Xonen wrote: elemtilas wrote: Xonen wrote:
elemtilas wrote:However, it ìs how we discuss things like personhood with each other.
True - but a lot of people have never engaged in such discussions, and again, many would have difficulty conceiving of such things in terms us modern-day Westerners would be familiar with. Point being, just because someone's ideas of such things may be utterly alien and incommunicable to us at present, doesn't necessarily mean they're wholly non-existent. Dolphins (and some other animals) have been shown to recognize themselves in a mirror
, which probably requires at least some understanding of the self.
No doubt! But my point is simply that we cán talk about these things, we can work on understanding them, they can work on understanding us, we can focus on each other and learn about these things we had no conception of before.
To some degree. At the same time, though, we are incredibly resistant
towards actually accepting
any new ideas.
We're not as smart as a species as we like to think.
No doubt. Self conceit is no problem!
I don't really agree about "incredible" resistance. Sure, there is "some" resistance to new ideas; but there must be vastly more acceptance of new ideas, otherwise, we'd still be bashing each other in the head with randomly selected rocks and sticks!
I'm well aware that our species is extremely good at deluding itself.
But if there's a risk of anthropomorphizing animals, I'd say there's also a risk of seeing ourselves as more special than we really are. And that's what I'm trying to argue against. There is no fundamental qualitative difference between the way our brains and those of animals work, even if do seem to have some quantitative advantage.
Point taken -- at least for my part, while I agree that there is risk in overemphasising our own specialness, at least we have evidence for it! I also think there are risks in overemphasizing animals' specialness especially when evidence is lacking.
I haven't said anything about animals being "special", quite the opposite. [/quote]
I didn't say you did! I did. And there is indeed a risk: coupled with that tendency to humanise things that are not, we may well walk ourselves right into the trap of defining animals as "people" that have no business being so defined! Simply because we feel like it's the right thing to do! Because they seem so like us! (When in reality it's more likely that we are still more like them than not!
And there's plenty of evidence that they can be quite intelligent, it's just a matter of what conclusions to draw from it.
Exactly my point. I am simply of the opinion that, at this time, we can not yet draw a conclusion. One way or the other. We have some data that points to something, but we don't know what that something is. We don't even really have a good grasp on the parameters of the question. It's really only relatively recently that we have been able to apply the question to our own species in full! It really wasn't that long ago that certain humans in the U.S. were considered 3/5 of a person (for purposes of, for example, census taking). This would be unthinkable anymore.
We may well come to the point when it shall be unthinkable for dolphins and chimps to be considered anything other than people -- we're not at that point yet.
I'd say we cannot know exactly how animals perceive themselves (except for the ones
that are able to tell us something about it; then it becomes a question of whether or not we believe them), so you can't make any absolute pronouncements on that subject, either.
I have no reason to disbelieve them.
Everywhere you turn on Earth, there is evidence of humanity's intelligence & handiwork from ancient fire pits to modern nuclear waste sump sites and a distinct lack of that for every other kind of animal.
Absence of evidence isn't necessarily evidence of absence.[/quote]
Indeed not! However absence of any evidence at all doesn't help us much in considering the question at hand. Especially in light of the fact that we dó have evidence for our own past activities.
The fact that dolphins don't build fires might be because they're too dumb, but it might also be at least partially because they have flippers for hands and live in an environment that's slightly too damp most of the time for fire to be of much use.
Thank you for stating the obvious! As if the example given was the only possible measure!
As for nuclear waste dump sites, those are, you know, a fairly recent invention.
Yes, they are. And they will certainly be long enduring! Long after all the more ephemeral evidence is gone, that at least will bear silent witness.
The point is this: throughout human history, we have been making evidence
that points to our cognitive abilities, our intelligence, or status as persons. And other human-like animals did the same: Neanderthal tools & burials and so forth. For all the intelligence of other kinds of animals, we don't see that kind of activity ancient or recent. Even if elephants and dolphins decided long ago not to pursue the paths of crass materialism in culture, I would expect that our close cousins (chimps) would follow roughly the same pathways as we and our other cousins did.
Humans were certainly persons before they were invented, and even tens if not hundreds of thousands of years earlier. Our runaway cultural evolution only really started with the agricultural revolution, and it's been gaining speed exponentially for the last couple of centuries - but our brains are physically still pretty much the same as they were a hundred thousand years ago.
Agreed on all those points.
Our ability to build fires and nuclear waste dump sites is a result of a combination of intelligence, exceptionally nimble fingers, and favorable circumstances - not of intelligence alone. Still, I'm not claiming that any other animal is as intelligent as we are. Just that the possibility that some of them might be intelligent enough to qualify as "persons" cannot be ruled out. At least not without adopting a definition of "person" that would seem to disqualify at least some humans.
Yet we are not the only ones to be so favoured! Other close kin have developed along similar lines -- other hominid species. If we consider humans of fifty or a hundred thousand years ago "people" -- and I see no reason not to -- then I'd also consider close kindreds to be "people" as well. That only brings us back to the question: what's so damn different about our slightly more distant kindreds, the other great apes, that are giving us so much gyp? They are intelligent, they have similarly nimble fingers -- who knows what favorable circumstances they may have passed up?
I never said you claimed any other animal was "as intelligent" as we are. As for intelligence enough
-- I am not convinced that this alone is a good criterion for personhood. It's certainly one piece of the puzzle, but is this really a one piece puzzle? I would hazard the guess that the computer that beat the human Jeopardy players was, by some definition anyway, "intelligent" and possibly more intelligent than an average fifth grader. I wouldn't say that this computer is a person. I wouldn't say that smart people are more of a person than unintelligent people. Or that infants, who are really not all that smart!, are not people at all.
I would prefer to leave out the possibility of "disqualifying" certain humans. That's a dangerous slope down to a precipice that we have managed to most laboriously climb away from! I'd rather not allow for definitions of "person" that allow us to depersonise some humans, even if that means personising some animals. For me, then, I assume that all "human beings", from conception right on up to physical death are "persons", regardless of any of the regardlesses. And that includes intelligence, maturity, "mental defect", etc etc. Let's just stick to the consideration of other animals!