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Non-human Persons

jewelessien
Posts: 155
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1/21/2014 1:11:33 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Not really sure if this is meant to be here...

Anyway. It seems all anyone wants to talk about is evolution, so I decided to bring up a (slightly) related topic: personhood in other animal species, particularly the cetaceans. They've evolved parallel to humans into a set of species that's arguably as advanced, relatively, to the point that a significant fraction of scientists considers them sentient, sapient and self-aware enough to be considered persons. In fact, India has declared dolphins to be non-human persons.

I know there are varying definitions of the term 'person', and there isn't really a consensus, but in any case: what are your thoughts? Could So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish be real? :P
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
nummi
Posts: 294
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1/21/2014 6:42:22 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/21/2014 1:11:33 PM, jewelessien wrote:
Not really sure if this is meant to be here...

Anyway. It seems all anyone wants to talk about is evolution, so I decided to bring up a (slightly) related topic: personhood in other animal species, particularly the cetaceans. They've evolved parallel to humans into a set of species that's arguably as advanced, relatively, to the point that a significant fraction of scientists considers them sentient, sapient and self-aware enough to be considered persons. In fact, India has declared dolphins to be non-human persons.

I know there are varying definitions of the term 'person', and there isn't really a consensus, but in any case: what are your thoughts? Could So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish be real? :P
They fit more somewhere between a person and an "animal", more toward a person. They have intelligence, but not as much as to manipulate the environment they live in as we do, nor to think as irrationally and stupidly as humans (the stuff we make up and the stuff so many take as real...).
jewelessien
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1/22/2014 1:29:26 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/21/2014 6:42:22 PM, nummi wrote:
At 1/21/2014 1:11:33 PM, jewelessien wrote:
Not really sure if this is meant to be here...

Anyway. It seems all anyone wants to talk about is evolution, so I decided to bring up a (slightly) related topic: personhood in other animal species, particularly the cetaceans. They've evolved parallel to humans into a set of species that's arguably as advanced, relatively, to the point that a significant fraction of scientists considers them sentient, sapient and self-aware enough to be considered persons. In fact, India has declared dolphins to be non-human persons.

I know there are varying definitions of the term 'person', and there isn't really a consensus, but in any case: what are your thoughts? Could So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish be real? :P
They fit more somewhere between a person and an "animal", more toward a person. They have intelligence, but not as much as to manipulate the environment they live in as we do, nor to think as irrationally and stupidly as humans (the stuff we make up and the stuff so many take as real...).

I don't think intelligence enough to extensively manipulate the environment is a criteria for personhood; if it were, humans wouldn't be considered persons until their third of fourth years (if not later). That being said, cetaceans do manipulate their environment to a relatively comparable level. Bear in mind that an aquatic life is very different from a terrestrial one, and that a lot of human advancements are not possible in water (fire, for one, or agriculture).
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
GarretKadeDupre
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1/23/2014 2:01:00 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Call me when these so-called "persons" join the debate on their person-hood, than we can have a serious discussion.
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jewelessien
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1/23/2014 2:34:21 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/23/2014 2:01:00 PM, GarretKadeDupre wrote:
Call me when these so-called "persons" join the debate on their person-hood, than we can have a serious discussion.

Well, for all you know, said "persons" could be having a similar debate right now on those weird terrestrial animals with legs are also "persons".

They cannot join your "serious discussion" because for all our advanced technology, we cannot decipher their varied language (or possibly languages). On the other hand, they are perfectly capable of grasping aural and non-aural human languages, and have demonstrated that ability on several occasions. Perhaps that hints that philologically, they are actually smarter/more advanced than we are? Just thinking aloud here, you know.
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bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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1/23/2014 4:30:13 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/23/2014 4:04:23 PM, GarretKadeDupre wrote:
whats aural language?

Spoken language. Non-aural language would be, for example, conveying ideas through body language (Or, I suppose, technically, sign language).

Aural = hear-able with ears.
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jewelessien
Posts: 155
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1/23/2014 4:32:53 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/23/2014 4:04:23 PM, GarretKadeDupre wrote:
whats aural language?

Sound-based language. Language that is heard, as opposed to visual language (like sign language). Dunno if it's the consensus, but I've heard languages described like that quite a few times.

Dolphins have been demonstrated to be able to learn sign language up to the point of understanding context, temporal sequence, etc, for example by correctly executing the signed command "Touch the frisbee with your tail and then jump over it". As for aural language, there is at least one recorded incident of a dolphin "speaking" to divers that entered his enclosure. He repeatedly told them "Out" (which is heartbreaking, really). One could argue that this was mindless repetition, but bearing in mind that they have been demonstrated to be smart enough to understand sign language (though they rely very little on vision); that they have awesomely good sound-processing systems; that he was able to distinguish the sound of speech from all the other sounds he could have copied (the pumps in his tank, for example); that he repeated that word out of the hundreds he must have heard, and that he was able to produce the sound at all (most dolphin calls are much higher-pitched than human speech, and dolphins don't have the voicebox-vocal cord-tongue system we have)...well, I guess I choose to believe he knew just what he was saying.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
GarretKadeDupre
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1/23/2014 4:33:41 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/23/2014 4:30:13 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 1/23/2014 4:04:23 PM, GarretKadeDupre wrote:
whats aural language?

Spoken language. Non-aural language would be, for example, conveying ideas through body language (Or, I suppose, technically, sign language).

Aural = hear-able with ears.

oh
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bladerunner060
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1/23/2014 4:35:32 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/23/2014 4:32:53 PM, jewelessien wrote:
At 1/23/2014 4:04:23 PM, GarretKadeDupre wrote:
whats aural language?

Sound-based language. Language that is heard, as opposed to visual language (like sign language). Dunno if it's the consensus, but I've heard languages described like that quite a few times.

Dolphins have been demonstrated to be able to learn sign language up to the point of understanding context, temporal sequence, etc, for example by correctly executing the signed command "Touch the frisbee with your tail and then jump over it". As for aural language, there is at least one recorded incident of a dolphin "speaking" to divers that entered his enclosure. He repeatedly told them "Out" (which is heartbreaking, really). One could argue that this was mindless repetition, but bearing in mind that they have been demonstrated to be smart enough to understand sign language (though they rely very little on vision); that they have awesomely good sound-processing systems; that he was able to distinguish the sound of speech from all the other sounds he could have copied (the pumps in his tank, for example); that he repeated that word out of the hundreds he must have heard, and that he was able to produce the sound at all (most dolphin calls are much higher-pitched than human speech, and dolphins don't have the voicebox-vocal cord-tongue system we have)...well, I guess I choose to believe he knew just what he was saying.

Dolphins have aural language, though--just one of their own. Their clicks are communication, in addition to their echolocation, right?
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jewelessien
Posts: 155
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1/24/2014 8:00:03 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/23/2014 4:35:32 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Dolphins have aural language, though--just one of their own. Their clicks are communication, in addition to their echolocation, right?

Yup, they and all the cetaceans communicate be clicks, whistles, 'songs'. They can possibly communicate between species as well, and they have dialects (they have entire cultures actually).
But they don't 'speak' the same way humans do. They use the phonic lips in the passages leading to their blowholes. Which is sort of like using flaps in your nostril to make sounds.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
Skikx
Posts: 132
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1/24/2014 3:53:23 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/21/2014 1:11:33 PM, jewelessien wrote:
Not really sure if this is meant to be here...

Anyway. It seems all anyone wants to talk about is evolution, so I decided to bring up a (slightly) related topic: personhood in other animal species, particularly the cetaceans. They've evolved parallel to humans into a set of species that's arguably as advanced, relatively, to the point that a significant fraction of scientists considers them sentient, sapient and self-aware enough to be considered persons. In fact, India has declared dolphins to be non-human persons.

I know there are varying definitions of the term 'person', and there isn't really a consensus, but in any case: what are your thoughts? Could So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish be real? :P

For me, personhood begins a soon as an individual is able to think about it's own existence. I don't know if dolphins are able to do that, though it might be the case.
I guess we won't know unless we find a better way to communicate with them.
And yes, I know that my definition most likely excludes babies.
jewelessien
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1/25/2014 3:12:05 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/24/2014 3:53:23 PM, Skikx wrote:
For me, personhood begins a soon as an individual is able to think about it's own existence. I don't know if dolphins are able to do that, though it might be the case.
I guess we won't know unless we find a better way to communicate with them.
And yes, I know that my definition most likely excludes babies.

Well, any species whose individuals give themselves names is arguably self-aware. And yes, dolphins (and other cetaceans) have self-given names: signature whistles they use to identify themselves when communicating. Young dolphins create their own signature whistles from their mother's/other family members' own, so one can theoretically trace a genealogy based on signature whistle similarities. And dolphins have passed several self-awareness tests: self-recognition, for one (both visual and aural); spotting changes in appearance, demonstrating empathy, etc. They're extremely complex creatures really.

Still, I think babies (and fetuses beyond the sixth/seventh month) are essentially people, because they can (in theory) survive without their mothers (so they're individuals) and they already have the mechanisms that will later 'qualify' them as persons (by your definition) in place - said mechanisms will develop without external interference.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
Skikx
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1/25/2014 3:48:01 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/25/2014 3:12:05 PM, jewelessien wrote:
At 1/24/2014 3:53:23 PM, Skikx wrote:
For me, personhood begins a soon as an individual is able to think about it's own existence. I don't know if dolphins are able to do that, though it might be the case.
I guess we won't know unless we find a better way to communicate with them.
And yes, I know that my definition most likely excludes babies.

Well, any species whose individuals give themselves names is arguably self-aware. And yes, dolphins (and other cetaceans) have self-given names: signature whistles they use to identify themselves when communicating. Young dolphins create their own signature whistles from their mother's/other family members' own, so one can theoretically trace a genealogy based on signature whistle similarities. And dolphins have passed several self-awareness tests: self-recognition, for one (both visual and aural); spotting changes in appearance, demonstrating empathy, etc. They're extremely complex creatures really.

They make noises, based on the noises they hear from their mother and use these noises to identify themselves.
They don't necessarily need to think to do that.
Making noise is no sign of intelligence, imitating noises doesn't require much intelligence either. Individual identification; well I am no biologist, but I don't think that an animal has to be that smart to do that. All pack animals can easily identify the different individuals of their pack. Animals that are raised by their parents recognize them.

Self-recognition?
Visual, In the sense that my dog isn't barking at the mirror, because he understands that it is not another dog, but his reflection.
And aural in the sense of reacting when somebody calls them by their name?
This may show some degree of intelligence, but doesn't necessitate the ability to form abstract thoughts.

Still, I think babies (and fetuses beyond the sixth/seventh month) are essentially people, because they can (in theory) survive without their mothers (so they're individuals) and they already have the mechanisms that will later 'qualify' them as persons (by your definition) in place - said mechanisms will develop without external interference.

I don't know how you define "people", but usually it implies being a person.
So for me, babies aren't people either. Having the ability to become one can't be counted as the same as being one.
They are individual, human beings.
jewelessien
Posts: 155
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1/25/2014 4:28:11 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/25/2014 3:48:01 PM, Skikx wrote:
They make noises, based on the noises they hear from their mother and use these noises to identify themselves.
They don't necessarily need to think to do that.

Sigh.
They don't "make noises". The clicks, whistles and barks that cetaceans produce follow a sound system that is at least as complex as human speech patterns. In other words, they have at least as many "words" (phonemes, morphemes, whatever) as humans do. They appear able to communicate a wide variety of information through their vocalizations: for example, a dolphin communicated at length with a pair of beached, frantic whales, after which they calmed down and followed the dolphin to safety. Also, they are capable of teaching each other completely new behaviors, and vocal communication plays a part in that.
And creating a signature whistle can hardly be considered "making noises". As a clue, consider the average songbird: the robin, for example. Apart from a few tiny variations due to minute differences in chest depth, beak size, etc, all robins sound practically the same. There are very few species for which it is possible to identify individuals based on their calls - humans and cetaceans are in that group. And the baby dolphin does not just imitate its mother's 'noises' - it is intelligent enough to isolate its mother's signature whistle from the hundreds or thousands of sounds it hears from her in a day, and goes on to mutate her signature whistle to one that is not only different but is unique to it.
You might as well say that human speech is simply imitating the noises we hear our parents make.

Making noise is no sign of intelligence, imitating noises doesn't require much intelligence either. Individual identification; well I am no biologist, but I don't think that an animal has to be that smart to do that. All pack animals can easily identify the different individuals of their pack. Animals that are raised by their parents recognize them.

Pack animals generally can identify whether or not an individual is a member of their pack, yes. All social animals can do this - recognize another of the same species. All animals with a modicum of intelligence can (it's a basic survival requirement - the ignore, eat, run, fight or mate response). That's nothing special, and I have not implied that it is. It is self-recognition that is evidence of higher mental processes.

Self-recognition?
Visual, In the sense that my dog isn't barking at the mirror, because he understands that it is not another dog, but his reflection.
And aural in the sense of reacting when somebody calls them by their name?
This may show some degree of intelligence, but doesn't necessitate the ability to form abstract thoughts.

No, your dog does not necessarily understand that he is barking at his reflection. As far as I know, elephants, primates and cetaceans are the only animals to pass the visual self-recognition test, which involves recognizing the self in a mirror, recognizing the self in an image or video, successfully recognizing and responding to a change in the self-image while maintaining the awareness that the image is still of itself, etc. Barking at a mirror fails the first portion of the test, because generally a dog do not feel the need to bark at/communicate with itself.
And as for aural, I don't mean responding when called by a human-given name: that is a trained response (but it does show a level of intelligence, as you've noted). I mean that a cetacean can identify recordings of itself out of dozens of other recordings - it can recognize its own voice, showing marked interest but not attempting to respond (which would imply that it thinks the recording is another dolphin). Beyond that, it can also recognize recordings of friends; it will respond to these with its own signature whistle and a 'statement'. They can, like all higher animals, recognize a dolphin call in general, but if it is a stranger's call it will only attract cursory attention.
Yeah, I'd assume a significant degree of intelligence is required to do all that and everything else a dolphin does. And cetaceans have that degree of intelligence - their brains are slightly less developed than the human brain (though the aquatic lifestyle may have had something to do with that), they also have spindle cells (the cells thought to play a role in developing intelligent - conscious - behavior), and they have a propensity for math. Several species of cetaceans monitor and are thought to statistically predict future food levels in their habitats, and synchronize their reproductive mating so that their babies will be born when food levels will be high, to prevent famine. That's an accurate two-year prediction, for some species. How many accurate two-year predictions have humans made?

Still, I think babies (and fetuses beyond the sixth/seventh month) are essentially people, because they can (in theory) survive without their mothers (so they're individuals) and they already have the mechanisms that will later 'qualify' them as persons (by your definition) in place - said mechanisms will develop without external interference.

I don't know how you define "people", but usually it implies being a person.
So for me, babies aren't people either. Having the ability to become one can't be counted as the same as being one.
They are individual, human beings.

Put it like this: you cannot judge their responses to cognitive tests, simply because they have not yet developed the physical abilities to express themselves adequately. It would be akin to saying a blind person is not intelligent because he/she could not see the questions on the test to answer them. Tests specifically designed for infants show that even one-month-old babies display intelligent, arguably conscious behavior.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
Skikx
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1/25/2014 6:01:21 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/25/2014 4:28:11 PM, jewelessien wrote:
Sigh.
They don't "make noises". The clicks, whistles and barks that cetaceans produce follow a sound system that is at least as complex as human speech patterns. In other words, they have at least as many "words" (phonemes, morphemes, whatever) as humans do. They appear able to communicate a wide variety of information through their vocalizations: for example, a dolphin communicated at length with a pair of beached, frantic whales, after which they calmed down and followed the dolphin to safety. Also, they are capable of teaching each other completely new behaviors, and vocal communication plays a part in that.
And creating a signature whistle can hardly be considered "making noises". As a clue, consider the average songbird: the robin, for example. Apart from a few tiny variations due to minute differences in chest depth, beak size, etc, all robins sound practically the same. There are very few species for which it is possible to identify individuals based on their calls - humans and cetaceans are in that group. And the baby dolphin does not just imitate its mother's 'noises' - it is intelligent enough to isolate its mother's signature whistle from the hundreds or thousands of sounds it hears from her in a day, and goes on to mutate her signature whistle to one that is not only different but is unique to it.
You might as well say that human speech is simply imitating the noises we hear our parents make.

Well, technically it is, but I get what you are saying.
What is the most interesting thing here for me is the teaching.
At least , if they teach in similar ways than humans do.
Not only does it require planing and communicating complex information from one individual to another. But the idea, the concept of knowledge itself.

No, your dog does not necessarily understand that he is barking at his reflection. As far as I know, elephants, primates and cetaceans are the only animals to pass the visual self-recognition test, which involves recognizing the self in a mirror, recognizing the self in an image or video, successfully recognizing and responding to a change in the self-image while maintaining the awareness that the image is still of itself, etc. Barking at a mirror fails the first portion of the test, because generally a dog do not feel the need to bark at/communicate with itself.
And as for aural, I don't mean responding when called by a human-given name: that is a trained response (but it does show a level of intelligence, as you've noted). I mean that a cetacean can identify recordings of itself out of dozens of other recordings - it can recognize its own voice, showing marked interest but not attempting to respond (which would imply that it thinks the recording is another dolphin). Beyond that, it can also recognize recordings of friends; it will respond to these with its own signature whistle and a 'statement'. They can, like all higher animals, recognize a dolphin call in general, but if it is a stranger's call it will only attract cursory attention.

Well, if they show a unique reaction to their own voice/ image, it is indeed the most probable explanation to say that they are self-aware and recognize themselves.

Yeah, I'd assume a significant degree of intelligence is required to do all that and everything else a dolphin does. And cetaceans have that degree of intelligence - their brains are slightly less developed than the human brain (though the aquatic lifestyle may have had something to do with that), they also have spindle cells (the cells thought to play a role in developing intelligent - conscious - behavior), and they have a propensity for math. Several species of cetaceans monitor and are thought to statistically predict future food levels in their habitats, and synchronize their reproductive mating so that their babies will be born when food levels will be high, to prevent famine. That's an accurate two-year prediction, for some species. How many accurate two-year predictions have humans made?

Is there an other prove for them doing math, then the assumption that they make statistics about the food level?
I mean, it could just be an instinct not to mate, when certain indicators are missing?

Put it like this: you cannot judge their responses to cognitive tests, simply because they have not yet developed the physical abilities to express themselves adequately. It would be akin to saying a blind person is not intelligent because he/she could not see the questions on the test to answer them. Tests specifically designed for infants show that even one-month-old babies display intelligent, arguably conscious behavior.

I always wonder how people even do these test and how much of the results is just pure speculation and interpretation.
I've seen test with kids up to the age of 3, that there minds work much more like those of less intelligent animals, than those of adults. Though the test were actually made to find out how intelligent other animals are.
Either way, I am not saying there are mindless or unaware of their existence.
It is the ability to form and understand abstract thoughts, that matters to me.
And quite frankly it is hard to prove these abilities within other beings, if you cannot properly communicate with them.
jewelessien
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1/25/2014 7:17:19 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/25/2014 6:01:21 PM, Skikx wrote:
Is there an other prove for them doing math, then the assumption that they make statistics about the food level?
I mean, it could just be an instinct not to mate, when certain indicators are missing?

Is there another proof for human beings budgeting their resources (which includes sensible people not having kids they can't raise) other than arithmetic ability and foresight?
I mean, it could just be an instinct not to mate, when certain indicators are missing?

Put it like this: you cannot judge their responses to cognitive tests, simply because they have not yet developed the physical abilities to express themselves adequately. It would be akin to saying a blind person is not intelligent because he/she could not see the questions on the test to answer them. Tests specifically designed for infants show that even one-month-old babies display intelligent, arguably conscious behavior.

I always wonder how people even do these test and how much of the results is just pure speculation and interpretation.
I've seen test with kids up to the age of 3, that there minds work much more like those of less intelligent animals, than those of adults. Though the test were actually made to find out how intelligent other animals are.
Either way, I am not saying there are mindless or unaware of their existence.
It is the ability to form and understand abstract thoughts, that matters to me.
And quite frankly it is hard to prove these abilities within other beings, if you cannot properly communicate with them.

This reminds me of the show "Are you smarter than a fifth grader?" Going by that show, one could conclude that humans get less and less intelligent as they age. But the fact is that the questions on the show are designed for fifth-graders, and thus fifth-graders (and perhaps teenagers a few grades higher) will do best on it. Adults would likely flunk simply because frankly, they're at a point in their lives when they don't give two for what their fifth-grade teacher was saying.
Of course, seeing as the brain grows and develops through childhood and adolescence before reaching its maximum size sometime before you're twenty, it stands to reason that an infant would be 'dumber' than an adult - it has only twenty-eight percent of the brain capacity, and most of that is developing towards voluntary body control and assimilating the environment, as well as actually developing the senses (I think newborns are practically blind until about a month old or more) at that time. Their minds would work on a baser level, because they are undergoing extreme stress: they're preoccupied with learning how to survive. For the same reason, it's extremely difficult to think in abstraction when, say, an escaped lioness that hasn't eaten for a week is hot on your trail.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
R0b1Billion
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1/25/2014 7:50:42 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Dolphins are rather intelligent animals. But not even close to us.
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Skikx
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1/27/2014 1:39:39 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/25/2014 7:17:19 PM, jewelessien wrote:

Is there another proof for human beings budgeting their resources (which includes sensible people not having kids they can't raise) other than arithmetic ability and foresight?
I mean, it could just be an instinct not to mate, when certain indicators are missing?

You mixed that up. Budgeting would be proof for arithmetic ability and foresight, not vice versa.
Kidding aside, we humans actually have the tools and resources to make such statistics and calculations. But how would dolphins make a statistic about the amount of available food. Are you suggesting they are counting all the eatable fish ( which would even in a relatively small area be millions) by hand (or by fin, in that case).
And how do they communicate that data to the rest of the dolphin community? Directly from one individual to the next, till everybody has heard it? They have no internet, no post system, no books, nothing.
I am really curious about the methodology.

This reminds me of the show "Are you smarter than a fifth grader?" Going by that show, one could conclude that humans get less and less intelligent as they age. But the fact is that the questions on the show are designed for fifth-graders, and thus fifth-graders (and perhaps teenagers a few grades higher) will do best on it. Adults would likely flunk simply because frankly, they're at a point in their lives when they don't give two for what their fifth-grade teacher was saying.
Of course, seeing as the brain grows and develops through childhood and adolescence before reaching its maximum size sometime before you're twenty, it stands to reason that an infant would be 'dumber' than an adult - it has only twenty-eight percent of the brain capacity, and most of that is developing towards voluntary body control and assimilating the environment, as well as actually developing the senses (I think newborns are practically blind until about a month old or more) at that time. Their minds would work on a baser level, because they are undergoing extreme stress: they're preoccupied with learning how to survive. For the same reason, it's extremely difficult to think in abstraction when, say, an escaped lioness that hasn't eaten for a week is hot on your trail.

So babies may or may not be able to think in abstract and complex ways.
You assume they are able to do so, but are too occupied with other things.
That isn't sufficient proof, that they actually can do it.
jewelessien
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1/28/2014 3:47:15 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/27/2014 1:39:39 PM, Skikx wrote:
You mixed that up. Budgeting would be proof for arithmetic ability and foresight, not vice versa.

Yeah, basically that's what I mean. When humans budget, we claim it demonstrates our arithmetic ability and foresight. When other animals budget, even animals that have been demonstrated to be intelligent enough to grasp such concepts, we yawn and say it's instinct. Homocentrism at its finest.

Kidding aside, we humans actually have the tools and resources to make such statistics and calculations. But how would dolphins make a statistic about the amount of available food. Are you suggesting they are counting all the eatable fish ( which would even in a relatively small area be millions) by hand (or by fin, in that case).

No, they don't need to count all the available fish, just like we don't need to count all our available resources. They have the natural system we use for estimating such things as oil reserves - sonar. Echolocation and a basic idea of what size your prey is, coupled with some simple arithmetic and a basic idea of the life cycle of your prey, and yes you can make a very good budget.

And how do they communicate that data to the rest of the dolphin community? Directly from one individual to the next, till everybody has heard it? They have no internet, no post system, no books, nothing.
I am really curious about the methodology.

First of all, you immediately assume that they have to work all of this out individually. Even while hunting they work together, communicating all the while with their clicks and herding the shoals of fish as a unit. The entire dolphin pod could as well work together on a math problem, just like a swarm of bees or army ants has considerably more brainpower (or ganglion power, or whatever it is insects have) than its individuals would suggest.
And they have something better than the internet: again, their vocalizations. It's mass communication like we might never be able to get. Cetaceans are the loudest creatures on the planet: a blue or sperm whale, for instance, can (theoretically) be heard on the other side of an ocean - and by everyone in between. A single dolphin can 'broadcast' for a many-mile radius; better yet, they don't have to mess with encryption, modems, data plans, network coverage or batteries running out. All they need are their ears and their phonic systems.

So babies may or may not be able to think in abstract and complex ways.
You assume they are able to do so, but are too occupied with other things.
That isn't sufficient proof, that they actually can do it.

They have the mechanism for thinking in abstract/complex ways already; it's not like they grow it later on. Saying they're not persons because they are not demonstrating abstract thinking is like saying all babies are cripples because they cannot walk yet. Bear in mind that abstract thinking is not an isolated skill; first of all you must develop perception, which isn't fully developed for a number of months, so that you can gain experience. You need a language to express your thoughts in. You must first have literal knowledge before you can begin comparing, relating facts, building simple analogies and so on. But infants come as blank sheets; like a new smartphone. There's nothing on it, so you can't condemn it for not immediately autofilling your details or all the other perks a well-used device offers. It's able to do all that right out of the box, though - when it gains experience with you, then it can 'access' all its features.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
Skikx
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1/28/2014 11:23:28 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/28/2014 3:47:15 AM, jewelessien wrote:
No, they don't need to count all the available fish, just like we don't need to count all our available resources. They have the natural system we use for estimating such things as oil reserves - sonar. Echolocation and a basic idea of what size your prey is, coupled with some simple arithmetic and a basic idea of the life cycle of your prey, and yes you can make a very good budget.

First of all, you immediately assume that they have to work all of this out individually. Even while hunting they work together, communicating all the while with their clicks and herding the shoals of fish as a unit. The entire dolphin pod could as well work together on a math problem, just like a swarm of bees or army ants has considerably more brainpower (or ganglion power, or whatever it is insects have) than its individuals would suggest.
And they have something better than the internet: again, their vocalizations. It's mass communication like we might never be able to get. Cetaceans are the loudest creatures on the planet: a blue or sperm whale, for instance, can (theoretically) be heard on the other side of an ocean - and by everyone in between. A single dolphin can 'broadcast' for a many-mile radius; better yet, they don't have to mess with encryption, modems, data plans, network coverage or batteries running out. All they need are their ears and their phonic systems.

Okay, I guess that makes things easier for them.
But I talk about them doing it individually, because that is what we are debating, isn't it?
If a dolphin is to be seen as a person, it must be a person on its own, as an individual.
Technically it would be fine, if they do all the work together, as long as each individual is able to comprehend the information independent from the group and is at least theoretically able to do it all by itself. But if they need the group to boost their brain power to be able to do such calculations, they can not be seen as individual persons.

You already mentioned insects and their hive mind behavior.
If you had a colony of ants, that collectively is as intelligent as a human,uses complex language and even thinking, but an individual ant has a much more limited level of intelligence, you can not consider the ant a person. Only the swarm as a whole, if you consider it being one individual.

Bear in mind that abstract thinking is not an isolated skill; first of all you must develop perception, which isn't fully developed for a number of months, so that you can gain experience. You need a language to express your thoughts in. You must first have literal knowledge before you can begin comparing, relating facts, building simple analogies and so on. But infants come as blank sheets; like a new smartphone. There's nothing on it, so you can't condemn it for not immediately autofilling your details or all the other perks a well-used device offers. It's able to do all that right out of the box, though - when it gains experience with you, then it can 'access' all its features.

In other words, you need to learn to be a person.
If you take an infant and isolate it from society, it will never learn any language in which it could express its thoughts. It would never become a person.
So you could consider infants as "protopersons": having all the physical capabilities to be a person, but lacking the experience to be one.
jewelessien
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1/29/2014 1:53:28 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/28/2014 11:23:28 AM, Skikx wrote:
Okay, I guess that makes things easier for them.
But I talk about them doing it individually, because that is what we are debating, isn't it?
If a dolphin is to be seen as a person, it must be a person on its own, as an individual.
Technically it would be fine, if they do all the work together, as long as each individual is able to comprehend the information independent from the group and is at least theoretically able to do it all by itself. But if they need the group to boost their brain power to be able to do such calculations, they can not be seen as individual persons.

Interesting. Quick questions: how many statistical calculations can you do in your head on your own? How come when humans work together to synergize their brain power it's considered division of labor, but when animals do the same thing it somehow means they're not smart enough?
And intelligence is not a criterion for personhood, though it plays a critical role in developing its criteria. Else, by your logic, people who flunk in school wouldn't be considered persons.

You already mentioned insects and their hive mind behavior.
If you had a colony of ants, that collectively is as intelligent as a human,uses complex language and even thinking, but an individual ant has a much more limited level of intelligence, you can not consider the ant a person. Only the swarm as a whole, if you consider it being one individual.

A swarm is not considered a person, not because of intelligence (see above) but because as far as we know, it lacks self-cognizance, sentience and sapience.

In other words, you need to learn to be a person.
If you take an infant and isolate it from society, it will never learn any language in which it could express its thoughts. It would never become a person.
So you could consider infants as "protopersons": having all the physical capabilities to be a person, but lacking the experience to be one.

Unfortunately, "experience" is not a criterion for personhood, either. So you don't 'learn' to be a person, though of course you can learn to be a better person (person here being used in a different sense).
And no, isolated infants will learn a language, the instinctive language we all know - body language. No-one has to teach you to smile when you're happy or frown when you're angry, cry when you're sad or point to something that interests you. Even before they pick up their first language, babies are expressive enough for their mothers to understand them (to an extent, of course). But somehow I don't think you've been around babies much...
Basically language is a subjective experience - or would you argue that tribes which communicate by guttural clicks are somehow 'less' persons than, say, native Mandarin speakers? Babies (and dolphins as well) fulfill all that is reasonably objective about personhood: they are obviously self-cognizant; they are clearly sentient - they experience subjectivity (emotional responses); they are relatively sapient - they can make fairly complex judgments based on perception; they have notions of time; they are independent agents.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
Jonbonbon
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1/29/2014 8:15:49 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/21/2014 1:11:33 PM, jewelessien wrote:
Not really sure if this is meant to be here...

Anyway. It seems all anyone wants to talk about is evolution, so I decided to bring up a (slightly) related topic: personhood in other animal species, particularly the cetaceans. They've evolved parallel to humans into a set of species that's arguably as advanced, relatively, to the point that a significant fraction of scientists considers them sentient, sapient and self-aware enough to be considered persons. In fact, India has declared dolphins to be non-human persons.

I know there are varying definitions of the term 'person', and there isn't really a consensus, but in any case: what are your thoughts? Could So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish be real? :P

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Skikx
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1/29/2014 12:35:48 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/29/2014 1:53:28 AM, jewelessien wrote:
Interesting. Quick questions: how many statistical calculations can you do in your head on your own?
Theoretically, infinite.

How come when humans work together to synergize their brain power it's considered division of labor, but when animals do the same thing it somehow means they're not smart enough?
Because we already know, that a single human could, at least in theory, do all the work alone.
Let's say person A counts the items about which you want to make a statistic, person B puts all the data together and person C evaluates it.
We know that it doesn't matter which of them is assigned to which task and that just one of them could do it all alone. The reason we assign three people to it, is efficiency.
Regarding dolphins, we ( or at least I) do not know, if a single dolphin is able to such things in the same way they do it as a group.
You were the one who said they might boost their brain power to solve complicated problems. It then follows to ask, if a single dolphin, regarding its intelligence, is unable to solve the problem itself.

And intelligence is not a criterion for personhood, though it plays a critical role in developing its criteria. Else, by your logic, people who flunk in school wouldn't be considered persons.
Intelligence is necessary for personhood. Without intelligence, there is no thinking and no self awareness.
If somebody is good or bad at school isn't even necessarily related to their intelligence.
In fact, more intelligent kids often get bored faster by school, because it is to easy for them and thus they pay no attention and no longer keep track of what is being taught.
Anyway, this difference in intelligence is irrelevant to the topic at hand.
All the students have already exceeded the necessary level of intelligence to be a person.

A swarm is not considered a person, not because of intelligence (see above) but because as far as we know, it lacks self-cognizance, sentience and sapience.

For which it would require intelligence.
But my actual point was, that it doesn't matter how intelligent or sapient the collective is, if we are debating the personhood of a single individual of that collective.


Unfortunately, "experience" is not a criterion for personhood, either. So you don't 'learn' to be a person, though of course you can learn to be a better person (person here being used in a different sense).
And no, isolated infants will learn a language, the instinctive language we all know - body language. No-one has to teach you to smile when you're happy or frown when you're angry, cry when you're sad or point to something that interests you. Even before they pick up their first language, babies are expressive enough for their mothers to understand them (to an extent, of course). But somehow I don't think you've been around babies much...
Basically language is a subjective experience - or would you argue that tribes which communicate by guttural clicks are somehow 'less' persons than, say, native Mandarin speakers?

Earlier you said: "Bear in mind that abstract thinking is not an isolated skill; first of all you must develop perception, which isn't fully developed for a number of months, so that you can gain experience. You need a language to express your thoughts in. You must first have literal knowledge before you can begin comparing, relating facts, building simple analogies and so on. But infants come as blank sheets; like a new smartphone."
The only possible conclusion for that is, that sapience has to be learned.
If you need knowledge, you need to acquire that knowledge first, and only after that you can become sapient. Without sapience, you can not be a person.
Secondly, could you explain how one can express and comprehend complex thoughts using only the simple body language that we instinctively posses.
It doesn't matter what specific language you speak, but it has to be complex enough to express and comprehend complex thoughts.

Babies (and dolphins as well) fulfill all that is reasonably objective about personhood:
they are obviously self-cognizant;
Granted, but not sufficient proof.

they are clearly sentient
Irrelevant

they are independent agents.
- they experience subjectivity (emotional responses);
Granted, but so do less intelligent species. This is not sufficient proof.

- they can make fairly complex judgments based on perception;
But we do not know how they make these judgments.

they have notions of time;
How exactly is this relevant?

they are relatively sapient
Relatively? They either are aware of their own existence or they are not. They think about it or they do not. If we create a grey area, then where exactly are they and where do we draw the line about what level of sapiens is required to be a person?
jewelessien
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1/29/2014 1:32:37 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/29/2014 12:35:48 PM, Skikx wrote:
Theoretically, infinite.

We're dealing with practice. Let's stick to something fairly basic: say, calculating the standard deviation of twenty or so numbers without pen, paper or calculator, because those are luxuries denied a dolphin.

Because we already know, that a single human could, at least in theory, do all the work alone.
Let's say person A counts the items about which you want to make a statistic, person B puts all the data together and person C evaluates it.
We know that it doesn't matter which of them is assigned to which task and that just one of them could do it all alone. The reason we assign three people to it, is efficiency.
Regarding dolphins, we ( or at least I) do not know, if a single dolphin is able to such things in the same way they do it as a group.
You were the one who said they might boost their brain power to solve complicated problems. It then follows to ask, if a single dolphin, regarding its intelligence, is unable to solve the problem itself.

I think you misunderstood my use of 'boost'. They don't somehow sync brain waves or anything: synergetically speaking, however, two people working together on an intellectual problem are better than two working alone.
Yes, a single dolphin is capable of the estimation and decision making ability required: it uses them to hunt. But for a...project?...of that scale would be impossible for any one individual to undertake, first of all because they can't be everywhere at once.

And intelligence is not a criterion for personhood, though it plays a critical role in developing its criteria. Else, by your logic, people who flunk in school wouldn't be considered persons.
Intelligence is necessary for personhood. Without intelligence, there is no thinking and no self awareness.
If somebody is good or bad at school isn't even necessarily related to their intelligence.
In fact, more intelligent kids often get bored faster by school, because it is to easy for them and thus they pay no attention and no longer keep track of what is being taught.
Anyway, this difference in intelligence is irrelevant to the topic at hand.
All the students have already exceeded the necessary level of intelligence to be a person.

And what is that 'necessary level of intelligence', because believe me I've met extremely stupid people in my time?
In any case, you basically just restated my point: that intelligence is necessary to develop the criteria for personhood, but is not in itself a criterion.

For which it would require intelligence.
But my actual point was, that it doesn't matter how intelligent or sapient the collective is, if we are debating the personhood of a single individual of that collective.

No, actually. Take computers. There are systems considerably more intelligent than any human, in the sense of 'mental' capability, but they are not persons, because they cannot 'feel' (sentience).

The only possible conclusion for that is, that sapience has to be learned.
If you need knowledge, you need to acquire that knowledge first, and only after that you can become sapient. Without sapience, you can not be a person.

No, sapience is not learned any more than seeing is learnt. It is built into our neural networks. To continue the analogy, you also need knowledge to see 'properly': how else can you describe the sky as blue? Saying one has to learn sapience is like concluding that one is blind because one cannot identify a colour.

Secondly, could you explain how one can express and comprehend complex thoughts using only the simple body language that we instinctively posses.
It doesn't matter what specific language you speak, but it has to be complex enough to express and comprehend complex thoughts.

I think you're confusing intellectual complexity with complexity of thought. The complexity of thought involves concepts beyond instinct, concepts that unite a plurality of concepts: jealousy, for instance, or a sense of time (see below).
As for the expressivity of body language, I don't need words to understand that my mother is disapproving of my coming back late but happy I'm alright, yet still worried about my habits. I can read that in the split second shifts in her face: information that would take possibly hundreds of traded words to convey.

Babies (and dolphins as well) fulfill all that is reasonably objective about personhood:
they are obviously self-cognizant;
Granted, but not sufficient proof.

Sufficient proof of self cognizance, or of personhood? The criteria I listed are required in their totality to convey that status: they're accepted by most philosophists.

they are clearly sentient
Irrelevant

As I mentioned, philosophy considers sentience relevant, so yeah I think I'll stick with that. Sentience is perhaps the key: the capacity for subjectivity along with other criteria rules out the possibility of thought processes being mere instinct.

they are independent agents.
- they experience subjectivity (emotional responses);
Granted, but so do less intelligent species. This is not sufficient proof.

I've addressed subjectivity above. As for agency, there's no skirting round that one: to be able to weigh choices and deliberately choose a course of action.

- they can make fairly complex judgments based on perception;
But we do not know how they make these judgments.

Same old 'instinct' argument?

they have notions of time;
How exactly is this relevant?

Extremely. As I said, these are the criteria philosophy has put forward. Persons must have clear notions of past, present and future, and thus demonstrate an ability to contemplate the past, foresee/plan for the future and unite the two to make present decisions. Experience, expectation, execution.

they are relatively sapient
Relatively? They either are aware of their own existence or they are not. They think about it or they do not. If we create a grey area, then where exactly are they and where do we draw the line about what level of sapiens is required to be a person?

No, that's self cognizance you're talking about. And even that is relative: you might be able to think of yourself while lacking Plato or Socrates-like self contemplation.
Beyond that, considering sapience: sapience is the ability to make 'wise' decisions, which is dependent on notions of time (see how that's relevant?). I used 'relatively' because well, there's precious little a baby has to be wise about, but given experience and expectation they can execute in a sapient manner.
Everything is up for questioning. If it won't defend itself, then how do we know it can?
Skikx
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2/3/2014 12:09:53 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
You bring forward some interesting points. And honestly, I find it hard to imagine that dolphins are swimming around, thinking in a similar way we do. But I guess that is more proof of my limited imagination, than a logical argument. So, maybe they are persons. If not, they are pretty close.
But what really keeps me from making a decision, is that I am no so sure anymore what actually makes a person. My previous definition was probably a bit simple and I haven't really thought that through before. Right now, I've got the problem that I could settle withe a quite strict definition, that would not only exclude dolphins, but a lot of humans as well and thus seems unrealistic. On the other hand, I haven't figured out a good definition that would be less strict, yet.
Nevertheless, I thank you for this interesting debate and for making me see, that still not all of my beliefs are perfectly reasonable.