Monday, July 22, 2013

Personhood of animals and India's declaration of dolphin personhood

I am so proud of India for acknowledging the personhood of another species! We are NOT the only persons!

This however creates the animist conundrum, why is the dolphin a person and a rat not a person? Is personhood to be determined on self reflexivity alone?
Research has been done on dogs and self reflexivity. Some dogs bark at themselves in the mirror because they do not know themselves in the reflection. Some dogs however do. The dogs that do are self reflexive the dogs that do not are not self reflexive, so the studies say.
So if what I am seeing here with India is correct they perceive the dolphin as self reflexive there for it is a person, and has the rights that a person should have. If this is the basis of personhood then some dogs are people and some dogs are not. This then makes us ask the question, can self reflexivity be a basis for personhood?
From an animist point of view this is fascinating... And points out the odd thing about animism around the world. Why are some animals or stones etc considered a person and some aren't?
I think India presents a good example here... Elephants are self reflexive. Elephants however have been used for labor in India for a very long time. Elephants have cultures, use tools, mourn the dead, even make alcohol and get crazy plastered going on drunken rampages, but will India declare elephants people, and forbid the capture, domestication and use of elephants for labor or entertainment? Perhaps some day they will, but it is less likely to occur because of the relationship dynamic. They would have to ethically deal with the notion that using elephants for labor is slavery. The forced labor of a non-human person.
Humans have a selective sociopathic tendency to select what is a person an what is not for the ease of our own conscience it would seem.

I am certain in my own beliefs as an animist that we cannot that anything is not a person, and that self reflexivity may occur even in a small grain of sand, everything communicates, all is self aware, the world itself is a person populated by people, human and other than human. As I cannot provide evidence to support this belief it is then a faith. Which is why animism is a religion.

I am happy for dolphin...