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Old 11-09-2006, 12:26 AM posted to alt.animals.ethics.vegetarian,misc.rural,,talk.politics.animals
Rupert Rupert is offline
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Dutch wrote:
"Rupert" wrote

Dutch wrote:

The morally relevant difference lies in the essential difference between
humans and the animal species we use as food, or kill in crop fields, or

You can identify some differences which hold between most humans and
most nonhumans and claim that they are morally relevant, but there will
always be some humans who don't have these differences from nonhuman

I have explained this before. Human rights are designed to protect humans
because of what we are by nature, and those rights cover all humans,
including those whose nature is not yet developed or diminished by age or
injury. We always hold by default to the hope that our human potential will
be realized.

I really had a tough
time getting an answer out of you on this one, but at one point you
seemed to say it would be permissible to do the same thing to humans.

There's no reason to say that because we accept the killing and/or use of
animals in agriculture that we must implicitly approve of the killing of
humans. There are relevant differences between animal species, in their
intelligence and level of awareness. The argument that a few humans have
little intelligence (like ****wit) can be dismissed,

It can't be dismissed. It has to be come to terms with.

That is coming to terms with it, it is the rational conclusion.

If we hold that
it is permissible to do these things to nonhuman animals because they
lack certain characteristics, then we must also hold that it would be
permissible to do the same things to humans who lack the

No, because it is the essential ability to hold these characteristics that
is the deciding factor, not actual possession of the characteristics. All
humans have the essential ability to hold the characteristics of humanness,

I disagree.

even if they are impaired due to misfortune. No animals of any other species
have the potential to have such abilities, ZERO.

The reality is it is a continuum. Nonhumans share these characteristics
with us to varying degrees. You can, if you want, pick a certain
threshold and say "most humans are above this threshold, all nonhumans
are below it." But you'll have to set the threshold pretty high.
Consider the following individual:

"She communicates in sign language, using a vocabulary of over 1000
words. She also understands spoken English, and often carries on
'bilingual' conversations, responding in sign to questions asked in
English. She is learning the letters of the alphabet, and can read some
printed words, including her own name. She has achieved scored between
85 and 95 on the Standford-Binet Intelligence Test. She demonstrates a
clear self-awareness by engaging in self-directed behaviours in front
of a mirror, such as making faces or examining her teeth, and by her
appropriate use of self-descriptive language. She lies to avoid the
consequences of her own misbehaviour, and anticipates others' resopnses
to her actions. She engages in imaginary play, both alone and with
others. She has produced paintings and drawings which are
representational. She remembers and can talk about past events in her
life. She understands and has used appropriately time-related words
like 'before', 'after', 'later' and 'yesterday'. She laughs at her own
jokes and those of others. She cries when hurt or left alone, screams
when frightened or angered. She talks about her feelings, using words
like 'happy', 'sad', 'afraid', 'enjoy', 'eager', 'frustrate', 'made'
and, quite frequently, 'love'. She grieves for those she has lost - a
favourite cat who has died, a friend who has gone away. She can talk
about what happens when one dies, but she becomes fidgety and
uncomfortable when asked to discuss her own death or the death of her
companions. She displays a wonderful gentleness with kittens and other
small animals. She has even expressed empathy for others seen only in

That's a description of a nonhuman. You can set the threshold higher
than that if you want, but many would like to see some kind of
justification for doing so.

You may have no trouble drawing a sharp line between nonhuman great
apes and humans now. But this is just an accident of evolutionary
history. If all the evolutionary intermediaries were still living
today, you might have more trouble knowing exactly where to draw the

Most people would find this counter-intuitive. The
position may be right, but someone who wants to advocate it should be
upfront about it, and say "I hold that it is permissible to do these
things to nonhuman animals because they lack these characteristics -
and I also hold that it would be permissible to do these things to
humans who lack the characteristics."

You're approaching the problem backwards in order to artificially reach the
conclusion you wish to reach. In order to raise other animal species to the
level of humans, which is what you are trying to do, you must find at least
one example of a member of a non-human species with capabilities equal or
similar to humans.

Nonhumans do have similar capabilities to SOME humans. Whatever we
decide about these beings, they should be treated the same way. It's
not true that these humans have the "essential ability" or the
"potential" to have these characteristics you're so excited about. It's
irrational to treat beings on the basis of what is typical for their
species, rather than their individual characteristics.

Instead you are attempting to drag all humans down to the
level of other animals by pointing to rare humans who's human abilities are
impaired. That is not a logical approach, because impairment of abilities is
ad hoc, arbitrary and meaningless, it can occur by injury, accident, disease
or fluke of genetics, it does not exist by nature.

I can't distinguish between the condition of being born a permanently
radically cognitively impaired human and being born a nonhuman. They
both seem to be "by nature" to me.

The question is asked,
"What if a race of beings came to the earth with powers equal to or greater
than humans?" They would be accorded rights, just as any animal species
would who demonstrated capacities equivalent to humans.

Very few defenders of animal
agriculture are actually prepared to come out and say that. If they
want to say it, fine, then the matter can be debated. But if they hold
that it's permissible to do it to the nonhumans, but not the relevantly
similar humans,

There are no animals relevantly similar to humans.

then the characteristics we identified aren't what
count after all, but rather species membership.

Species membership identifies all beings who either have, have the potential
to have, or have in their essence human abilities, or humaness.

Don't agree with "have in their essence". It's hand-waving. If the
permanently radically cognitively impaired humans have it in their
essence, why not the nonhumans too?

Suppose we encountered a chimpanzee who had the same level of
intelligence as a highly intelligent human adult. What would we say
about this chimpanzee? Would we say that "in essence" he has the same
characteristics as ordinary chimpanzees and should be treated
accordingly, or would we say that all the chimpanzees have his
characteristics "in essence" and should be raised to his level? It's
irrational to judge on the basis of what's typical for an individual's
species. The individual characteristics should be what count.

Someone can advocate
that species membership is the crucial characteristic too, but then
they have to confront the arguments against speciesism in the

There are no valid arguments against speciesism.

There are no valid arguments *for* speciesism. Philosophers have been
trying to find one for a long time, and have failed. We should treat
individuals on the basis of their individual characteristics, not what
is typical for their species. If you are uncomfortable with treating
permamently radically cognitively impaired humans in a certain way, you
shouldn't treat nonhumans in that way, either.

The human species possesses
special powers or the potential or inherent ability to have those powers,
even if impaired, which humans by default value above all else, it is a fact
of human culture, and of other species.