Thursday, March 27, 2014

Preborn Rights are a Social Justice Issue

[Today's guest post by Alexa Gospodinoff is part of our paid blogging program. Alexa is agnostic and openly queer.]

The modern social justice movement can be described as a loose union of movements that oppose institutionalized injustice in various forms—racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and many more. It’s seen as a single movement because all forms of oppression share certain characteristics: most importantly, that they are systems of injustice perpetuated by the entire culture, not merely collections of unrelated incidents. One of these axes of oppression, though not often recognized by the mainstream social justice movement, is adultism—the idea that adults are the “default” human beings, and the less adult-like a person is, the less valid their existence is. And preborn children are the ones who suffer most acutely from this injustice.

All forms of institutionalized oppression are sustained by their culture subconsciously or overtly perpetuating the idea that humanity is meaningfully divided into groups and that one of these groups constitutes the “default” human being with everyone else being “other”. Inextricably entwined with that belief are numerous other subconscious or overt beliefs that comprise a pattern of dehumanization against all human beings who don’t fit the “default”, passed down through stereotypes, traditions, media, and even the building blocks of language. Some of the beliefs that perpetuate adultism include: that dependency is a shameful state, that children are the property of their parents, that one’s immediate physical or mental ability (rather than one’s inherent ability or inherent human nature) is a measure of human value … the list could go on and on. These bigoted beliefs are leveled against children of all ages (and others—for example, people on welfare suffer because of the first belief, and people with disabilities suffer because of the last), and most acutely against preborn children.

Our language is riddled with discriminatory phrases against all kinds of groups seen as “other,” from outright slurs to phrases like “that’s so gay” and “you hit like a girl,” which make the “other” group into an insult. In the case of adultism, preborn children and infants are regularly referred to as “it”, and the use of words like “childish” and “immature” as insults is routine. These examples only barely scratch the surface of the ways language is used to perpetuate oppression, and to end the more obvious problems of violence and overt discrimination, it is necessary to also eradicate the subtler ways we perpetuate the attitudes that cause them. I call myself “pro-preborn” rather than “pro-life” because I want to see all discrimination against preborn children ended, not just the obvious violent result.

I think the pro-life movement as a whole could benefit from what the social justice movement has learned about fighting institutionalized oppression. One way is that seeing abortion for what it is—a violent form of institutionalized oppression—makes it easier to process and understand the fact that it occurs despite how manifestly unconscionable it seems to us. Neither people who have abortions nor abortionists are cartoon villains. Our entire society bears the blame for dehumanizing children and particularly preborn children to the point where it is even conceivable that abortion would be a solution to an unplanned pregnancy.

I could go on about the ways in which it’s helpful for pro-lifers to conceptualize abortion as institutionalized injustice and learn from the social justice movement, but that would take an entire other essay. I hope this essay helps pro-lifers to approach the preborn rights issue in a more holistic and effective way, but I also hope to influence progressives to be more respectful of born and preborn children, and pro-lifers to have a better understanding of other forms of institutionalized oppression.


Chandler Klebs said...

"Neither people who have abortions nor abortionists are cartoon villains.
Our entire society bears the blame for dehumanizing children and
particularly preborn children to the point where it is even conceivable
that abortion would be a solution to an unplanned pregnancy."

Well said. No single group of people are the villains here. Many cause the problem and many suffer because of it.

Jameson Graber said...

"In the case of adultism, preborn children and infants are regularly referred to as “it”, and the use of words like “childish” and “immature” as insults is routine."

I had never thought of it that way before. It's always fun to see someone point out something that genuinely takes me by surprise. And I suppose you're right: we could just as easily use words like "responsibility" or "self-control" or other specific virtues in place of "maturity." Still, it is possible to commit an error in the other direction by failing to acknowledge the value of personal growth and achievement. In any case, I'll definitely remember this article.

argent said...

I'm glad you felt the article challenged you to be more thoughtful! For me, it is really difficult to know where the line is, because I've found so few resources on the issue (most of these ideas come from my own reasoning and experiences). But I think it's definitely true that the degree to which our language equates "young = bad" is a damaging trend that we need to actively reverse.

JDC said...

Awesome article! I'll definitely keep the points raised here in mind.

Chris P said...

Oh dear - more PETA style thinking.

Simon Jm said...

Ah but I don't think we are persons fundamentally either. Apart from that I've never understood why current capacity and not latent is so important.

BTW I did accept your point about social learning for personhood. But all that says to me that in fact we are an extended system that is individually expressed both though genetic and social factors.

Also as the Post Birth Abortion paper points out-among others- personhood is problematic if you are against infanticide. Even David Boonin had trouble giving full moral value to babys. But maybe you are ok with infanticide? I respect the consistency but not the outcome.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Regarding "latent capacity", this is the same thing as "potential". To insist that something with unfulfilled potential be treated the same way as something with fulfilled potential is irrational/absurd, and this is why it is irrational/absurd: YOU have the potential to one day (even if it takes centuries) become a corpse. Does that mean you should right-now be treated like a corpse, and be buried six feet under? If not, then you DO understand that it is irrational/absurd to insist that the potential must be treated like the actual.

Next, you might go to and read #103. Too many abortion opponents somehow think that a "lack of right to life" is exactly the same thing as "automatic death penalty", and they are WRONG.

Simon Jm said...

Like many philosophers your thinking is incomplete and is lacking a dual mode systems perspective.

Take an amphibious car that needs to change its configuration to operate in water. It is designed and has the structural latent capacity to change and operate in the water. An amphibious vehicle is what it IS and designed to be!

To say well no it isn't a amphibious car becuase it currently operates on land and its amphibious capacity is latent , shows a lack of understanding in dual mode capability.

In one sense yes it has only the potential to operate in water, but it is quite apparent that there is more than one way to look at potentiality depending on the sophistication of the system involved.

So while it is absurd to talk in terms of the simplistic potentiality you are using or the 'Prince isn't a King' type, it ISN'T for more complex situations.

BTW I once pointed out humans are a self assembling system to which you said no, it has assistance from the mother and learning outside the womb.

Fine I can still I think correctly designate it as an assisted self assembling system. From a design perspective requiring assitance doesn't in any way undermine the complete individuality of the system.

Simon Jm said...

BTW I'll check out 103 but which one deal with the shortcomings in the personhood account that deal with infanticide?

Simon Jm said...

Regarding 103 personally I tend to take the view that human morality stems from a evolutionary survival strategy -one of many- combined with the drive to survive which if extrapolated to it logical conclusion, means that all life or systems that can be said to have well-being interests would have similar moral worth to themselves, as do humans. Leading to secular Jainist world view.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Your amphibious car has certain abilities RIGHT NOW. You can right-now activate it such that it transforms between land mode and water mode. The unborn human does NOT right-now have any Objective Generic abilities associated with personhood. It right-now ONLY has the potential to acquire those abilities. I therefore stand by what I wrote, about the absurdity of equating the potential with the actual.

Self-assembling or assisted makes no difference to what an unborn human is RIGHT NOW --incomplete with respect to Personhood.

Simon Jm said...


While you can design a car that can drive straight into the water, it would also be possible for one that must modify its configuration -as I stated- to gain that capacity. Therefore it has a latent and potentiality. Yes the time frame is much shorter. But as far as having the capacity, my examples indicates that it doesn't while it is in land configuration.

So you haven't understood as, I clearly said it needs to change its configuration.

If you want me to spell it out more clearly. It just isn't a matter of moving the wheels with the steering wheel. Thats not changing its configuraton.

Lets say something more like the Auto-bots in the transformer movies where there is serious structural changes.

Therefore the capacity is LATENT. Its not like a amphibious car that can drive straight into the water because it has a current amphibious capacity.

The point you haven't caught on that a self assembling person -even if in this case assisted- the SELF aspect of that unifies the dual mode of its telenomy.

A self assembling car , house, boat etc is a self assembling whatever at all stages of development, not just when the other defining capacity is present.

Design and definitionally it is what it is called. As a system it is already complete and largely self directed system -in our case-which also self maintains basic homeostasis. It isn't a thing assembled by something else and not complete until finished.

So present capacity itself isn't necessary.

ignorance_is_curable said...

As far as I can tell, I have FULLY understood that YOU do not understand that "potential" and "capacity" are two different things. A capacity, such as that of an empty jar, is something that exists RIGHT NOW. A potential does not. Period. An unborn human does NOT have the capacity to hold the Objective Generic characteristics of personhood. It only has the potential to GROW its capacity, until that capacity is adequate for holding those characteristics.

As a more-physical example, consider the strength of the average adult arm, its "carrying capacity". An unborn human does NOT have that capacity, but it does almost always have the potential to grow that capacity.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Most living things have no understanding of the concept of "moral worth". MOST are even quite equivalent to mere machinery (just biological machinery instead of more-familiar machinery) in motion --look up "von Neumann machine" some time.

This is basically a case where human intuition about "life" diverges from Fact. That divergence at one point had a formal name, "vitalism" --and it was soundly disproved to be a valid notion when chemists began figuring out how to synthesize exact duplicates of many organic compounds.

An unborn human is SO far from qualifying as a person that it can be said to only qualify as a biological machine. That "Refutations" document at has quite a bit to say about how comparable unborn humans can be, to mere electronic machinery. Do a search for the word "growing", and wherever you find the word "machine" nearby, read that part of the document.

Simon Jm said...

Same for a newborn so what? There are in fact other ways to ground interests other than conscious desires.

I had a look at some of your work and found nothing so far to deal with the infanticide problem.

As you would well know that a new born and many infants before 18 months aren't persons either which the Post Abortion Paper -among others- quite clearly raises. Infanticide has everything to do with the subject as it is strongly connected to how we ground right to life or similar interests.

& as far as I'm concerned we are fundamentally still biological machines -even at an adult stage - even if possessing a phenomenological command and control aspect that is embodied in the larger biological machine system.

ignorance_is_curable said...

In what way is infanticide a "problem"? Aren't you aware of the Obvious, that if late-term abortions were freely allowed, infanticides would be few even if it was legal?

Also, why doesn't #103 offer a reasonable alternative, such that even if infant humans were widely acknowledged to be mere animal organisms, they could STILL be mostly protected from arbitrary killing?

Perhaps I should remind you of the Endangered Species Act, which clearly grants right-to-life to mere animal organisms. Well, if we can arbitrarily do that for guaranteed-ordinary animals, we can do it equally-arbitrarily for infant humans.

Of course I'm aware that abortion opponents WANT to equally arbitrarily do that for unborn humans, but here they have a problem, in that pregnant women --adult humans with FULL personhood rights!-- are involved, and cannot be ignored without violating the 13th Amendment --the one that PROHIBITS "involuntary servitude", as in "you are nothing but a life-support system for a mere animal organism" sort of servitude.

Next, Morals Are Arbtrary --just compare the different sets of "moral behaviors" of lots of different Religions, to see how wildly the differ in various places.

So, try Ethics instead. Ethics has a chance of being based on Objective Data, and being Universally Applicable. Morals, on the other hand are often bald strictures with NO rationale provided. Anyway, Ethics can yield Conclusions that match those Morals that are generally considered to be the MOST important (because most cultures have that subset in common). Net result, Morals Can Be Entirely Ignored, and Replaced With Ethics.

Consider this statement as a candidate Objective Foundation for Ethics: "Persons need to get along with each other." We have vast amounts of Objective Historical Data showing what happens when persons DON'T get along with each other. And it is pretty obvious that from such a Foundation one can easily conclude that murder cannot be acceptable, rape cannot be acceptable, slavery cannot be acceptable, theft cannot be acceptable, and so on.

And, since unborn humans don't qualify as persons in any Objective Generic way, abortion can still be allowed.

Simon Jm said...

"In what way is infanticide a "problem"? Aren't you
aware of the Obvious, that if late-term abortions were freely allowed,
infanticides would be few even if it was legal?"

First there’s the principle of the matter which the Post
Birth Abortion paper rightly raises. Secondly even if only a handful of people
did it or even one would you object? It was only a few years ago that a woman killed her baby daughter here in Australia so she could continue training for the Olympics.

"Also, why doesn't #103 offer a reasonable alternative, such
that even if infant humans were widely acknowledged to be mere animal
organisms, they could STILL be mostly protected from arbitrary killing?"

Your attempt is very similar to Peter Singer’s to ground thevalue of a newborn in the preferences of the parents to keep it alive. But as the woman in Australia shows as well as the subset of extreme PC’s who are calling for infanticide to be legal, it becomes quite apparent not all people feel the same way.

Apart from the fact owners frequently kill their pets for convenience reasons so don’t look there to save the life of babies.

You or Peter Singer don’t have a leg to stand on if parents preferences change in this regard.

Simon Jm said...

"Next, Morals Are Arbtrary --just compare the different sets of "moral behaviors" of lots of different Religions, to see how wildly
the differ in various places. So, ...try ethics instead."

Come on, there is no slam dunk on objective ethics. Regardless what Sam Harris or religious people
say. It is very much contested.

"Consider this statement as a candidate Objective Foundation for Ethics: "Persons need to get along with each other." We have vast amounts of Objective Historical Data showing what happens when persons DON'Tget along with each other... And, since unborn humans don't qualify as persons in any Objective Generic way, abortion can still be allowed."

You would also know that societies have existed that got along quite happily committing infanticide; so since you are talking about
persons, and newborns and many infants don't qualify as persons in any Objective
Generic way, abortion and infanticide should be allowed.

ignorance_is_curable said...

I'd have to see ALL of what that judge said. Change WHAT matters, exactly?

I can generally ignore the violinist argument because it is about two PERSONS in conflict, not about a person in conflict with a mere animal. On the other hand, so far as I know nobody trying to refute that argument has tackled the "involuntary servitude without due process of law" aspect. There is no hint in the argument, that I'm aware of, that the human life-support system was Formally Legally Sentenced to be a human life-support system (And THEN there remains the "cruel and unusual punishment, thing...)

Simon Jm said...

I'll have to dig the judgment comment up.

But I would just like to know if it was the case that the fetus was to be found to be a person -for arguments sake-would you grant that the modified violinist analogy- while not arguing that she be forced to have her body used against her will- can in principle mean she is still morally responsible for the existential dependency?

Simon Jm said...

NP that has been clarified. The problem is only for people who use the personhood account but are opposed to infanticide. The fact you went into detail about pets and parental preferences was redundant and threw me.

I still think both sides are wrong and have the ontology incorrect and that we neither persons nor animals but that is another argument.

Lieutenant Nun said...

The Myth of Fetal Personhood. The entire thing has been misinterpreted by anti abortionists, as the 14th amendment only applies to born and natural persons. Prenates are neither born nor considered to be natural persons. Grant them legal personhood and it will not change a thing as far as the 14th amendment is concerned.

Lieutenant Nun said...

Here is what the judge said.

ignorance_is_curable said...

There is no doubt that all humans have animal bodies. But for personhood to be an Objective Generic thing that can distinguish humans from other animals, here is a simple way to figure it out.

Consider modern medical research into "regeneration technology" We are trying to find out why various animals can re-grow lost limbs, while humans cannot. Progress is being made, so let us pretend that one day the technique will be perfected for humans.

Imagine someone experiencing a horrible decapitation accident, but rescuers arrive in time, with a regeneration vat. So, TO SAVE THE PERSON, do they put the headless body into the vat, to grow a new head, or do they put the bodiless head into the vat, to grow a new body?

Anyone who answers "head" is therefore admitting that the PERSON is NOT the animal body; it is the MIND that occupies the brain and head. So, logically, any equivalent MIND would also be a person, whether or not that mind results from assembling lots of fancy computer hardware and software --or whether it evolved on an alien planet. And unborn humans, to the extent they have minds, only have animal-level minds, not person-class minds. So, they cannot possibly qualify as persons.

ignorance_is_curable said...

First, I reject "morals" as an adequate basis for creating recommendations for human behavior, Because Morals Are Arbitrary. In general, they were imposed upon various populations without any explanation given for why those particular morals should exist --and as a result, some cultures claim that eating pork is immoral, while others say it is OK.

Ethics, however, has a chance of being Objective and Generic, applicable throughout the Universe, mostly because every system of ethics STARTS with a primary precept, and deduces its recommendations from there. If the precept is truly Objective, then just about any person could embrace such a system of ethics.

One proposal for an Objective precept is "Persons need to get along with each other." We have oodles of Objective Historical Data showing what happens when persons don't get along with each other!

So, with that as a primary precept, it logically follows that murder is unacceptable, rape is unacceptable, theft is unacceptable, and so on, for a lot of similarities to a number of widely known "morals". (Note that interactions between people and animals generally fall outside the tightly-deduce-able boundaries of such an ethical system, so abortion remains allowable.) The Question of the moment is, how does this work with the violinist scenario?

Logically, if the person hooked up as a life-support system is not willing to do that thing, then we have a conflict; two people are NOT getting along with each other! We might now consider classic fiction about "vampires", and not that to Dracula, every ordinary human is a life-support system. His actions, working against the Free Wills of his victims, led to a "destroy however possible!" attitude of those ordinary humans.

So, in what way is the violinist superior to Dracula, if the human life-support system is unwilling?

We might now consider the word "triage", which is used to sort out people that can be easily saved from those that can't. Deaths of persons are a typical result of triage! If the technique for saving the violinist is too extreme, why not let death happen? After all, there will always be another excellent violinist that comes along! (The one linked had only been practicing for a year at the time the video was made, and the notes are a bit scratchy, but the TIMING of the notes is perfect.)

ignorance_is_curable said...

Thanks for the info. In a nutshell, the 14th Amendment is about associating RIGHTS with "persons born". Obviously unborn humans, even if arbitrarily declared to be persons, don't qualify as "born", and therefore don't get any Rights.

Simon Jm said...

I actually did a lot of work on this a few years back. I have an uncorrected draft that as never published.

One thing it did indicate was that this reduction argument also shows that animals aren't animals either!

I also have a simple argument that shows we aren't ontologically persons or animals, or that even many animals are animals.

You would seem to be arguing that what fundamentally separates us- from even close evolutionary relatives like monkeys- are a set of additional sophisticated cognitive cacpities.


Now this would seem to indicate that if you use Transhumanism Uplift any monkey could become a person if those additional cognitive capacities were permanently added to their brain.

Would you agree so far?

ignorance_is_curable said...

If you are talking about the sort of "uplift" popularized by various novels of David Brin, we can certainly talk about a POTENTIAL. Do not confuse the potential with the actual, however! I've never once denied that unborn humans (most of them, anyway) have the potential to achieve personhood status (anencephalic humans obviously cannot). It is because Right Now the unborn are only mere animal organisms that they can be treated right now like other mere animal organism.

Simon Jm said...

BTW I hope it has occurred to you from my hint that animal aren't animals either. If we reduce or transplant a monkeys brain, the individual's memories and personality will go with it, so by your reasoning this 'animal' -and in fact any animal that has learning or personality- isn't an animal either.

The whole animal vs person debate just collapsed.

GEIxBattleRifle said...

''I still think both sides are wrong and have the ontology incorrect and that we neither persons nor animals.''

Then what are we then? Humans belong to the kingdom animalia. That is what science says on the matter and medical science clearly says the unborn are members of the human species. That doesn't mean though, they deserve rights of any sort. This is the problem with most of the pro life movement who state the science but then don't state why they should be persons (entities with a moral right to life) instead, they completely skip that and go straight to moral claims and get snotty saying ''that's not scientific'' even though whatever the pro choicer could be using to grant a right to life to let's say off of theory of mind. That can indeed be objectively measured through science so pro lifer's can't say ''that's not scientific'' because it is indeed. When challenged for example on ''why can we kill the pig for food but not the average ordinary human?'' They can't say ''because it is a human'' because that claim doesn't really specify why we can't kill this entity for food. A animal rights activist for example can't say that killing a pig is wrong because it is a pig and expect us to follow along with it like a bunch of morons (no offense.) The pro lifer would have to get more into detail on why we shouldn't kill the human for food while we can kill a pig for food. So all this whining they been doing lately about 'arbitraryiness'' they would have to do as well since they will listing things the human has the pig doesn't have that would make killing the pig for food permissible and not the human.
That's just one example. Out in my school (still in high school) I been attempting to debate other pro lifer's on this matter but none of them want to have a meaningful discussion about it. This seemingly is a ''emotional'' issue where both sides just call each other names and don't actually debate at all. This is quite annoying really. Would you agree?

GEIxBattleRifle said...

''Now this would seem to indicate that if you use Transhumanism Uplift any monkey could become a person if those additional cognitive capacities were permanently added to their brain.''

This reminds me exactly of the rise of the planet of the apes I watched all the way back in 2011! This little paragraph of yours reminded me about that. They're making a sequel to it called Dawn of the planet of the apes which will be set in July 2014.

NightStalker9182 said...

1. Self-consciousness - awareness of oneself as existing over time, with a past and expectation of a future.

2. A notion of freedom - an ability to initiate a purposive sequence of actions and be recognized as responsible for them.

3. Have reasons for acting, and an ability to understand the idea of having a reason for acting.

4. An ability to communicate - to use language.

5. A moral sense - a capacity to make moral judgments.

6. Rationality.
This is a personist check list for personhood so what's your take on it ignorance?

NightStalker9182 said...

Clearly, embryos, foetuses, neonates, as well as severely brain damaged adult humans and numerous animal species fail all six criteria

ignorance_is_curable said...

These six items are mostly equivalent to items on the list posted in #100 at .

1 Self-consciousness is equivalent to self-awareness.
2 The ability to initiate actions purposely is part of the notion of "Free Will". Recognizing responsibility means being able to understand abstractions, such as the Law of Cause and Effect. Accepting responsibility is part of being rational.
3 Having a reason for acting is closely associated with understanding the concept of "the future".
4 Communication involves significant amounts of abstraction-processing.
5 An ability to make moral judgments is also related to both understanding abstractions and rationality, AND the Free Will to arbitrarily decide that some things are good while others are bad.
6. Rationality can only be exercised in terms of abstraction-processing, which is why the two are combined in the list at #100.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Just as animals range in degrees of simplicity to complexity, minds can range that way, also. It takes a quite-complex mind to qualify as a person. Significantly lesser minds (see this contest) can only qualify as animal-equivalent.

That leaves us with the in-betweeners. HOWEVER, there is the additional Fact that significant Nurturing is required, for a human mind to develop from mere animal-level to personhood. That Nurturing generally does not exist widely in Nature --and as a result, most gorillas are merely clever animals, not persons like Koko. Similarly, monkeys and elephants and "feral children" and other clever animals also lack appropriate Nurturing; they CANNOT qualify as persons, therefore. (But dolphins are extremely communicative and may experience adequate Nurturing. We are still seeking proof.)

NightStalker9182 said...

WOW so it seems the list is the same as the one you made but just reworded differently.
So are you a personist Ignorance like peter singer?

ignorance_is_curable said...

I am not against animals having some rights (decent treatment and extinction-protection, for example). But right-to-life is generally associated with personhood, and it is currently impossible for biological persons to survive without killing (think of microbes vs your immune system). So, consciously killing animals is not a fundamentally wrong thing. EXCESS would make it wrong.

Abortion is focused on killing only one type animal organism, and that type already exists to excess (as in "overpopulated"). Unwanted unborn human animal organisms simply don't need to be born in this day-and-age.

Simon Jm said...

Quite often when the earliest sophisticated cognitive
capacity- from among the typical list of sophisticated capacities- appears it
is thought to be enough to think the entity a person. That is why it is only
until some infants at around 18 months first become infants when they pass the
self-awareness test. Otherwise you would I think have to wait until the full
list is acquired before thinking an entity is a person. Which for humans would be quite late. While I don’t agree with personhood that makes the most sense to
me, so I’m quite happy to see apes and elephant as persons. If you want to dump self-awareness fine but you would have to justify it. & I find your restrictive use of nurturing puzzling many animals care for and train their young.

Simon Jm said...

Yes but it could happen for monkeys as well and with implants one could imagine lower animals as well.

Simon Jm said...

At what age would you think a human has all this?

Simon Jm said...

I'm trying to get to what we are on that other thread about the uplift.

BTW while many PL don't have a clue some like Clinton will go for the rational nature argument even though we both know it has problems. But having said that personhood itself is full of problems.

& yes many get emotionally and cannot get to the underlying arguments . LOL if get from both sides.

But having said that it depends on what pushed your buttons. There are things that get me frustrated from both sides and on other topics as well; where I just want to bang my head against the wall.

ignorance_is_curable said...

I've already written about exactly such a possibility. Quoting from #100 at :

"since we persons involved in the Overall Abortion Debate are able to mentally place ourselves into the situations of other entities, suppose we considered the "alien perspective" on what might be a qualifying characteristic. Let's take a paragraph to explore the bizarre....

There are a lot of "cases" in which various humans claim to have been abducted by aliens, and two common things seem to run through most of those "cases". There is a claim that the aliens are telepathic. And there is the claim that the humans were examined much like we might examine ordinary animals. So, if the claims are truthful, what of the possibility that the alien definition of "person" requires the presence of telepathy as a crucial characteristic? Practically all humans would fail to qualify, and our cities are nothing more than fancy anthills, to them!


ignorance_is_curable said...

The phrase "moral worth" is meaningless, because Morals Are Arbitrary and therefore worthless in terms of Objective Reality. See #103 at for exactly how valuations and rights get associated with personhood.

The "active capacity" thing is INDEPENDENT of coma or sleep situations. See #16 for more about that. Personhood is NOT generally destroyed when such things happen. The "ability to use an ability" is DIFFERENT from the ability that might be used, and it is THAT, "the ability that might be used", which is relevant for Personhood, and which generally is not destroyed by sleep or coma.

ignorance_is_curable said...

"So you have nothing to say when it comes to animals not being animals either."

Please provide some context. Your mere claim is utterly worthless without some evidence! When I know more about what sort of nonsense you THINK you are talking about, I will certainly have something to say about it.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Many ordinary animals can pass the self-awareness test, and we still consider them to be only animals. MULTIPLE tests need to be passed, to properly identify a person from an animal. There is room for argument about exactly which Tests are the minimum needed, and I'm not particularly planning on arguing in favor of any specific group, because I don't know enough. That's why the list of Tests in #100 at is accompanied by a statement to the effect that the proposed list may be either incomplete or more-than-complete.

It doesn't bother me that it can take 2 or 3 years for the average human to pass all the Tests. That's because the Legal System works independently of the Science, and can --and does!-- arbitrarily assign Legal Personhood at birth, with associated protections. Even if Science-recognizable personhood is totally unassociated with birth, the birth event is still a MAJOR turning point in the development of a human organism. See #29.

NightStalker9182 said...

It kinda dumb pro lifer's want to compare someone sleeping to a unborn human. If they both are truly the same, then upon me and a human infant waking up the infant should be able to come to my laptop here and type and everything to you. Oh wait, I think it's time for pro lifers to learn what mental development is and at certain points a human GAINS mental abilities and will be using those mental abilities throughout the rest of there life. It's totally irrelevant if they go into coma because most come out using those mental abilities again and if they were truly lost they should not be present upon waking up. While in the case of the unborn human, it still has to mentally develop to get those mental abilities someone in a coma is already pass that barrier mark.

Simon Jm said...

And others think that if they pass the self awareness test that this is sufficient to warrant legal personhood rights. & are already doing this.

& yes it's well and good that one can use the arbitrary historical legal convenience that citizen rights are granted at birth; many in fact see no moral physiological or relational relevant moral factor in birth.

Now given people like yourself are so tightly tied into present capacity, and also relying on the arbitrary legal and arbitrary preferences of the parents or society. Plus you have granted that it can take years for the sophisticated capacities to develop, not only to be technically a person, but also full moral worth.

It appears to me you are required to bite the bullet that the life of newborns and even older children relies entirely on the sort or arbitrary preferential moral grounding given to pets.

So if a society decided that they FULLY abide by personhood account in both the implication of capacity and moral worth infanticide would be up to the parents even later until the human child can clearly understand its desire to exist into the future which by some accounts could be as late as 7-8yrs.

You like Singer are relying on a moral house of cards. take away arbitrary preferences and your account supports infanticide even after 5 yrs of age.

Simon Jm said...

We have both already done that.

You have already stated the standard type of brain based argument of personal identity. If we transfer or reduce a human down to a brain, people often say this is what or where, we have our identity.

Furthermore as you pointed out, this goes to show the body is a animal, while the brain/psychological continuity through personhood is what makes us persons

But as I have already pointed out we can do the exact same thing to monkey or dog or even lower animals.

In my essay I talked about my dog Timmy. Transfer his brain into another dog and his memories and personalty go with it. Therefore if you take off his head his physiological individual clearly resides in his head and not his animal body.

Therefore like humans he isn't a mere animal either.

Note I'm not saying he is a person, I called him a personality.

So it would appear the only true animals are ones that don't have brain based personality traits or learning which goes way down the animal lineage.

The traditional arguments don't even get the basics right and is one of the reason they get the whole personal identity argument so wrong.

Simon Jm said...

Full moral worth or value is meaningless? Now you are being obtuse. Whether framed in rights or moral harm etc it is quite comprehensible. I've used this term many times, and with philosophers like Boonin and Marquis. They must have just been too polite to pull me up on it. Not to mention all the other times I've used it in other debates and forums.

Also in philosophy talk of moral and objective morality is standard so your take on 'morals' as commonly used in the study of ethics is incorrect.

Next sleep is different to a coma situation. In sleep the underlying capacity is still present, whereas with the coma victim that capacity is damaged and therefore lacking. At best you could say latent.

Philosophers will try to get around this by stating the entity acquired this capacity earlier as well as the sort of future based desires -but not if you aren't 6-7 ;) But this still suffers from the Prince is not a King argument.

They will also use memories but even that is problematic. Peter Singer will bite the bullet that a coma victim with amnesia has less of a claim to life because of this. At least he bites the bullet.

Simon Jm said...

Yes I would agree in general sleep and not having the capacity at all, is flawed. Even so, technically by definition: latent adj. Present or potential but not evident or active. Sleeping isn't an active capacity but a latent one.

& no if you are so hell bent on a capacity being present then it is or isn't. Otherwise choose some other terms other than present active capacity.

These problems are on the table as Peter Singer admits.

NightStalker9182 said...

''Philosophers will try to get around this by stating the entity acquired this capacity earlier as well as the sort of future based desires -but not if you aren't 6-7 ;)''
Where is your data to support this? If your going to go on a rampage about someone being arbitrary or obtuse, at least give the scientific data to back up claims like this or they will be dismissed. At least the items ignorance has listed at his website has links to what time stuff is acquired or at least talked about while you do not. I even give him a list of things and he even went into more detail about the list I made up so he knows what he is talking about.

Simon Jm said...

That's not what I'm getting at yes aliens can be persons. I've no problem with that. I'm going the next step.

If we are fundamentally different from other relatively cognitively sophisticated animals by having additional sophisticated capabilities: C + C1 + C2 + C3 + C4 = P.

Then it is quite possible to think of aliens that are more than persons because they have even more sophisticated cognitive capacities.

P + P1 + P2 + P3 + P4 = U

Can you grasp that?

Simon Jm said...

It has been some time since i have looked into this so I would have to find the relevant child psychology information again.

But put it this way do you think a 2 year old can articulate or comprehend what it means if they or a loved one dies? What about 3 yrs?

The sort of things I was reading at the time was similar to this.

6-9yrs You might quibble but feel free to dig more deeply if you want.

But what this does say to me even if we took it to 5-6 as the earliest, under 4 yrs a child doesn't have the sophisticated desire for future existence and therefore isn't harmed by death via the personhood account.

NightStalker9182 said...

Nope a person is a person nothing can be more then a person since there is nothing beyond what the definition is supposed to do. Words mean something you know.
If you want to go beyond that, go to a different website.

Simon Jm said...

You not even thinking. Where does it say this? What law of reality or logic say that a sophisticated cognitive entity cannot be as different to us as we are different to lower cognitive animals?

This sort of thinking could say we are just another form of conscious/sentient being like other animals, and just adding some more sophisticated cognitive capacities doesn't change our status.

NightStalker9182 said...

''Where does it say this?''

Read up on articles about personhood if you don't know what it is. It's surprising in this time and age with abortion being legal in the united states for over 40 years and most don't know what personhood is all together because most are just to lazy to get into the actual topic at all. It's like doing a science project for your class and half assing it.
Are you suggesting that we should give the whole animal kingdom right to life or something? If a polar bear killed a seal for food, should we charge it with murder and send it to court? How should we go about and do this?

Simon Jm said...

This isn't strictly speaking about the definition of personhood, but conceptually about classification of cognitive classes and fundamental natures. (& anyway you should know science is a closed book on these things doubly so given the problem of classifying life and what a species is.)

& traditionally science has a tendency to frame things within the technology of the time eg the clock work universe. So not to hard to think as technology changes the paradigms can change.

& yes looking at ethics I lean in that direction of a Jainist world view.

& it isn't so hard to deal animals killing each other when thinking of moral and legal responsibility. We do after all have an age of criminality plus reduced responsibility due to lack of moral judgment capability due to retardation etc.

If a 5 year old shoots his sister because the adult left his gun laying about who do you think is morally responsible?

I know some states like killing minors or the mentally retarded but that is more to do with vengeance rather than responsibility.

It ofc it gets more complicated when talking about animals as the hunter prey interaction is complex. Stop predation and unrestricted growth of a prey species can cause the whole species as well as others to collapse. So the death of some individuals is actually beneficial for a species and its individuals as a whole.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Obviously you have not actually understood my argument. Personhood is associated with the MIND; the brain is irrelevant except as it relates to being ONE possible way to host a mind. A Genuine Artificial Intelligence would also be a MIND, not just an electronic brain --we have plenty such brains right now, none of which are yet hosting any person-class minds. And, consider the TV series "The Ghost Whisperer" --we are presented with the notion that person-class minds can exist completely independently of a physical brain. The "host" for such a mind might be "spiritual energy" or "ectoplasm" --but it doesn't really matter; the type of mind-support is irrelevant. Only the MIND is associated with personhood!

And, therefore, what you wrote about dogs and other animals is nonsense; NONE of them have person-class MINDS. That's why we can we can call them "mere animal organisms!" (And, remember, a "feral child" is ALSO just a mere animal organism, lacking a person-class mind, even if it is a cleverer animal than most.)

ignorance_is_curable said...

Just because you (and others) THINK that the phrase "moral worth" has some sort of valid meaning, that doesn't mean you are right. I wrote some more about this in another comment below, so I won't repeat that here. I will, say, though, that you appear to be equating the phrase with another piece of nonsense known as "intrinsic value" --it is nonsense because it PROVABLY does not actually exist. The next time you encounter a hungry man-eating tiger, try telling it that you have "intrinsic value" and therefore must not be killed --and see how well it keeps the tiger away.

The way I personally debate starts with studying the foundational precepts of my opponent's argument. I do not blithely accept those precepts without question, because I know that if they are flawed, the argument collapses. See #100 at for a specific example of NOT accepting a foundational precept. And, in the "An Agnostic on a Sidewalk" blog article here, you can find more foundational precepts of abortion opponents listed and exploded. After ensuring all the comments are loaded, search the page for the word "obligates" and then read the comment containing it and the group that follow it. Skip the comment that begins "Before beginning this extension" until after you read the comment that begins "Even medical dictionaries"

Next, what do those philosophers say about the "objective morality" of eating pork? What is the BASIS from which they derive there so-called "objective" morals?

By the way, I might remind you of the Global Economic System, in which everything is arbitrarily valued, and yet the System basically works pretty well, most of the time. There Is No Need For Objective Valuations Whenever Subjective Valuations Are Good Enough. And the FACT is, Social Valuations Are Also Arbitrary; that's exactly why many cultures allow a death penalty --an arbitrary valuation can be changed.

Next, sleep and coma are certainly different, but not so different that you can say that personhood abilities are lost. You CAN say that the ability to ACCESS personhood abilities is lost. Consider a pen-knife that you might use to trim a goose feather to make a quill pen. Once you fold the knife up and put it in your pocket, you CANNOT immediately access the ability to use the knife, but that ability, to use the knife, is most certainly NOT "lost".

Regarding "the prince is not a king" argument, something I've not encountered before, a quick Googling indicates that it is something similar to what I've written in terms of problems associated with "equating the potential with the actual". Nevertheless, as I pointed out in #103, we can still apply various Subjective Valuations to infant human non-persons, and it can work (think again about the Economic System).

ignorance_is_curable said...

Of course I can grasp that. What I'm not grasping is how you can hint that the existence of telepathy might not be one of those more-sophisticated characteristics.

From what I've read, the few humans that claim to have experienced telepathy also indicate that the phenomenon is associated with Unconditional Love. Our mental ability to place ourselves in the situation of another is a major extension of the ability called "empathy", which quite a few ordinary animal species appear to posses to some degree (just not to the degree that humans have it). Unconditional Love is an even-more-major extension of empathic ability....

Simon Jm said...

And like women riding broomsticks we have very little if any evidence for it.

But yes they might have their definition of 'highest mind' that may in fact include some or all the cognitive capacities we have but also have more hat make us look like mere animals.

So this is exactly my point say like animal uplift you could raise us from our person state to their 'highest mind person' yet retain our memories and personalities.

That would seem to indicate chains of physiological continuity yet the ontological status would change from our conception of highest mind to their higher Uber mind.

Our ontological status is what goes with us into the future but if it changes how can we have been that original ontological status in the first place.

Simon Jm said...

But say there was an alien species that had telepathy would that be enough. Some animals have echolocation is that enough to make them a totally different type of animal. It would seem that could be just another form of communication.

My thinking of an Uber mind, would be some sort of Borg group mind or a transdimensional mind. Ofc course there maybe be smaller steps or other types.

& I would say it is still up for debate whether we are different in type or degree to other animal minds

Simon Jm said...

First you are the one who raised the standard 'reduced to a brain argument' ,you should really try to understand the arguments you use. & obviously didn't take the time to read it fully -let lone understand my post
-I did in fact STATE they weren't persons but personalities.

The same argument can be used to show a dog has chains of psychological continuity centered on its brain. If that is enough to say human persons aren't animals, it is sufficient to show many lower perosnalities aren't animals either.

& given some accounts that actually do see the person as the brain no -at least in the case of humans- I think I have a good grasp of it.

OFC you can have other physical systems that generate minds. But I hope you aren't one of those who thinks that humans will upload their mind that is seriously flawed.

But you probably believe in soul so I shouldn't be surprised.

& not to forget we also have the embodied mind arguments where saying it's just the brain in humans that account for all identity and cognition, doesn't account for all the human cognition or behaviour that only makes sense from an embodied account. While I maybe reduced to my brain that overstates the ontological implications of that reduction. Amnesia with personality changes at the very least raises doubt to that.

Lastly one may in fact be able to program an A.I. into existence, but so far that has been very problematic. Most minds as we know them to date a physically substantiated, you might like bad scifi or Transhumanist fantasies but at this stage minds are securely grounded in bio-logical wetware.

Simon Jm said...

BTW you seem to be using a nurturing in a different way. I can accept that, but is it itself substantially different? Sure the care is longer but for language that is is largely automatic. As long as they can get regular interaction and start repeating and associating I don't think the level of care is different. The only thing that is different obviously is that it is done in a language rich environment.

So what you seem to be saying you just don't consider any animal who cannot use a sophisticated language isn't a person.

But this falls into a problem Michael Tooley raised; is having the capacity what is important or that it is actualized?

Someone suffering a severe stroke may have the underlying capacity, yet needs to relearn to speak. Do they lose they personhood status because they cannot use complex language? Say a recovering stroke coma victim with amnesia and no speech?

& I think many who support giving rights to apes and other higher animals would want to know why this language threshold is in itself a cut off stage and not just they are persons with differing levels of communication sophistication. They certainly have self awareness and sophisticated intelligence and social relationships.

Simon Jm said...

1st I have no problem with a contractual approach -& agree on intrinsic- and in fact this is how I see much of social morality anyway. I do find you are being particularly pedantic. Even in a contractual framework saying agent X has full moral worth can be understood as full negative rights or even that its existential preferences are respected if stated as such.

Next we can approach non human persons animals in a similar way as we do to young human persons or those mentally incapacity with regard to moral/legal responsibility. We don't hold them morally responsible. & even for human persons, strangers aren't required to provide minimally good Samaritan assistance or care.

So even if the ocean is full of octopus persons; that they live and die in their natural habitat from other creatures is not of our concern. We can only be concerned with things we do and from refraining from killing the won't see the oceans overrun by them.

& I said I'm fine if you are OK with infanticide run with it but don't object if it becomes a norm where a majority of human parents decide they can be euthanized for whatever reason they wish.

I actually think though, to be consistent, you should be prepared to raise that to 4 or 5 of for any child or adult -maybe even as old as 9- that fails to show they understand death.

If what harms a person is denying their future based desires to exist, that seems a pretty good cognitive indicator that you in fact have a person in the first place.

Therefore any human that doesn't have these desires isn't a person and isn't harmed if killed humanely.

That seems the logical final step for the personhood account.

Simon Jm said...

Again if you are going to be so tight in saying a capacity must be present then it either has it or it hasn't. Likewise saying it may be used in the future really needs more justification when this is the same state of affairs for a healthy fetus. Something like a Future Like Ours approach is quite viable.

David Boonin trys to use different types of desires to cover this gap but it is far from water tight.

If what grounds what something is, is present capacities then the Prince not a King argument still stands.

Your subjective valuations pet like approach is just building a argument on shifting sand. Like Singer you haven't got a foot to stand on if norms change.

ignorance_is_curable said...

You appear to be missing or ignoring the Fact that most humans ALREADY experience something like the "uplift" you are trying to describe. A "feral child" is the rare human ANIMAL non-person that failed to experience the uplift process, involving appropriate Nurturing. And then there is KoKo the Gorilla, who has been uplifted as much as is possible for a gorilla to be uplifted, by the same sort of Nurturing that young humans typically receive.

As far as HUMAN-level personhood is concerned, most humans manage to qualify as persons, and almost all other animals are nothing more than ordinary animals.

So long as we have no evidence for a higher level of personhood, most science fiction stories will continue to imagine aliens that are mostly equivalent to humans. (There are always some exceptions, of course, notably "Goldfish Bowl" by Robert A Heinlein.)

Finally, just because there might be other rungs on the ladder of personhood capabilities, that does nothing to make most humans and other animals equal to each other --we ARE on different rungs, after all!

Simon Jm said...

I dealt with this in the other post, in fact use similar arguments against objective morality myself.

I will dig up -as I have been doing- your obligates post.

Now I will admit I do need to do more reading on classifications and active and latent capacities but I do wonder if something that has been damaged is of a different sort of situation when compared to undamaged but latent.
Certainly Peter Singer's response seems to indicate this.

So your knife is one type of latent capacity and damage is another, but they aren't exactly the same.

There is potentiality but no capacity, so as far as I can see it is closer to the potential of the fetus for future actuality, rather than the potential of the folding knife where the capacity is present but dormant.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Young humans typically experience an inundation of data, and their brains literally grow extra "hardware" in order to process that data. I'm talking about Nurturing that is specifically associated with encouraging the processing of abstractions such as language --when you play with a baby's toes and talk about toes, you are providing an association between a real thing and an abstract representation (the word that means "toe"). If you don't, then the child learns more slowly, if at all (can end up "feral").

And, there is more. It happens that early exposure to music leads to additional specialized brain-circuits for processing music; those children often have "perfect pitch", compared to those who don't get much early music exposure.

How many other specialize brain circuits form as a result of Nurture? I don't know. I just know that Appropriate Nurture Is Required, to convert a human animal into a person.

Simon Jm said...

hmm even if we cannot agree I'm enjoying this.

I would say though that telenomcally we have fullest expression as a assisted self assembling entity. That is what the instructions tell it do assemble. If you interfere with the instructions or development that isn't changed.

Ok sure I could grant in a sense it isn't a person due to something lacking in development like the feral child. But if you are going to be do that then I would press on a recovering coma victim not being a person either.

If not, like the coma victim it is a damaged person and a fetus is still a assisted self assembling person.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Humans (especially blind humans) can do a certain amount of echo-location.

I will repeat what I wrote in another comment: Even if there are other rungs on a ladder of personhood capabilities, it remains true that most humans, and ordinary animals, are on different rungs.

Simon Jm said...

Sure but for most of our history we were hunter gathers where association and repetition was all that was needed. I'm not sure if this is Chomskys innate linguistic grammar but I don't think it need sophisticated structured lessons just being around parents using language is enough. I don't think that is a different type of nurture just one of degree.

ignorance_is_curable said...

I shall deny that I previously used the statement "reduced to a brain", unless I was talking about the "Gamesters of Triskeleon" in the original Star Trek series.

I've been talking about "mind" more than "brain" for far longer than we have been discussing things on this page (see #12 here, along with the date of that web page.)

"personality" and "person" are two different things. Auto enthusiasts will tell you that different CARS have different personalities, but that doesn't make them persons. You are therefore spouting nonsense based on "conflation" of definitions. Tsk, tsk!

In theory there is nothing yet known that can prevent humans from eventually uploading their minds into nonbiological hardware. We definitely need better technology for making brain scans, and better tech for imitating a human brain, but those are just tech problems, not a fundamental theory problem. I'm aware that the result might be two persons in different bodies --the original body and the electronic body. It will be interesting to see how that works out. If souls don't exist, it should be easy. If souls do exist, then only one of the two minds can have an associated soul. If the electronic brain is full-featured enough, perhaps the soul would prefer to be there than to remain associated with a biological body. To Be Determined!

There is no doubt that the brain affects the mind. Otherwise NO human would achieve person status; ALL of us would be just a bunch of feral animals.

Read the last half or so of #1 at for SOME of what we know about how to construct a Genuine Artificial Intelligence. More things have been learned in the interim....

Simon Jm said...

Yes we have the most sophisticated version but it is still up for debate whether this is degree or kind. I will note that debate is still raging.

I will again argue that we could have minds more superior to us that places them on rungs that are above and beyond the personhood continuum.

BTW you didn't accept that argument but the the end result of it showed to me we are a form of self assembling complex adaptive system with a relatively complex command and control system. But we can be made cyborgs or Uber minds and be beyond a person class in cognitive capacities as we are beyond mere personalities.

That is why we can change up and down the ontological continuum of non persons persons and uber minds yet still retain out individuality.

Simon Jm said...

BTW regarding scifi and personhood since when has scifi required evidence of alien life lol??

But it did make me think I wouldn't class the usual conception of God as a person but a Uber mind.

ignorance_is_curable said...

"Even in a contractual framework saying agent X has full moral worth can be understood as full negative rights" ---You Are Not Making Sense. The Contract ONLY needs to say something like "I accept your claim that you have a right to life, so long as you accept my claim that I have a right to life". There is NO need for nonsensical phrases such as "moral worth" or "negative rights".

"We don't hold [animals] morally responsible." ---This Does Not Keep Us From Killing Parasitic Animals, like a guinea worm. Unborn humans are not parasites, but They Act Worse Than Parasites. Why should worse-than-parasitic actions be tolerated, if we refuse to tolerate ordinary parasitic actions?

Next, so long as you associate right-to-life with legal protections, you CANNOT ignore the plight of all those baby octopusses. Not without exhibiting Stupid Prejudice. Again, the existence of R-strategist persons shows that many anti-abortion arguments are fundamentally flawed.

Next, the more that legal abortions are allowed, the fewer infanticides will take place. It Is Simply Logical --if fewer births occur, there won't be as many infants existing, and so there CAN'T be as many infanticides!

Most children can be taught a thing or two about "pain". Logically, if they are told that most ways of dying involve lots of pain, that should suffice for them to desire to want to stay alive.

Finally, You Are Still Stupidly Equating A Lack Of Right To Life With An Automatic Death Penalty. STOP.

ignorance_is_curable said...

"In a Coma there is potentiality but no capacity, " ---FALSE; you are still confusing "the ability to use an ability" with the ability that would be (or could be) used. It is the latter that is associated with personhood, not the former, which is the one affected by sleep and most comas.

Lieutenant Nun said...

I would also like to point out that a majority of comas are medically induced so that the brain can heal. Like an an anaesthetic. And GeixBattleRifle was in a coma and he awoke, still sentient!

ignorance_is_curable said...

Most human mental capabilities are matters of degree over the mental abilities of animals. Some as so MUCH a greater degree that it is fair to talk about a change in "kind". Here's an analogy from insect evolution.

Lots of millions of years ago, some insect had a mutation that let one of its muscles move part of its exoskeleton/carapace. The bug was able to use that to twist part of its carapace to absorb more morning sunlight. Bugs are cold-blooded, and need to warm up before they can do much moving about. This bug could warm up faster because it could intercept a bit more sunlight than other bugs, using its twisted carapace.

So it had a successful mutation and lots of offspring. Some of its descendants could do better than the original bug, at adjusting its carapace --even more than one part of its carapace. So, they could absorb morning sunlight a bit faster yet, and were also quite successful.

A side-effect of having a twisted carapace is greater exposure to the wind. The bugs could be more easily blown about. But any bug that happened to develop stronger muscles for moving its carapace could now use the wind to be deliberately carried about, gliding.

Eventually, the bugs mutated enough to end up with true wings...but for many, like the ladybug, the moving carapace is still there.

So, at what point did the moving carapace qualify as a new kind of thing, a wing?

Our mental ability to put ourselves in the situation of another is an extension of "empathy" that is so significant it qualifies as a new kind of thing --and ordinary animals, even clever ones like chimpanzees, do not appear to have that ability to a large degree --humans actually have a special adaptation that helps us with this ability.

There is no "continuum" of abilities when there is a CUSP, such that Nurture is required for personhood to develop, and biology alone cannot do it.

ignorance_is_curable said...

God would qualify AT LEAST as a person-class entity. EXCEPT according to various abortion opponents, who strictly (and Stupidly) associate personhood with human DNA.

ignorance_is_curable said...

You appear to be confusing the body with the mind. Don't do that without being very precise.

It happens that the brain is a self-programming computer. An "habit" you have created is equivalent to a computer program, automatically running --except you know you have control over the creation and removal of habits.

If we think of the mind as being related to a running computer program, then it is constructed by the brain doing experiments with respect to "what software is needed to deal with this particular environmental stimulus?" The mind is NOT necessarily a self-constructed thing. I'm not saying that there is no possibility of any self-construction (habits can be deliberately constructed, after all), but that the the early stages of mind-development are likely the result of external-to-the-mind brain-experimentation.

Furthermore, at least for humans, person-class minds can't exist unless the brain experiences a literal inundation of information, and must physically grow extra processing power to handle it.

ignorance_is_curable said...

For most of human history ALL humans were feral, nothing more than clever animals. Humans have been "anatomically modern" for nearly 200 thousand years, but human personhood didn't begin to exist until roughly 50-70 thousand years ago (the start of the Late Stone Age). That's when the first evidence of abstraction manipulation begins to appear in the archaeological/paleontological record (like pottery embossed with artistic designs --pottery has existed for a long time, but artistic pottery has not).

The explanation for the change, the start of the Late Stone Age, is simple. Being clever animals, even as non-persons, we were still able to invent and discover stuff. Abstractions such as simple words could have been invented to distinguish those things from each other, when one human communicated with another. But actual rational manipulation of those abstractions mostly didn't happen right away. What happened was the need to educate offspring in the ever-growing list of things to identify. Eventually the quantity of supplied information, as inventions and discoveries continued to happen, reached the "inundation" point, that triggered extra brain development for processing those abstractions. And THAT is when the first persons began to appear in the human population.

Simon Jm said...

I completely refute that. You are getting even the basics completely wrong.

The capacity had been damaged and therefore is not there. I've been dealing with these sort of concepts many times, whether it is with Tooley's actualization and with capacity problem or Singers amnesia coma patient.

The reason Singer bites the bullet is because he recognizes there is no current capacity, therefore no personhood,even if it will come later. furthermore no prior desires for future existence to ground harm via memories. Therefore he bites the bullet this isn't a person, and that this individual has a much weaker claim to life in his account.

This is also why other philosophers use chains of psychological connectivity via memories to show the same individual or person is still there even without the functional capacity. This is very standard stuff in the lit.

The underlying capacity MUST BE THERE unlike in sleeping where it is present but dormant. This is very basic if you cannot get this right I'm wasting my time.

Please think about it some more and try to understand it correctly.

Simon Jm said...

If you want to keep debating pull your head in and get that chip off your shoulder.

Going around throwing around stupid when you cannot even understand present capacities -apart from other things- is hubristic. Certainly you use of language on your page certanty shows a lack of maturity and intellectual humility.

You may in fact think you are right but far more better informed indivdiuals with stronger arguments than you, simply see opponents as wrong or missing key concepts and don't go about raising stupidity.

STOP being a JERK

& a right to life isn't a blanket ban you should know that and even with rights there is no agreement on minimal positive rights combined with minimally decent good Samartian laws.

Especially so when you key in practicality and finite resources. Same with sponanteous misscarriages many may mourn their death but resouces could be argued better spent on healthy humans than ones in this situation when they are terminally ill.

I also did already talk self defense and about animals in there natural environment and the compelxities and practicalties dealing non human person animals in the environment.

So stick that straw man where the sun don't shine.

As I said go back and rethink your capacites stance and if you cannot see you are worng I will end it here.

Lieutenant Nun said...

There is no current capacity only if the parts of the brain that give rise to sentience are permanently and irreparably damaged. If the thalamus and cortical sections of the brain are intact, and the brain is still capable of producing the brain waves that we associate with consciousness then the person has not lost the capacity for sentience.

Many many comas are medically induced so the brain can heal. This does not destroy the thalamus or cortex. Also, coma patients have reported having dreams , hearing people talking to them while asleep. And a poster here, Geixbattlerifle, was in a coma and he woke up just fine. If he had actually lost the capacity for sentience, he would not have been able to wake up at all.

I would like to study comas some more though.

If my legs are amputated then I have permanently lost the ability to walk on my legs. If my legs are broken, I still have the capacity to walk, I am simply temporarily not using it until they heal.

Simon Jm said...

Sure we could have locked in syndrome but that is not what we are talking about and you are twisting present functional capacity in way it is not even close to its standard use.

"Active capacity relies on being able to act."

& sure split hairs but an induced coma is more akin to putting someone under or heavily sedating to the point of unconsciousness. The underlying capacity is still there in a latent form.

& if indeed there is some brain activity similar to dreams then again it is closer to locked in syndrome rather than lights out no one home.

Nonetheless if the functionality is GONE the capacity is gone.

In both recovering and brain death there is no present capacity but we have a potential capacity in the recovering.

Simon Jm said...

"If my legs are amputated then I have permanently lost the ability to walk on my legs. If my legs are broken, I still have the capacity to
walk, I am simply temporarily not using it until they heal. "

My work dealt with a systems perspective and mereological relationships between parts of a whole system.

But ah start talking about the ability to self-repair and things get interesting as it is conceptually similar to self assembly.

If you want to say fine there is no present capacity to walk but since I have self repair I'm just a damaged walker then the same applies to
self assemblers. They are already a complete system / individual further developing themselves. So if the teleonomy says self assemble -with some help- a person, the fact the person capacity isn't there isn't
relevant because it is already a self assembling person.

The self repair and self assemble, unify the individuality with the absent capacity entailing conceptually the signifier is still there.

But you and others want to maintain such a tight adherence to present capacity being crucial then NO you are no longer a damaged walker because you simply no longer have the present capacity.

Lieutenant Nun said...

Until those legs grow back, it is not in a state of 'temporarily not walking'. It has lost the capacity to walk, because the structures are NON-EXISTENT. Whereas if the legs are broken. the apparatus exists, and merely needs to heal.

Simon Jm said...

Well I did expect that was obvious when I started to talk about self repair, unless ofc you know about any humans that are currently growing back their legs.

Lieutenant Nun said...

If you cut off a salamander's legs they will grow back.

But until the legs actually exist, you can't say the salamander has a latent if unexpressed capacity and functionality for walking.

Simon Jm said...

Late night here so a quick reply now.

1st you got me. Now I could be wrong but many philosophers don't go into detail; they just take it for granted that when talking about the necessity of a present or active personhood capacity it is naturally understood coma is shorthand for a state where there is no active, or present but dormant capacity. Maybe vegatative state is also used, but coma, being shorter, is preferred.

The rest I would look at later when I'm in a state to give it the attention it deserves.

Lieutenant Nun said...

NP. Thanks for the Tooley recommendation btw. I had never heard of him until this thread.

Good stuff.

Simon Jm said...

Was that Tooley or Boonin? Regardless look for stuff on Tooleys egg and sperm machine. He also thinks a persons full moral worth is grounded in desiring to exist into the future so he has a in principle support for infanticide up til a certain age 3 months I think. He also has a conversation with Don Marquis floating around the web.

Lieutenant Nun said...

Tooley. I also took a deeper look at Singer.

People like to dismiss Singer's arguments with 'oh he just wants to kill infants and the disabled', but, in actuality, his arguments are lot more nuanced than he is given credit for.

GEIxBattleRifle said...

It's good you agree with extinction-protection. We know from ecosystems do fall apart bit by bit once when a species go's extinction since other animals that preyed on that species would die out and the animal species that were prayed on by that species would overpopulate.
I remember before reading about Texas and the farmers were killing the snakes off and the scientists were warning them that if they killed to many of them off, the rabbit population would explode and guess what? I turned on the TV and saw the fields swarming with rabbits eating up all there crops!
Anyways, pro lifers could care less about the long term consquences of there own position. Forests are being torn down for there purpose of putting more human life on the planet and animal species are dying out because of it thus ruining the planet even more and eventually a catastrophe will happen and that will be killing actual people not mere animals who are not even on par mentally with chimp infants when aborted 100% of the time in the womb which is measureable through science

NightStalker9182 said...

Most abortion opponents don't even know what personhood is since they are too lazy to actually get caught up with what the topic is at right now. Most thing when you bring up personhood, they think your trying to define humanity or something among those lines and think you lack basic biology knowledge. Have you encounter pro lifers like that before?
But yeah restricting personhood down to human dna is naïve. They would exclude ET's, Strong AI's, and human made biological life in the future as well from being persons.

GEIxBattleRifle said...

'' I would press on a recovering coma victim not being a person either.''

No need to since most come out just fine. If rationality for example, WAS DESTROYED FROM BRAIN DAMAGING IF THERE WAS ANY, we will know when they come out of coma and let's remember that most of the recovering, is just relearning physical abilities like walking for example. The overall intellect part of them still remains intact.

''like the coma victim it is a damaged person.''
Be specific about the damage. People do go into comas for various reasons. One of them being seizure and no brain damage happens from a seizure most of the time. Going back to the fetus, it still has to mentally develop still while coma victims are already pass that barrier mark. Silly comparison on your part but nice try though.

ignorance_is_curable said...

I basically agree with you on those things. See #104 for a link to an extremely thorough web page on the biological human-ness of unborn humans, and how useless the argument is, in terms of personhood.

ignorance_is_curable said...


ignorance_is_curable said...

Yes, I know about the coma of which you speak. And he is far from the only case where a coma victim eventually woke up and proved to still have full personhood characteristics.

Simon Jm said...

He has strong well thought arguments and is consistent on them but relying on changing parental and societal norms to protect the lives of babies isn't exactly the smartest stance.

Simon Jm said...

When talking about personhood philosophers make the distinction concerning a capacity being there, so even if some aspect of the intelligence is undamaged , the overall capacity is lacking. Its not even latent where the capacity is present but dormant. If its from a seizure there is no structural damage rather malfunction so is closer to sleep.

For a capacity to be present it needs to be able to utilized from the underlying physical capacity. Drugs, sleep or a seizure etc interfere with that underlying capacity but its still there.

That's why some then rely on past desires or intact memories that will be able to be used on recovery.

But then they run into the coma victim with amnesia; no past desires, nor memories or capacity.

Even Peter Singer will bite the bullet and say by his account that human has a weaker claim to continued life.

So no if people are going to say having a present capacity is what designates a person then a recovering coma victim- the sort of coma from damage not induced or locked in- isn't technically person via capacity. Sure then resort to memories or desires etc but they also have problems.

All of this is in the lit and taken seriously by informed professionals so I suggest you take some time to do some basic research before you make uniformed condescending comments. You just make yourself look silly.