of rationality applied to reality. A concept like “innocence”–which is properly applicable only to humans not animals or even Gods–is used to confound the issue and emotionally appeal to one’s response of justice.

What does it mean to say that a cow is innocent? Does the cow even have the potential capacity to be non-innocent? Or guilty? Or sly? Or subsversive? Would you regard a tiger that killed a doe “guilty” of murder and therefore not innocent?

Marks’ use of this concept is as meaningless as saying God is a morally perfect being: well, if you mean in the way that a dead man is perfect because he can never do anything wrong, then yes, God in that sense is a morally perfect being. But, you see, it’s utterly meaningless!

Further, what about the slippery slope conundrum of the next in line to be criminalized: the slaughter of cows for steak? And then? 

Marks’ argument injects the emotionalist response to animal suffering to muddle the rational fact that there is no legitimate basis for criminalizing–or even morally condemning–the act of killing animals for food, even if it requires what may seem to be extreme measures of treating the animals before killing them. This is not to make the “end justifies the mean” argument, but to point out that there is no moral conflict at all between the end and the means.

Further, I’ve always been perplexed by the view that one can breed and eat animals as food but not breed them in particularly “harsh” conditions, and that one must treat them “humanely” till the moment they are butchered.

Here’s my point: there is no reason to be wantonly cruel toward animals unless you are a deranged psychopath with violent tendencies, which then makes you a threat to human society as well. Animals–as pets or as the object of our study, for example–can provide immense and enriching values to human life, like fostering a sense of responsibility in caring for one’s pets.

However, certain foods require a particular kind of treatment or preparation that some of us might emotionally consider “harsh” or “inhumane”, like Marks outlined in the case of veals and like in the case of foie gras.

Now, if we assume that animals have no rights (which indeed they don’t), and if we assume that the animals we breed for food are indeed going to be eaten anyway, then I fail to see the logic in depriving humanity of delectable dishes of veal and foie gras only to spare the animals (who will end up as food anyway–some stewed, some canned, some deep-fried, some dehydrated, some roasted, and then plucked, chopped, cut, diced, sliced, chewed, swallowed, etc.) of “mistreatment and harsh conditions” in the interim before they are chopped up and sent packing.

Far from being grounds for criminal prosecuting, the rearing and breeding of animals according to the necessary requirements of a particular culinary recipe is not even morally condemnable.

In fact, it is wonderful and admirable that man is so inventive, imaginative, and creative in offering this world such new pleasures of the palate to add value to our lives. Fine cuisine is inextricable from an experience of fine dining on expensive china; and this experience can function as an important landmark of your productive success, an evidence of your achievement, a celebration of your self-esteem, and a reward for a life well-lived.

Having said all that, I will whole-heartedly agree with Joel Marks’ final remark in the article, and it should be clear why I do. In typical Objectivist-speak, Marks says:

Thus, there is not only a right way to live, but also a right way to figure out what that is.

[Edit: A commenter raised the issue of “suffering of sentient beings” as the standard for determining the morality of killing animals. To get a full sense of the commenter’s argument, which is essentially Peter Singer’s utilitarian argument against killing animals for food, read the discussion below. My response takes off on two levels: on the basis of the nature of rights and on the basis of the purpose of morality. With regards to the latter, here are my views: 

A reason why suffering of sentient beings cannot be used as a standard by which one decides whether or not it is moral to kill animals (i.e., your standard of morality) is because it reverses the cause and effect of morality.

The purpose of morality is to show you how to live your life on this earth, since this knowledge is not automatic to humans. Thus, the ultimate purpose of morality is to show you how to achieve your happiness rationally, i.e., live this life happily, which includes, as just one aspect, how to avoid suffering in this life.

Thus, happiness and suffering are effects of the kind of morality you practice, the result of your actions–be they virtues or vices, which are the result of your moral premises. They are not the cause of your actions, nor are they the standard by which you determine your actions or the moral nature thereof. Those who use happiness as the standard are hedonists; those who use suffering as the standard are worshippers of death–like Christians who worship the crucifix as their most cherished symbol of virtue.

Thus, suffering is an invalid standard of judging moral actions.]

Posted in Animal Rights, Culture, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Rights and Responsibilities

Posted by Jerry on November 14, 2006

In an essay written in the 1960s, Ayn Rand said, “The concept of individual rights is so new in human history that most men have not grasped it fully to this day.”

We are now in 2006 and I say that her assessment still holds true. One has to only look at the United States as a prime example: The notion of individual rights is so badly understood, so inconsistently upheld, so grossly interpreted in the land that was the first to recognize individual rights and establish the government for the protection of these rights. (Of course, I choose not to mention other countries–such as India–as examples because even a rational discussion of the concept of individual rights is not possible in their contexts.)

The US now has a plethora of “rights”: the right to minimum wage, the right to healthcare, animal rights, environmental rights, and whatever else you fancy.

“The growth of newly promulgated rights,” Rand had said, entails that “people do not notice the fact that the meaning of the concept [of rights] is being reversed.” People do not notice that the arbitrary creation of rights in fact negate authentic rights.

Rights pertain only to action not things. One has the freedom to act–which implies freedom from physical force or interference that prevent, obstruct, or deny that action. One has the right to earn or act in accordance to obtaining and owning a car; but one has no right to a car. One has the right to life, which means the right to act toward self-sustenance. All other rights flow from the right to life. Every man, given his specific nature and identity, has to exist in a specific manner. Rights provide man with the moral conditions, the freedom, and the protection to live in the manner appropriate to his nature, i.e., the nature of a rational, volitional being.

An often cited phrase is “rights come with responsibilities.” Citing this phrase reveals a lack of understanding the concept and application of rights. As Rand said, rights give us the freedom to act and the freedom from force. Two important implications arise from this principle: one is that rights are negated when force is introduced. And the other more important one is that no one’s legitimate rights contradict or conflict with each other.

One man’s legitimate rights cannot and do not conflict with another man’s legitimate rights. If there is a conflict, that implies the presence of force; however, the presence of force negates the existence of rights. Thus, having reached a contradiction, it should be evident that some premise being held is false.

When one claims that rights come with responsibilities, one is implying that one’s practice of a right could potentially conflict with the practice of another man’s rights. This is patently false. The moment someone has stepped outside the boundaries of one’s rights and has violated another man’s rights, his actions have initiated force and have become illegitimate. Insofar as this has not occurred, every man is free–without limits–to exercise his rights.

Take for example my right to free expression, which I choose to exercise by criticizing the alleged prophet Muhammed. I am well within my rights to freely criticize Muhammed as a hack, a vicious killer, a local rogue, a misogynist, and a liar. I am also well within my rights to draw funny and insulting caricatures of this man and publish them in newspapers. However, I step outside the boundaries of my rights the moment I first attack a muslim, initiate force against a muslim, or make threatening calls to incite violence against muslim for no reason or provocation. At this point, I have become a criminal.

Demanding that I remain “responsible” in the practice of my rights is merely another way of saying I should not exercise my rights freely and to its fullest extent. It also betrays a lack of understanding that there is a clear and distinct boundary between exercising rights and initiating force, between a law abiding man and a criminal.

Demanding that I remain “responsibile” in the practice of my rights implies that the exercise of my rights is in fact an initiation of force against another man (and so I should be “careful” in how I exercise it) and that I am not a law-abiding man but a criminal that should be reigned in. The underlying premise that is wholly accepted is that one man’s right can conflict with another man’s rights, and hence, everyone should be “careful” or “responsible” in exercising their respective rights.

Rights and responsibilities are unrelated concepts that are forcefully being combined in a package deal so as to subvert or negate the very concept of rights. It is a lie that is told so often that people now believe it to be the truth: that rights in fact do come with responsibilities.

The moral distinction is clear: you are either a criminal or you are not. You are either within your rights, in which case you act freely, or you have initiated force, in which case you should be reigned in. You either practice your rights legitimately–in which case, no one has a business telling you that you should be responsibile in the practice of your legitimate rights–or you have stepped outside the boundaries protected by your rights and you are now a criminal.

Now, in the context of animal rights, man is automatically the criminal. If animals are granted rights (against the nature of animals and the concept of rights), then their rights will necessarily conflict with those of human rights, which means the presence of force. In such a case, it is only humans that will be regarded as criminals, not animals, because only humans can choose their actions and be held responsible for them. Thus, proferring rights to animals not only negates the rights of humans (because it brings these rights into conflict) but also creates criminals out of humans, and moreover, demands that humans learn to practice their rights “responsibly,” which means, surrender your rights entirely.

Posted in Animal Rights, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif | 3 Comments »

A Simple Question for Peter Singer

Posted by Jerry on August 29, 2006

I have a simple question for Peter Singer:

In discussions of human rights–especially, the right to liberty, free speech, and free expression–many people are rather quick to point out that “with rights come responsibilities.” These people were the most vocal during the whole Danish Muhammad cartoons fiasco. People condemned the western press and newspapers, including the Ayn Rand Institute, for exhibiting insensitivity and intolerance by preaching a dogmatic adherence to rights without the temperance of responsibilities.

Given all of that, then, I am perplexed with this issue: when and if Peter Singer is successful in his Great Ape Project, and he succeeds in granting “rights” to Apes, Orangutans, Chimpanzees, and whatever else, will we also begin demanding that these animals behave with responsibility in the practice of their new-found rights? Will we preach to the animals, “with rights come responsibilities”?

If we cannot expect responsibility from animals because they can understand no such concept, then why is that we are willing to grant them free rights without any responsibilities—because, I am of the impression that rights only “come with responsibilities.” Thus, why treat animals any different from humans? Isn’t the mission of the Great Ape Project to create a community of equals?! Then, why the better, more lax, and infact superior treatment of animals than humans?

Peter Singer, are you an Ape-man?

[A] culture that insists on applying the concept of rights to animals, a culture led by intellectually dishonest men like Peter Singer, are infact looking to rob those rights from humans. By declaring the rights of a volitional, conceptual being as invalid and less important than the so-called rights of a beast, they nullify the very basic values life and freedom and happiness that the fundamental human rights are supposed to guarantee. This does not reveal their love for animals but their disgusting hatred for humanity.

Update (December 1, 2006):

An interesting set of comments have ensued under this post. I encourage readers to check them all out carefully. Also, related to the topic of this post is my recent post titled “Rights and Responsibilities” that explains why the proper exercise of one’s legitimate rights do not have to be done responsibly. Check it out.

Posted in Animal Rights, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif | 38 Comments »

Great Ape “Rights”

Posted by Jerry on August 20, 2006

According to Philosophy Now News, the Great Ape Project, founded and led by the greatest Ape of all–Peter Singer, is pressurizing the Spanish Parliament to introduce “rights” to all Apes, Orangutans, Chimpanzees, Gorilla’s, Monkey’s–and whatever else you wish to include–in an effort to create a “community of equals.” Apparently, this community of “humans, chimpanzees and orangutans would all enjoy three fundamental rights, these being: right to life; right to freedom, and protection from torture.”

The bill is likely to be introduced in Spain after the parliamentary recess this summer. Of course, environmentalists are all cheering for this bill.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Roman Catholic Church denounces the proposed law on the rationale that “we don’t give rights to some people…such as unborn children.” Therefore, if fetuses and clumps of human cells were to be granted human rights, then presumably, the Church would be fine with extending those “rights” to Orangutans and what have you.

I doubt that these people really even know what they’re talking about. There is so much that is wrong with this whole “animals rights” fiasco. If they were to be asked, “what exactly are rights?” they would be quick to say rights are “the right to life, to liberty, to property, etc.”

But that’s merely ennumerating the various rights we have; if they knew what “rights” essentially are, they would also realize that “rights” are such that cannot be granted or given to those that do not possess it in the first place!

So, say we grant these animals the right to “protection from torture.” Are we now going to arrest all other animals who break this law by inflicting “torture” on these protected group of animals whom we have just granted these rights? Or does this law only apply to humans, to restrict human activity so that animals can “enjoy” greater freedom and “rights”?

In one of my earlier posts on Animal Rights, I had pointed out that those who argue for the rights of animals in fact harbor a hatred for the rights of men. In all such cases, animals and clumps of cells are not gaining any rights, but humans are certainly losing their existing rights:

[A] culture that insists on applying the concept of rights to animals, a culture led by intellectually dishonest men like Peter Singer, are infact looking to rob those rights from humans. By declaring the rights of a volitional, conceptual being as invalid and less important than the so-called rights of a beast, they nullify the very basic values life and freedom and happiness that the fundamental rights are supposed to guarantee.
This does not reveal their love for animals but their disgusting hatred for humanity.

Objectivism correctly recognizes that there is only one fundamental right: the right to one’s life. All else are necessary derivatives or corollaries. Reality does not permit you to fabricate any new “right to protection from torture” or the “right to a living wage” or the “right to employment and healthcare.”

Rand defines the concept of rights as such:

Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life.

Men like Peter Singer are thoroughly evil not because they care about the lives of animals, but because they have disdain for human rights and human happiness; they are in the business of advocating ideas and a worldview, but have completely abdicated the responsibility to ensure that the ideas they promote–and the consequent actions that are generated–are consistent and compatible with man’s nature and requirements for living.

Posted in Animal Rights, Objectivism, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif | 7 Comments »

Conflating the Identities of Humans and Animals

Posted by Jerry on May 8, 2006

In my previous post about Animal Rights, I revealed the two alternatives posed by behaviorists and intrinsicists: the former believes that humans are not much different (if at all) than other animals, while the latter believes that we are positively superior to animals – because we are smarter and more sophisticated.

I identified that both alternatives rest on a false premise: that humans and animals are measured for difference on a linear, quantitative scale – that the behaviorists place humans only a few points higher (if at all) than animals, whereas the intrinsicists place humans dramatically higher on this linear scale. The premise is that humans and animals have the same characteristics, only in differing degrees. That the identities of humans and animals are essentially the same, though differing only in some aspects like the amount of intellectual brain development.

I argued that there is fundamental and radical difference between humans and animals. That we are not on some quantitatively higher position of superiority than animals, but on an altogether different standard of measurement. Our fundamental identities are dramatically different – not just in differing degrees, but totally, and absolutely. I pointed out that human consciousness possesses the conceptual and volitional faculty that are only unique to us as a species. These faculties are absent among other species, and therefore our essential identities are radically different. Humans are not animals in any but the most narrow, physiological, and inessential sense of the word.

Just a few minutes ago, I happened to read Roger Donway’s article “How Individualist Is Human Nature?” Given the title, I believe the article is entirely superfluous – one should quickly be able to reject the whole evolutionary theorists’ premise of pre-programmed concepts like Individualism, altruism, selfishness, etc. hard-wired into the brain based on the very fact that those are higher level *cognitive* concepts that cannot exist without a developed *cognitive* faculty!

Furthermore, I have deep criticism for Roger’s analysis of Evolutionary psychology. I may critique his article in detail in a separate post.

My point in bringing up his article in the context of my discussion on animal rights is to show just one example of determinists and behaviorists positing the complete negation of human identity as a rational being with the faculty of volition – as a being that is radically different from animals based on the nature of his consciousness.

By refusing to recognize the different natures of human and animal consciousness, they posit the negation of identity itself – human identity and animal identity – thus, conflating the two and abolishing the proper foundation for morality and rights, and fundamentally, for existence itself. If existence is identity, and that if a human exists he exists with an identity, then to deny the identity of a human being is to deny the very existence of man qua man. Of course, then what you get is human qua animal; a brute; a mindless thug functioning on automatic instinct, and left at the mercy of unknown causes in his brain.

In the article, Roger cites an evolutionary psychologist who says ““The brain is a physical system whose operation is governed solely by the laws of chemistry and physics. What does this mean? It means that all your thoughts and hopes and dreams and feelings are produced by chemical reactions going on in your head.”

What they wish to argue is that the chemical reactions produced in your brain allegedly precludes, out of necessity, any faculty of free will and volition – even the possibility of such a faculty as existing. Moreover, the entire enterprise of writing a book, or formulating a theory is, according to them, nothing more than the effects of causal chains of chemical reactions.
Matt Ridley, whose book is the focus of Roger’s article, “ridicules those who believe that “we are conscious, rational, and free-willed, not like those inferior things called animals.””

The deterministic, behaviorist trend in psychology (and other fields) openly reveal their contempt for human identity and reason. To deny the faculty of volition in human consciousness is to deny the functioning method of our rational faculty. The operation of reason rests upon the faculty of volition. Choice is the effect caused by the nature of our consciousness. If there is no free will, there can be no faculty of reason.

Posted in Animal Rights, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Rights and Morality | 1 Comment »

Revealing a False Alternative – Animal Rights or Human Rights?

Posted by Jerry on May 7, 2006

Since I wrote the article on “Animal “Rights” Trump Human Rights”, I have thought extensively on the matter and have now been able to identify and formulate a thorough exposition of the fundamental premises of people in the Animal Rights camp. I have also been able to identify, once and for all, the fundamental difference between humans and animals.

In discussions on whether animals have rights, there are many notions being loosely held and misused – the most obvious one being the concept of ‘rights’. However, ‘rights’ is a higher level concept that depends on many underlying concepts and premises. I won’t go into a detailed analysis of rights-concept, as I believe, Objectivism has properly and fully completed that job.

What I wish to identify here, then, is the question of difference: Are humans really any different from other animals? If we were to afford animals their alleged “rights”, then it must imply some sort of significant similarity between animals and humans. Are humans also just animals? Aren’t we all just animals?

I have identified at least two alternative strains of thought that answer this question of difference – and both, I believe are false alternatives.

The first alternative is the determinist, behaviorist argument that claim humans are also animals. We are no different. Humans can be trained and taught tricks just like a chimpanzee. Animals communicate and build homes and protect their young just like us humans. Humans and animals have the same feelings, emotions, loyalties, etc. except maybe to differing degrees.

The second alternative is that of an intrinsicist or, what I call, the pseudo-religious argument: Humans are definitely different from animals. We are not only different, but superior to them. We are more intelligent than animals, we can communicate, we can build huge cities, we love more deeply, etc. In short, Humans are superior to animals because of our superior intelligence. No other animal matches us in intelligence.

Both these alternatives to the question of difference are wrong, and based on a false premise. The common fundamental premise shared by these two alternatives is that the difference between humans and animals is a matter of intelligence measurement; that the level of intelligence varies among humans and animals.

The first camp believes that the intellectual difference between animals and humans is not too large, that we are not very much more intelligent than the smartest dolphin or chimpanzee. Our brains are essentially the same, and that an animal could be trained to be as smart as a human in most tasks.

The second, intrinsicist camp argues that our intelligence level is dramatically greater, or higher, than that of animals, recent studies in animal intelligence notwithstanding. Our intelligence has become very sophisticated due to language, social interactions, and other such factors. Thus, we are fully superior to other animals.

What both these alternatives reveal is a flawed, inaccurate understanding of human beings. Humans are not differentiated from other animals only by virtue of our intelligence. No matter what the intellectual capacity we possess, there are some of us humans with an intelligence level below that of an average chimpanzee, and there are some of us humans whose intelligence is rarely surpassed by any even over centuries.

Beyond this simplistic quantitative view of human intelligence, we must take into account, the significance of the type of intelligence we humans possess: our intellectual abilities vary not on a linear two-dimensional scale, but on multi-layered three-dimensional model with scales that measure different aspects of our intellectual sophistication, like that of musical intelligence, integrative ability, mathematical aptitude, etc.

To say it very mildly, human intelligence is tremendously complex and sophisticated in various ways.

And yet, philosophically, this standard of a highly complex human intelligence is NOT enough to sufficiently differentiate humans from animals, and ground the concept of “rights” only in humans. This standard fails horribly when we bring in an equal or greater challenger of human intelligence in the form of robots, computers, or other such man-made creations.

Despite the paradox of judging a man-made creation as being more intelligent that the creator, the standard of intelligent measurement objectively reveals that our creations often score better on the intelligence scale than many of us humans. Yet, I do not believe any one entertains the opinion of granting similar human rights and treatment to robots and computers.

Thus, we see that intelligence by itself is an insufficient standard of arguing for the difference between humans and animals (or non-human entities).

A robot maybe highly intelligent, but supposedly, lifeless – and so one may be tempted to then argue for some combination of intelligent *life* as the standard of difference. And yet, even that standard fails. It is an arbitrary insistence on a combination between intelligence and life, with a pre-conceived bias towards a traditional concept of “life”. Would the self-generated and autonomous actions of an intelligent robot or computer not suffice as defining it as a living entity? Does one require a heartbeat to be considering “living”? Is a brain-dead human a living human or a lifeless vegetable? Why do we consider the chemical activities of plants as proof of life but not the electrical activity of a super-intelligent robot?

As you can see, insisting on that arbitrary standard of “intelligent life” leads to many complicated tangents and caveats that need resolving.

Therefore, it is my argument that the fundamental difference between a human and an animal is not due to our quantitative levels of intelligence, or the qualitative levels of our intellectual sophistication, or due to the idea that we are the “only” intelligent life on earth.

Those arguments are not invalid, but they are not fundamental. They are propositions that depend on a more fundamental premise.

That premise is the Identity of Consciousness.

The fundamental difference between a human and an animal is in the fundamental identity (nature) of our Consciousness. As humans, the identity of our consciousness is one that is volitional and conceptual. As animals, the identity of their consciousness necessarily excludes the faculty of volition and conception.

Ayn Rand said that all living creatures face the fundamental alternative of life and death. Animals, by the identity of their consciousness are automatically equipped to deal with this reality in the perceptual range of the moment. The nature of their consciousness gives them the requisite tools to face the alternative of life and death, and automatically pursue life, life-affirming activities; life-sustaining and reproducing activities.

As humans, we have to choose one or the other (life-directed activities or self-destruction) and hold them in consciously conceptual terms – and that grounds all of our ethics and morality. Do we choose a life-affirming morality or a morality of death?

“Rights” is a moral concept that is applicable only to a morality of life in the face of the alternative of choosing death. If one simply cannot choose death as such, then one cannot have any basis for morals, or rights. [At this point, I have to bring in the analogy of God: Since the God (assuming existence) cannot choose death, He can also not be an entity concerned with morals. Read “God’s Limitations“]

Posted in Animal Rights, Rights and Morality | 2 Comments »

Animal “Rights” Trump Human Rights

Posted by Jerry on April 27, 2006

It has finally come to pass – Chicago has banned the sale of foie gras in the city’s restaurants. They use terms as “inhumane treatment of birds” to defend their ban. I’m only little surprised by the twisted and corrupt multi-level dishonesty this represents.

On one level, they believe there is some modicum of respect for birds (or any other animals) if we treat them well right before we actually chop them into little kababish pieces, or mince them into fine ground meat, or stuff them into tiny cans.

Then they talk about avoiding “inhumane treatment of animals” while completely ignoring the fact that the word “inhumane” has at its root, the reference to *human*! It is a corruption of language to rob the proper meaning and references of these concepts and apply it to something totally different.

What is truly inhumane here is the legal refusal to allow a human being to enjoy the rewards of his labor and his achievements. It is fully immoral and inhumane to tell a man what he can and cannot do with his own money! It is inhumane to deprive a human being his values and his enjoyment. And it is especially immoral to sacrifice the rights and the enjoyment of human life for a hypocritical committment to the “rights” of animals!

It is hypocritical because how can you defend the “right” of an animal to be treated well when alive, when the sole purpose of the animal’s being kept alive is for it to be killed, chopped, minced, or canned for our consumption! Besides, on what standard and logical foundation is the concept of rights applicable to animals?

Peter Singer, and his ilk, have at best an insanely warped concept of rights. If a right is merely to guarantee the curtailment or abolition of suffering (like of animals) then one must ask: should we stop the regular wars of the jungles by imprisoning predatory animals that hunt and brutally, grotesquely kill their prey? Should we apply the concept of rights to animals in the wild, protect helpless preys from their predators, and “civilize” nature’s brutish society of ‘survival of the fittest’? If the utilitarian concept of rights is the standard, then every little creature – even a worm on the ground – has rights.

In one of my earlier posts on “Response to Singer“, I said “rights are tools and requirements to protect life” and by that I mean *human* life.

Life is our most basic value, and the right to life protects and guarantees that basic value. However, rights are not existential entities but conceptual things that we are able to grasp due to the nature of our consciousness. Our consciousness is necessarily conceptual and volitional. That is its nature. Hence, it is *only* to human consciousness (and not that of plants or animals) that the concept of rights, violation of rights, morality, evil, inhumane treatment, etc. are all applicable.

An animal has no concept of “life” as such, and therefore cannot have a value of life. Their rudimentary consciousness only filters in sensations of pain and pleasure which conveys its physical existence to itself and guides its instintual responses. Its responses of pain, fright, pleasure, loyalty, fun, sadness, play, etc. are simple responses to postive or negative re-inforced stimuli.

To claim that an animal possesses conceptual knowledge of values like life, sadness, joy or love, would mean that animals have some degree of self-awareness, that they understand to some degree the meaning of existing versus not existing, and that they enjoy positive life-affirming values like joy, love and fun. If we concede that animals have a conceptual grasp of their existence and of life-affirming values, then we will also have to accept the notion that animals have free will and volition, that they are not instinctual beings, that if they understand what life-affirming values are, then they must also know what negative values must be, and which ones to choose. The introduction of choices and alternatives implies a consciousness that can choose from those alternatives. Thus, we must reach the conclusion that if an animal can choose life and other life-affirming values, then it could also possibly choose death and destructive values – volitionally.

An animal does not fight a threat or flee from danger because it values its life, but because it is instinctually and automatically hard-wired in such a way as to remain in existence or maintain the existence of its progeny. To claim that animals have some conceptual value of life would necessitate that one also claim that some animals do infact wish to die, or commit suicide, or wilfully destroy its chances of procreation. To ascribe the concept of value to animals would also necessitate logically to ascribe the concept of non-value.

However, humans are the only species on Earth with a conceptual and volitional faculty; with a consciousness that is aware of itself and of the world it exists in. It is only to humans that conceptual values are applicable, these are not natural values like sunlight or water that is common to all species on Earth, but things like our existence, success, joy, pride, etc. – that are unique only to us, and have to be chosen and pursued volitionally to be of value to us – and for which we possess fundamental moral rights commensurate with fundamental moral values so that they are always guaranteed to us.

Therefore, a culture that insists on applying the concept of rights to animals, a culture led by intellectually dishonest men like Peter Singer, are infact looking to rob those rights from humans. By declaring the rights of a volitional, conceptual being as invalid and less important than the so-called rights of a beast, they nullify the very basic values life and freedom and happiness that the fundamental rights are supposed to guarantee.
This does not reveal their love for animals but their disgusting hatred for humanity.

Posted in Animal Rights, Rights and Morality | 3 Comments »

Response to Singer

Posted by Jerry on July 28, 2005

The workings of my mind:

Here’s the skeletal form of my response to Peter Singer’s argumentation on the ethic of meat-eating.

The crux of the issue: to eat or not to eat meat
Why? Because animals have life, and therefore feel pain, and therefore suffer, and therefore if we don’t eat human babies, why do we eat animals?
Living creatures have consciousness and experience pain and suffering. Plants? Do they have consciousness?
Animals have life. Life is a value. Life gives rise to Rights. Animals have rights. Right to life. Right to LIVE and not be eaten.
What is the meaning of “Rights”? How does it really come about? What are the necessary requirements to possess “Rights”?
If animals have Rights, then babies have Rights. Then a fetus has rights?
Origin of Rights: Concept “RIGHTS” is squarely connected with the concept “MORALITY”
To violate Rights means to be immoral, or evil. To kill a human baby (assuming it has RIGHTS) means to be evil. To kill a fetus, similarly, is to be immoral. To kill an animal and eat it, is also immoral. Yes?
What is “MORAL”?
Morality is choosing of deliberate action.
Choose right over wrong is choosing moral over immoral
Choosing to live is moral because it is right. Life is a universal standard of value. Without that standard of life, we are talking about death, or non-existence- then this whole conversation is useless because we value death and non-existence, so why talk about any reason to protect life? Rights are tools and requirements to protect LIFE not death.
Thus, rights give rise to morality, which is based on life as a value.
Any life? Plant life?
No. It cannot be plant life or animal life because morality is ONLY concerned with the life of VIOLITIONAL beings that can CHOOSE to have Rights that protect and enhance life.
Animals and Plants don’t and cannot CHOOSE to protect or enhance life. For them, it is instinctual and automatic. Plants and animals cannot commit suicide or choose to starve to death. Thus, there is no talk about morality in terms of their actions because morality requires the deliberate act of choice in the face of alternatives.
Animals hunt and kill one another, but we cannot consider their actions under moral lenses. Those acts are instinctually natural.
Thus, morality is only in the realm of HUMAN life.
Thus, only HUMAN life, Human consciousness, is the standard of our moral values and virtues. Not any life, just Human life.
Morality is in choosing the right. Immoral is in choosing the wrong. Amoral is in not having the faculty, capacity and the options to choose.
Thus, eating animals is not violating any “RIGHTS” of animals because they cannot have “Rights” that protect their moral choices based on a universal standard value. Animals, by their nature are neither moral nor immoral, but amoral, and therefore cannot have the concept of “Rights” because they do not have the concept of “violation of Rights” i.e. committing a wrong or immoral act against another animal.
What about babies and fetuses?
Babies – independent entities (in the sense that they are a self-contained unit) that belong to the species of Humankind, and Humankind is the only species that are concerned with Rights and Morals.
Babies are Humans equipped with all the faculties necessary for a rationality and intellectual consciousness. The extension of Rights to Humans should then appropriately cover newborn Humans, because they are here and now, existing as their own self-contained entity with the potential to achieve rational consciousness.
Fetuses – develop this more… talk about essential definitions and differences. Fetuses are excluded from the coverage of Human Rights and protection. Why?

Posted in Animal Rights, Environmentalism, My Theories and Ideas, Rights and Morality | 3 Comments »

 
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