Should chimps have "human rights"? Should the brain dead have "human rights"?

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#1
The guardian: "Will chimps soon have human rights?"

The idea is this: much of what it is to be a person -a sense of self over time, emotional bonds to individual others, symbolic thought and social cooperation and even perhaps morality- is not exclusively human. That is to say that there may be (and likely are) animals that are similar enough to humans to merit personhood.

However, we can easily think of disabled humans who are, for example, brain dead. Are they still people? If so, why? Do the permanently and severely incapacitated merit the ethical necessity of rights?

A few examples might be;

1. A baby born with a smooth brain
2. A young infant
3. Someone with Alzheimer's

Each of these organisms has or doesn't have traits relating to personhood. Some have lost them, never to be recovered. The young infant does not have these traits, but they lie dormant, yet to be realised.

To what extent do we assign personhood to each organism and why?
#3
EVERYTHING IS GETTING FREE HUMAN RIGHTS!

___

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Last edited by WCPhils at Dec 9, 2013,
#5
I don't think they should get human rights, but then that's because I don't really think human rights make much sense. They're a bit of a bizarre concept. I'm writing an essay around the topic right now in fact.

However, yes I do think think chimps and other great apes at the very least among non-human animals deserve a lot of the protections and moral consideration we give humans, especially if people think humans with mental capacities considerably lower than other animals (like those you mentioned in the OP) deserve protection.


EDIT: I laughed pretty hard at this bit: "Kiko, also thought to be 26, lives in Niagara Falls, and has been trained in martial arts, though his sparring partner Charlie, "the karate Chimp", is now dead. "

I wonder how he died...
Last edited by MadClownDisease at Dec 9, 2013,
#6
Just for the record, I think the term "human rights" is oxymoronic when applied to species that are by definition not human. Hence the scare quotes. It would have been better phrased as "could chimps soon have rights?" or "could chimps soon be considered legal persons?"
#7
Questions- If we do give them rights do we have to give them jobs? or could we? and as what?
Whats goes around must come down
#8
Quote by modus operandi
Just for the record, I think the term "human rights" is oxymoronic when applied to species that are by definition not human. Hence the scare quotes. It would have been better phrased as "could chimps soon have rights?" or "could chimps soon be considered legal persons?"

Just in case you responding to me, don't worry that's not what I meant. Calling them "natural rights" or "universal rights" would avoid that issue though.
#10
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Questions- If we do give them rights do we have to give them jobs? or could we? and as what?

Well, according to youtube's error 500, they have teams of them already.
#13
I did this thread last week.
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#14
Oh sorry. Didn't see that one. I did see one about the cognitive abilities of chimps, with the memory ladder test.
#15
Should [nonhuman entity] have human rights?

This is a toughie.
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LET'S GO BUCKS
#16
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Should [nonhuman entity] have human rights?

This is a toughie.

Yeah, I know. The Guardian's wording, all due [sic]s etc.
#17
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Have you read this book?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Is-Data-Human-Metaphysics-Star/dp/0465045480

It's almost entirely based around that episode. And was an enjoyable read.

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What a senseless discussion.

We're all ears if you'd like to back that up?

The basic issue I think is why should simple genetic membership of a certain species give such a massive moral protection that any other animal, regardless of intelligence or complexity, would not get?
#18
Quote by modus operandi
Oh sorry. Didn't see that one. I did see one about the cognitive abilities of chimps, with the memory ladder test.

Same time frame. No biggie. And no chimps don't get rights sorry.
Rights come with responsibilities. We have a responsibility to treat animals better than many of us do however that does not translate into rights for animals that cannot comprehend them.
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#19
Quote by MadClownDisease
I don't think they should get human rights, but then that's because I don't really think human rights make much sense. They're a bit of a bizarre concept. I'm writing an essay around the topic right now in fact.

What makes you think human rights do not make much sense?
Si
#21
Quote by Jackal58
Same time frame. No biggie. And no chimps don't get rights sorry.
Rights come with responsibilities. We have a responsibility to treat animals better than many of us do however that does not translate into rights for animals that cannot comprehend them.

As mentioned in the OP though, does that mean that kids, or the mentally handicapped, or even those with no ability to meet their responsibilities to others (perhaps due to poverty or oppression) have no rights?

EDIT:
Quote by 20Tigers
What makes you think human rights do not make much sense?

I just don't understand what universal and purely human property could possibly ground something like a right, regardless of the culture, situation, or interactions of that person.

I'm not saying I think that the things human rights protect aren't moral goods (I mean, torturing people is very clearly horrible and wrong for many reason), but that's very different from saying that people have a right not to be tortured, or people have a duty not to torture people. They're just conceptually bizarre and I've never heard any robust account of what could possibly bring them into existence in this universal way.
Last edited by MadClownDisease at Dec 9, 2013,
#22
Quote by MadClownDisease
As mentioned in the OP though, does that mean that kids, or the mentally handicapped, or even those with no ability to meet their responsibilities to others (perhaps due to poverty or oppression) have no rights?

In the US a person is not really a person until they reach the age of 18. And yes mentally handicapped peoples are relieved of many of their responsibilities as citizens. Social status or income have no bearing on it.
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#23
Quote by Jackal58
Rights come with responsibilities.

I'm not so sure this is true. What is a right except a socially constructed and enforced privilege, applied uniformly to a category (in this case, the category of "homo-sapiens") defined by relevant parameters?

We frequently extend rights to those unable to fulfill or even entertain responsibilities, in terms of a duty of medical care, or protection from unlawful harm.

It may be the case that one is expected to fulfill responsibilities to justify the allocation of social resources that a right may demand of a system, but this isn't quite equivalent to saying that rights are derived from responsibilities.

We have a responsibility to treat animals better than many of us do however that does not translate into rights for animals that cannot comprehend them.

So you're advocating welfare rather than rights? Fair enough. I would contest the narrow scope of your justification for this though.

It is entirely possible to enjoy rights one is not cognizant of. Children, for example, have a host of rights they likely don't even know exist, yet infringements of those same rights are (rightly) treated as serious transgressions.

EDIT: I should learn to read. You said "rights come with responsibilities" rather than from. Apologies, I've seen it in the latter form quite a lot.
Last edited by modus operandi at Dec 9, 2013,
#25
I agree with Jackal about chimps getting rights.

As for the brain dead, I think there's no middle ground. Someone with Alzheimer's who can still function is still a person. They're not less of a person because they are missing some small qualities we ascribe to personhood.

Someone who is fully brain-dead, with no chance of recovery, should be euthanized. Not that it should be mandated or anything (if you're paying out of pocket to keep someone on life support, by all means go ahead).

And if you think about it, at that point, when a person is entirely controlling another's subsistence and life without any input or output from the brain-dead individual, the brain-dead individual is the property of the one who maintains its existence. So any violations of what we would call "human rights" when applied to this context (like a nurse in the hospice doing something untoward to the brain-dead person) seem to me to be more in line with property rights than human rights.

In my mind, if you have the right to determine whether someone lives or dies, they aren't a person, but property. The most sensible objection to this that I can think of is children. A parent can basically determine whether or not their child lives. And in many senses, a child is its parents' property, but they don't really have a moral right over survival, just the practical determination of whether or not they will provide for the child in such a way that it will survive.

edit: as for people in (long-term) comas who currently lack consciousness and/or personhood, I would say that the legitimate potential for regaining consciousness allows them to constitute "people." After all, when we're asleep, we are not conscious, but we ARE going to wake up (potentially), and we would never want to kill a sleeping person because they're "not people."

I think all basic living things deserve treatment without sadism. I don't know how much more than that they should get.
Last edited by progdude93 at Dec 9, 2013,
#26
Quote by Jackal58
In the US a person is not really a person until they reach the age of 18. And yes mentally handicapped peoples are relieved of many of their responsibilities as citizens. Social status or income have no bearing on it.

I think they do if you're claiming to have rights you have to have the paired responsibilities. Someone locked up in chains couldn't be properly said to have any responsibilities or duties, simply as they clearly have no possible way to discharge those duties. It's the same way I don't have a responsibility to cure cancer globally, because clearly that's not a remote possibility for me. Does that mean that that guy in chains thus has no human rights?

Severely socially or financially deprived people have no way of discharging any kind of responsibilities. They couldn't have a responsibility to protect others if completely unable, or to feed the poor if they can't even feed themselves. That wouldn't mean they didn't have any rights.

EDIT: Actually, I may be slightly misunderstanding you here. I would accept that rights are constituted of claims and duties, and thus rights require responsibilities, but I'm saying someone doesn't need to have responsibilities to have claims.
Last edited by MadClownDisease at Dec 9, 2013,
#27
Quote by MadClownDisease
As mentioned in the OP though, does that mean that kids, or the mentally handicapped, or even those with no ability to meet their responsibilities to others (perhaps due to poverty or oppression) have no rights?

EDIT:
I just don't understand what universal and purely human property could possibly ground something like a right, regardless of the culture, situation, or interactions of that person.

I'm not saying I think that the things human rights protect aren't moral goods (I mean, torturing people is very clearly horrible and wrong for many reason), but that's very different from saying that people have a right not to be tortured, or people have a duty not to torture people. They're just conceptually bizarre and I've never heard any robust account of what could possibly bring them into existence in this universal way.

It's not black or white though. At least, that's what I think. Someone who is 17 years, 23 hours and 59 minutes old doesn't necessarily have any less of a right than someone who is exactly 18 years old. I mean sure we have a law that says that's he way it is, but you have to pick some age. Laws can't be fluid.
#28
Quote by WhiskeyFace
It's not black or white though. At least, that's what I think. Someone who is 17 years, 23 hours and 59 minutes old doesn't necessarily have any less of a right than someone who is exactly 18 years old. I mean sure we have a law that says that's he way it is, but you have to pick some age. Laws can't be fluid.


You're right that it's not black and white, but you're wrong that laws can't be fluid. Like I've posted in other threads, there are many places where someone of the age of majority is still treated like a minor (or vice versa). Like in criminal cases, a minor can be tried as a major (or vice versa).
#29
Quote by modus operandi
Just for the record, I think the term "human rights" is oxymoronic when applied to species that are by definition not human. Hence the scare quotes. It would have been better phrased as "could chimps soon have rights?" or "could chimps soon be considered legal persons?"
Naw, human rights exist because of governments as protection from them. And we have them because we simply say we do. If no one stood up and said don't tell me what to do they wouldn't exist. So other species may have some rights, but only insofar as they understand them. So, they could possibly have a right to be left alone, as in not caged up or persecuted by people; but their understanding of property rights and such would be essentially nonexistent, and they don't engage in commerce, so the whole suite of human rights wouldn't apply.

It's sort of like how children have limited rights, because they can't speak or operate entirely on their own, but history shows eventually they will and so we grant them full rights at a later stage; or earlier if they so request it. Chimps aren't going to become more mature after puberty, but they can operate on their own, so it could make sense to grant them some protection. But, I've said this before, they'd have to have a reproducible way to communicate that wish; which could be through sign language or writing or something, but that hasn't yet happened. I think it's premature to grant them protections.

And, a big hurdle would be people's mentality. Would animals recognize human rights? Why bother recognizing their "rights?" That's why communication is key. If chimps start signing they want out of their cages or sanctuaries, then there might be a case. If not, probably won't happen.
#30
all humans, yes. but i say all chimps have to earn it by doing impressive circus acts.
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#31
Quote by progdude93
You're right that it's not black and white, but you're wrong that laws can't be fluid. Like I've posted in other threads, there are many places where someone of the age of majority is still treated like a minor (or vice versa). Like in criminal cases, a minor can be tried as a major (or vice versa).

Fair 'nuff.
#32
Quote by Jackal58
And no chimps don't get rights sorry.
Rights come with responsibilities. We have a responsibility to treat animals better than many of us do however that does not translate into rights for animals that cannot comprehend them.
This right here.
#33
Quote by MadClownDisease
Just in case you responding to me, don't worry that's not what I meant. Calling them "natural rights" or "universal rights" would avoid that issue though.

asking if they're persons skirts the issue of whether rights are universal though, even easier
#34
Quote by seanlang01
Naw, human rights exist because of governments as protection from them. And we have them because we simply say we do. If no one stood up and said don't tell me what to do they wouldn't exist.

Yes, this is fairly uncontroversial. Rights are abstracts that societies form and defend, I agree. I don't understand what you're saying "naw" to here.

So other species may have some rights, but only insofar as they understand them. So, they could possibly have a right to be left alone, as in not caged up or persecuted by people; but their understanding of property rights and such would be essentially nonexistent, and they don't engage in commerce, so the whole suite of human rights wouldn't apply.

I don't see how this is the case. It is obviously the case that they are limited to expressing a desire for rights they understand, but it isn't so obvious that they are limited to benefiting only from rights they understand. There are many cases in which an impartial advocate assumes the interests of those they represent, this is the point of legal counsel isn't it?

I will definitely concede that animals having legal rights could well be a logistical nightmare and highly impractical for that reason. No disagreement there.

It's sort of like how children have limited rights, because they can't speak or operate entirely on their own, but history shows eventually they will and so we grant them full rights at a later stage; or earlier if they so request it. Chimps aren't going to become more mature after puberty, but they can operate on their own, so it could make sense to grant them some protection. But, I've said this before, they'd have to have a reproducible way to communicate that wish; which could be through sign language or writing or something, but that hasn't yet happened. I think it's premature to grant them protections.

Sure, rights fully equivalent to human rights would probably be absurd. I agree that the ability of an animal to communicate its interests or preferences is important, however I think you have neglected the fact that we can infer that from behaviour to some extent. Not perfectly, but there are clear behavioural markers to aversive and pleasurable experiences associated with specific stimuli.

And, a big hurdle would be people's mentality. Would animals recognize human rights? Why bother recognizing their "rights?" That's why communication is key. If chimps start signing they want out of their cages or sanctuaries, then there might be a case. If not, probably won't happen.

We entertain rights even for those who would not extend them to us, that's kind of the point of having them, isn't it? I agree that it's unlikely many people will actually warm to the idea, but having some basic protections seems like something worthwhile. I'm not sure that I do think they need rights, just welfare. But that's where the discussion is at.
#35
Quote by MadClownDisease

I just don't understand what universal and purely human property could possibly ground something like a right, regardless of the culture, situation, or interactions of that person.

I'm not saying I think that the things human rights protect aren't moral goods (I mean, torturing people is very clearly horrible and wrong for many reason), but that's very different from saying that people have a right not to be tortured, or people have a duty not to torture people. They're just conceptually bizarre and I've never heard any robust account of what could possibly bring them into existence in this universal way.


There is no objective property that grounds human rights. They are a conclusion of moral and ethical reasoning.

If we take your argument further there is no grounding for any moral concept. However, a successfully cooperative society requires moral rules and we reason this out. John Rawls' take on the social contract is one way in which some basic human rights can be reached as a conclusion of moral reasoning.
Si
#36
Quote by modus operandi
I'm not so sure this is true. What is a right except a socially constructed and enforced privilege, applied uniformly to a category (in this case, the category of "homo-sapiens") defined by relevant parameters?

We frequently extend rights to those unable to fulfill or even entertain responsibilities, in terms of a duty of medical care, or protection from unlawful harm.

It may be the case that one is expected to fulfill responsibilities to justify the allocation of social resources that a right may demand of a system, but this isn't quite equivalent to saying that rights are derived from responsibilities.


So you're advocating welfare rather than rights? Fair enough. I would contest the narrow scope of your justification for this though.

It is entirely possible to enjoy rights one is not cognizant of. Children, for example, have a host of rights they likely don't even know exist, yet infringements of those same rights are (rightly) treated as serious transgressions.

EDIT: I should learn to read. You said "rights come with responsibilities" rather than from. Apologies, I've seen it in the latter form quite a lot.

For this discussion to work we really need to define what we mean by rights and human rights. Pretty much any right you wish to list I am fairly certain I could give you the accompanying responsibilities.

Right to a trial by jury - A responsibility to show up for jury duty.
Right to vote - A responsibility to remain informed.
Right to free speech - A responsibility to be honest with your audience.
etc etc.
Unfortunately many want their rights and wish to shirk their responsibilities those rights require.
Rights are not entitlements handed out to monkeys.
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#37
I heard this story from my grandma about this dude who live out in the boonies who raised a chimp then when it matured he married "her" and the crazy thing is he would take the chimp to the store for food n stuff so much he trusts the chimp on "her" own with a list of supllies to give to the store rep to give to "her" and then "she" walks all the way back to the house were "she" is loved the most

Pretty messed up stuff yo.
Whats goes around must come down
#38
Quote by modus operandi
I don't understand what you're saying "naw" to here.


Oh, I meant naw to chimps shouldn't get rights, knowing what we know currently. Sorry if that wasn't clear.


We entertain rights even for those who would not extend them to us, that's kind of the point of having them, isn't it?
Yes, but most would, and we vigorously defend them from those people. No animals have expressed any interest in rights, and definitely not in a manner we can certainly understand.
#39
Quote by Jackal58
For this discussion to work we really need to define what we mean by rights and human rights. Pretty much any right you wish to list I am fairly certain I could give you the accompanying responsibilities.

Right to a trial by jury - A responsibility to show up for jury duty.
Sure, but there are people who have the right to a fair trial (and should have that right) but are unfit for jury duty, in particular those with severe mental illness like schizophrenia. Then there are uglier examples, like racists who deserve fair trials but cannot be expected to pass fair judgment on racial minorities.
Right to vote - A responsibility to remain informed.
Ideally, but there's no legal responsibility to remain informed, unlike the case of dury duty (with its attendant exceptions I specified)
Right to free speech - A responsibility to be honest with your audience.
etc etc.
Again, this is ideally the case but not necessarily legally enforced. I can legally exercise this right to lie in certain contexts, although I admit there are restrictions to this. However, a responsibility to be honest is more than a responsibility to not actively tell untruths. This responsibility is not usually legally prescribed in this broad sense
Unfortunately many want their rights and wish to shirk their responsibilities those rights require.
Rights are not entitlements handed out to monkeys.


I think to some extent we're at crosspurposes. I see rights as being inviolable minimums. A right to protection from unlawful harm, for example, is something everyone should enjoy, regardless of whether they inflict it themselves. Rights are so fundamental in my view that society loses by compromising them even for those who abuse and pervert them.
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