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The Contender
Con (against)

Elephants are People, Too -- Rights of Sapience

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Debate Challenge
This debate challenge was issued to Dujec. If you are Dujec, login to see your options.
Challenge Expires In
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/21/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 days ago Status: Challenge Period
Viewed: 191 times Debate No: 96207
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (0)




--- 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).

Due to a flake on the previous version, the debate is impossible to accept, so please leave a comment to apply. 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/tradition/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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Debate Round No. 1
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Dujec 2 days ago
I accepted an additional debate last night so it may be a while while before I accept here. Looking forward to a challenging debate!
Posted by Dujec 2 days ago
@Discipulus_Didicit I didn't notice that that was the amended resolution so I'd say that is a relevant objection with no rules to prevent me from that track. I'll need whatever help I can get on this one.
Posted by jcdenton80 3 days ago
Thanks, Dujec. I look forward to discussing.

For purposes of the debate, that 'class' of animal with cognitive abilities equivalent to a child may or may not have any occupants. Again, the science on these animals is still out. I anticipate that the subject of what properties an animal must possess to belong in that class, and whether any currently do, will be central to the debate.
Posted by Discipulus_Didicit 3 days ago
"I don't agree that these animals exist and I think that should be debatable and not a premise."

Welcome to DEBATE dot org...
Posted by Dujec 3 days ago
Wait, I missed this line, "Those animals which are comparable in mental capacity to human children should enjoy the same legal protection as human children." I don't agree that these animals exist and I think that should be debatable and not a premise.
Posted by Dujec 3 days ago
While I support a higher level of concern for the protection of animals I would definitely like to accept the debate.
Posted by UnderRaidedScore 6 days ago
Kinky debate however I go for con, as of right now that is, it's understandable that the function of their brains work exclusively bothersome, they shouldn't have rights as a human nor be looked as one. These elephants, and crows, has yet to make a proposition towards Humanity yet, if they could develop components of an adult brain or to that of similarities, they should be look at as the same level as humans, to further on my perspective, if they can preserve themselves as an individual they too should being on the same level as a human.
Posted by xvyz 6 days ago
Interesting topic and extremely thorough framework. I can't foresee someone cogently arguing the con position though.
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