“Personhood” and “Speciesism”

A. Holmes 2013 ENG140, Week 7, Assignment Stacey A. Holmes 2013 ENG140, Week 7, Assignment Essay 3 Summary and Response (Draft 2) Ivy Bridge at Tiffin University ENG 140 April 25 Essay 3 Summary and Response (Draft 2) Ivy Bridge at Tiffin University ENG 140 April 25 Author and world renowned Philosopher, Dr.

Peter Singer who is currently at Yale University, defines terms such as “Personhood” and “Speciesism” rather distinctively, and he does it in a way, that does not fit in with most of societies’ ideas of what represents the meaning of either, personhood (such as an infant not being a “person” because it is not yet self-aware, but a dolphin being a “person” because it can recognize itself in a mirror) or discrimination (he describes individuals who eat meat as being speciesist, because he or she doesn’t take into consideration the feelings of the animal or the animal’s desire to continue on living).

When asked the question “What is a person? ” Most would answer by saying, “A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain mental capacities or attributes constituting personhood, which in turn could be defined differently by different authors in different disciplines and by different cultures in different times and places”. The definition for human being is “a member of any of the races of Homo sapiens; person; man, woman, or child” (Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers, 2003).

When asked to give the definition for a person, Singer, who is currently at Yale University; describes a person as “Someone who is aware of their own existence over time, is aware enough to realize that they are the same being that lived previously; who can expect to live into the future” (Singer, Peter. (2008, January 28th). Human Use of Animals [http://www. open. edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/philosophy/human-use-animals]. Singer believes that some non-human animals have individuality and could be considered “persons”; describing some human beings who lack mental capacity and attributes (i. . intellectual disability, dementia, brain injury, mental illness and even infants) as non-persons, because there is… no awareness of a past, present or future being. Singer says that these human beings are still showed compassion, respect, and regard. So, why aren’t we (human beings/persons) capable of showing that same compassion towards animals or non-humans? He argues that we should be able to recognize that animals are aware of their being, are aware of their past and present, that they have a desire to live, and are also very conscience of the way they are treated by human beings.

He also believes that they understand suffering. He says that human beings or “persons” should be more evolved to think that there is no suffering for these animals. Singer thinks that we should be more concerned for them individually, think about what would be in their best interest, and take in consideration the things that could be bad for them or quite possibly, be harming them; rather than, using them for our own wants, needs, and desires. Society has a total disregard for animals and the fact that they are suffering, because our need for what the animal has to offer us is greater; lbeit sustenance, experimental purposes, etc… (Singer, Peter. (2006, December 11th). The Colbert Report [http://www. colbertnation. com/the-colbert-report-videos/79412/december-11-2006/peter-singer]. Singer argues that this total disregard for animals’ is what he deems as speciesism (which is much like racism only targeted toward other species), and that those who practice this (speciesism) are speciesist (someone who has prejudices towards species other than their own).

Singer says that “Some animals have a higher moral status than some humans and that our disregard for animal suffering is a deplorable moral blind spot” (Singer, Peter. (2008, January 28th). Human Use of Animals [http://www. open. edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/philosophy/human-use-animals]. I am bipartisan to his argument; I can neither agree nor disagree with his philosophy. Singer makes some valid points in his argument. He says that animals “non-humans” have the same capacities or attributes that some human beings have, implicating that a non-human could potentially be categorized as a “person”.

He also states that we should recognize that animals or non-humans have an acknowledgement of self and of suffering. Lastly, Singer speaks of the way that human beings or persons should care for animals. These can be categorized as “reasonable assumptions”. I believe that animals could be categorized as persons. Because, I do believe that they are fully aware, just as aware (if not more, than some human beings) as we are, of their past, present and future being. I also believe that animals are aware of their suffering and, who is causing the suffering.

I also think that as human beings we should show more compassion, respect and regard toward animals, in all aspects, of our need, use, want or desire for them. But, as a Christian, I believe that all things serve a “Divine Purpose” and that mankind (human beings) remains at the top of the food chain. “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” (The Holy Bible, KJV, Genesis 9:1-4). Scripture says that all things on the Earth are for us (human beings) and that there isn’t anything that we could not eat (or use for our purposes) other than another human. If God can take into the consideration the “feelings” of the beings that He created, and still give them to us (humans) for sustenance.

Then who are we (the created) to say that it’s wrong? Well, Singer also suggests that even infants aren’t fully aware of there being, there present, past and/or future and I say to that; If they were afforded the time then they would certainly be aware of these things. So, that statement holds no validity for me. I could understand if his philosophy, applied only toward those that have any intellectual disabilities, dementia, brain injuries, and mental illnesses his statement would have more substance. But, at some point and time; infants would eventually be considered persons.

When looking back at my own experience with infants (my children and grandchildren), I felt as if the child’ knew exactly who I was and that we had this “mutual understanding” and affection for one another. Or it could be very possible for the infant to never fully develop. Who knows with life, it’s too unpredictable. But once again, that is just the nature of life, I do not believe that we were meant to know or have knowledge of everything. I respectfully disagree with Dr. Singer’s analysis of infants.

But, I think that his analysis could be applied to people who lack in mental capacities. This subject for me is simply the rules of nature, no more, no less. It is just in the laws of nature to be either prey or predator. Animals’ or non-humans may have full awareness of their suffering and we as humans should create a better environment for animals (that we use for our “purposes”) so that they don’t have to endure a tremendous amount of suffering. Farmers, Scientist and the general public alike should make changes in the laws that regulate the treatment of animals.

Society as a whole should not be so vain to think that we are the only species on Earth that can feel, love, think, and desire, hurt and/or suffer. But, I disagree with Singer when he suggests that we start treating animals with the same moral composition that we show our fellow human beings. Animals are just, simply put…not our equals. Yes, my mother who suffers from dementia is going to receive better treatment from me than my dog, cat, fish, bird, llama etc…That will never happen (animals as humans equals) in my opinion. I don’t see a comparison between my mother, who has taken care of me for the majority of my life, and an animal.

Human beings should start treating the animals’ that provide us nourishment, clothing, friendship and the list goes on, with more compassion and allotting them the quality, respect and dignity of life that someone could say to them in the end “ You lived a full, dignified and “good life”. References Singer, Peter. (2006, December 11th). The Colbert Report [http://www. colbertnation. com/the-colbert-report-videos/79412/december-11-2006/peter-singer] Singer, Peter. (2008, January 28th). Human Use of Animals [http://www. open. edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/philosophy/human-use-animals]