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This relates to another question asked on this site, but I have a lot to ask, so I'll create my own post here so I have room. I only partly understand the Objectivist argument as to why animals should not have rights. It has to do with the human capacity to think critically, something no other animal can do. But I disagree with that. I do think animals, or dogs at least, can think to some extent. For example, a scientific study has shown that dogs know calculus. I have two dogs, Cooper and Dagny, and they both know what it means when I ask them if they want to go out or if they want to go for a walk. They know the difference. We've just adopted Dagny a few months ago, and she's still too young to know what Cooper knows, so I'll only speak for him. For the sake of visualizing, this is what Cooper and Dagny look like. We have a small box of doggy toys in the corner of the room, and sometimes Cooper will walk over to it and sift through the contents, moving them around with his nose. I think that Cooper is thinking about which toy he wants to play with. My dogs have their own schedule each day, and they follow it really well. Dogs have a pack mentality, and Cooper looks at everyone (me, my mom, my brother) in the house as superior. He knows what we view as right and wrong, and since we've had him for two years already, he never does anything wrong. He knows he'll get punished if he breaks the rules. When we're at the park, he'll stare at me because he wants me to take off the leash. We trust him enough not to run away if he's off the leash. He always sticks around us. My interpretation from all this is that if the natural behavior of dogs is a pack mentality, then their so-called free will lies within that bubble. Where am I wrong? Where am I right?

asked Nov 04 '13 at 10:16

Collin1's gravatar image

Collin1
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edited Nov 04 '13 at 19:15

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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Um, no, dogs don't know calculus. Even the referenced article admits this is just colorful talk: "Of course, the professor doesn't think Elvis was really doing calculus, at least not in the traditional way. But somehow, innately, he was achieving the same result." The conceptual tools we use to think about phenomena like this aren't necessarily the only way to describe and work with the phenomena. You are no more working with differential equations when you catch a baseball than the dog is working with calculus when fetching something thrown into water from land.

(Nov 04 '13 at 19:14) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

This has an awful lot of overlap with Should objectivists care about animal rights?

(Nov 04 '13 at 19:17) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image
He knows what we view as right and wrong, and since we've had him for two years already, he never does anything wrong. He knows he'll get punished if he breaks the rules.

It's interesting because what you describe there is exactly what is not true of men. "Nothing can force a man to think. Others may offer him incentives or impediments, rewards or punishments, they may destroy his brain by drugs or by the blow of a club, but they cannot order his mind to function: this is in his exclusive, sovereign power. Man is neither to be obeyed nor to be commanded."

(Nov 04 '13 at 20:13) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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This relates to another question asked on this site....

Correct. There are two previous questions, in particular, where I provided detailed analyses:

I only partly understand the Objectivist argument as to why animals should not have rights. It has to do with the human capacity to think critically, something no other animal can do. But I disagree with that. I do think animals, or dogs at least, can think to some extent. For example, a scientific study has shown that dogs know calculus.

The number of problems with these simple sentences is legion. First, the Objectivist argument is not an argument as to why animals "should not have rights"; it's an argument as to why man should have them and why man's concept of rights is not applicable to animals, by the nature of rights and the nature of non-human animals. Man forms the concept of man's rights to define and sanction man's freedom of action in his interactions with other men:

  • Reason is man's basic means of cognition and survival; it is not any other animal's basic means of cognition or survival. Man has a conceptual faculty; other animals do not (as I discuss in detail in the above links, especially the second one).

  • Reason is an individual process, not a collective one, and reason does not work automatically or under compulsion. To live, man needs freedom from physical force by others so that he can use reason to guide his actions in the processes of production and trade. Other animals do not have rational faculties, cannot use reason to guide anything, and cannot engage in production and trade (other than certain rudimentary symbiotic kinds of automatic animal action). Animals other than man survive by hunting and gathering, and often by physical force against other animals and man to take whatever they are driven to want, if they perceive that they have enough power to get it.

As for "a scientific study [showing] that dogs know calculus," I concur with Greg's comments about that. It isn't what the article linked in the question actually says. I must also point out that the task performed by the dog in that case is entirely perceptual. Dogs can see where the ball is and what obstacles lie in the way, and dogs know enough to stay out of the water as long as they can until they get close enough to make a sharp turn into the water. Plenty of confirmed calculus-ignorant humans would be able to do that, too, without benefit of any advanced math.

[Collin's dogs] both know what it means when I ask them if they want to go out or if they want to go for a walk. They know the difference.

The dogs are probably responding to the pattern of the sounds and accompanying gestures, not to the meanings of human words. Even when dogs respond to specific verbal commands which they have been taught, it's probably little more than an arbitrary, memorized sound pattern to the animals, without human concepts of any kind in the minds of the animals. There is a process of perceptual association in man and other animals which falls far short of human concepts and is performed entirely perceptually, without necessary benefit of any concepts. Perceptual cognition is essential to the survival of the animals, but usually isn't adequate for man's survival; man needs to use concepts (which also requires a bigger, heavier, more energy consuming brain than for other animals).

We have a small box of doggy toys in the corner of the room, and sometimes Cooper will walk over to it and sift through the contents, moving them around with his nose. I think that Cooper is thinking about which toy he wants to play with.

I think it is more likely that he's just sniffing them (dogs have incredible senses of smell, by human standards) and feeling each toy's weight and texture with his nose. The final "decision" of which one to take out of the box probably is more like a human whim than any process of thought. It proves nothing about whether or not dogs can "think" and in what ways. As I pointed out in my past answers linked above, animals can perform a great many feats that man would never be able to perform without using human concepts; but the animals do it by purely perceptual means, using their vastly superior sensory faculties.

Dogs have a pack mentality, and Cooper looks at everyone (me, my mom, my brother) in the house as superior. He knows what we view as right and wrong, and since we've had him for two years already, he never does anything wrong. He knows he'll get punished if he breaks the rules.

These are perceptual traits again. Man, too, is capable of a "pack" or "herd" mentality, which requires distressingly little conceptual capacity.

Dogs have been described as "man's best friend," and they tend to make excellent pets (and sometimes work animals) for humans. The fact that rights don't apply to dogs should never be regarded by anyone as demeaning to the dogs or detracting in any way from the value that the dogs provide to humans. And if there is any concern about abuse of dogs by other humans, that is an issue of the property rights of the dogs' owners and of protecting those rights from infringement by other humans. Note that dogs, unlike humans, have owners.

answered Nov 04 '13 at 22:13

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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edited Nov 04 '13 at 22:15

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Asked: Nov 04 '13 at 10:16

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Last updated: Nov 04 '13 at 22:15