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The Contender
Con (against)

Elephants are People, Too -- Rights of Sapience

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/13/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 week ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 73 times Debate No: 96116
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--- Preamble ---

Science is arriving at more and more conclusions about the properties of intelligence. In the process, we are discovering that certain non-human animals exhibit behaviors that indicate they are able to make decisions and think about problems, or even abstract concepts.

If the philosophy of morality is to be applied fairly, it stands to reason that the legal framework of protection for humans should be extended to those animals which also qualify, philosophically, as people.

To rephrase as a formal debate premise: Those animals which are comparable in mental capacity to human children should enjoy the same legal protection as human children.

I would like to debate this topic. I shall be the Pro side, and my challenger shall take on the Con position as defined by them, defined by default as maintaining the status quo of all non-humans as protected beings (e.g. dogs and cats, protected from animal cruelty but otherwise treated as property).

The debate is open to all, but please consider that you'll need to articulate a justification for human/sapient rights with as much a priori reasoning as possible (e.g. no resorting to Ancient Wisdom/the Bible).

--- Framework / Definitions ---

The debate will take place in a standard format:

Round 1: Acceptance, Framework/Definitions
Round 2: Initial Arguments
Round 3: Rebuttals of Initial Arguments
Round 4: Counters to Rebuttals & Closing Argument

It is taken as given that the science of cognition on animals is reliable. For reference:

The debate is not about whether a given animal has a given cognitive trait. The focus is on which trait or combination of traits bestows which rights.

My definitions include four informal legal classifications and a handful of non-common terms:

Legal classes:
Sophont: An intelligent person who can be expected to be competent to knowingly enter into contracts, including the social contract. These beings bear responsibility, as in humans reachign the age of legal majority.
Ex: Mentally healthy adult humans

Ward: An intelligent being who exhibits decision-making and personhood, but not to the degree of comprehension needed to be competent to fairly engage in contracts. These beings have a right to live and must be protected and succored, with responsibility for their well-being falling to one or more sophonts.
Ex: Human children, mentally retarded human adults.

Protected Being: A non-intelligent being who is able to feel pain, fear, and otherwise exhibit suffering, but does not show decision-making or problem-solving ability. Not a person. These beings do not have the right to life, nor must sophonts be required to expend significant resources to maintain their lives. Legal protection does exist to prevent their unnecessary suffering, i.e. animal cruelty laws.
Ex: Dogs, cats, cattle

Living Object: A non-intelligent being without the capacity for emotions. They exhibit only stimulus-response behavior at an instinctual level, with no observable moods or suffering beyond shock response. These beings do not have the right to life and are not protected from animal cruelty.
Ex: Spiders, frogs, sharks


Sapient: Lit. "Capable of wisdom", but defined here as the ability to exhibit discernment in abstract reasoning, cause-effect relationships, and decision-making.
Ex: If you place a string that opens a door when pulled, you could train a child and a dog both to pull the string and open the door. If you them move the string and change the door to a box with an aromatic treat inside, a child, sapient, could use inductive reasoning to generalize that, "When a string is pulled, things might open". A dog, non-sapient, would not carry the cause-effect realization over to the box, and would only be able to stumble upon the string solution by trial and error.

Sentient: Possesses self-awareness, recognizing the self as an entity distinct from surroundings.
Ex: If you see a human in the mirror with an X painted on their forehead, you lift your hand up to test your own forehead for the paint of an X, because you realize that the human shape in the mirror is you.

Emotive: Possesses the ability to feel emotions, esp. fear (which implies the ability to anticipate), suffering (which implies distress in excess of the pain response) and moods. Pain is not enough to qualify, as stimulus-response is almost universal among living beings.
Ex: Moping dogs, anxious cattle.

Theory of Mind (ToM): The ability to recognize that there are agents other than yourself in the world who exhibit intent. Capable of distinguishing, at least in principle, whether an effect is caused by a random natural cause or by a conscious agent.
Ex: A dog sitting on a treat to hide it from view because it realizes that others might see and covet its treat. A human trailblazer realizing that four rocks piled on top of one another are a sign that someone else has been here.

If you dispute the particulars of my definitions or have definitions/concepts upon which your own arguments rest, please enumerate them in your acceptance post.

I look forward to a rousing debate!

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1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by jcdenton80 1 week ago
Less than 24 hours to make your comments, Taze... Waiting on you.
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