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What qualifies someone as human?
09-10-2011, 02:09 AM
Post: #1
What qualifies someone as human?
This is a follow on firm the Animal Testing thread.

What is the qualification for being considered deserving of basic human rights?

Or more succinctly, is there an act that a person could perform that would justify a person forfeiting their basic human rights.

Is a person that knowingly and deliberately dehumanises or in any other way harms another person or group of persons in such a way as to completely degrade that person or group of people deserving of even the most basic consideration that one would afford the most simple of creatures?

I think that there is a line which once crossed a person forfeits all consideration that is owed to a human being.

What that line is however, I have still not clarified to myself but I believe that it exists.

One example that springs to mind at the extreme end of the scale is mass genocide. But where would be the lower end of the scale?

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. - Nietzsche
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09-10-2011, 10:36 AM
Post: #2
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
If it's a basic human right, I don't imagine that anyone could do something to forfeit it (commit suicide, perhaps?) As far as when someone has these human rights, I tend to lean towards a definition that includes awareness of self and others, which technically justifies abortion and infanticide but I still stand by it. What are basic human rights? I'm actually not sure how one should go about defining these.

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09-10-2011, 10:56 AM
Post: #3
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
Zoe has already indicated that her low end of the scale includes people who are guilty of property damage as well as those who are illegal immigrants. My low end of the scale is probably premeditated murder that meets certain criteria however I would also want there to be a very real chance of commuting such a sentence given circumstances in each case. As Ali has pointed out I believe in another thread already, falsely convicted 'murderers' are a reality within the American system and there are several high profile cases in Canada as well.

Stephen Truscott who was sentenced to death at the age of 14 for a murder in 1959, hanging commuted, spent more than a decade incarcerated until he met parole conditions in the mid 70's. He brought his case forward in 2001 and in 2007 the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled his conviction a miscarriage of justice - he was eventually awarded more than 6 mill in compensation. David Milgaard who was convicted of a murder in 1970 and sentenced to life, incarcerated until 1992 when the Supreme Court finally agreed to review his conviction and grant a new trial, the province in question, Saskatchewan declines to prosecute him again but it is not until 1997 that DNA tests prove he was not the killer - he receives a formal apology and 2 years later 10 mill in compensation. The experiences of these two men AND OTHERS (I think it's very key that they are unfortunately not alone) means that as a just society surely we cannot make a blanket pronouncement that all murderers must be executed.

Having said that I do agree that there are certain sociopaths who have lost their basic human rights through their own actions. The state of Wisconsin apparently agrees with me and although it does not have the death penalty it managed to conveniently place Jeffrey Dahmer in situations once incarcerated that led to his eventual death at the hands of another inmate.
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09-10-2011, 11:27 AM
Post: #4
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
I'd say something like mass murder, unapologetic murder, might cause a person to be considered less than human. However, sometimes dehumanization has led to unfortunate consequences: A de facto example would be the treatment of enemy soldiers and civilians (using the awful name "gooks") in the Vietnam war.
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09-10-2011, 08:54 PM (This post was last modified: 09-10-2011 09:02 PM by Flipper.)
Post: #5
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
(09-10-2011 10:36 AM)jrpurdon Wrote:  If it's a basic human right, I don't imagine that anyone could do something to forfeit it (commit suicide, perhaps?) As far as when someone has these human rights, I tend to lean towards a definition that includes awareness of self and others, which technically justifies abortion and infanticide but I still stand by it. What are basic human rights? I'm actually not sure how one should go about defining these.

So you believe that all people deserve the same consideration and protection of their rights regardless of their actions? I would disagree with you. What about someone who takes away those same rights (whatever they may be) from another person? Why should they then have their rights upheld?

Quote:As Ali has pointed out I believe in another thread already, falsely convicted 'murderers' are a reality within the American system and there are several high profile cases in Canada as well.

So Vis, how many people in the entire prison population do you think would fall into this category? There are obvious flaws in the majority of legal systems (beyond reasonable doubt is still not 100%) but I would argue that in most cases guilt is fairly well established and can only get better with increasing technology. And I don't think that petty crimes should be punishable by death. Though I can see a certain sense in "death row" or life sentence prisoners clearly guilty of heinous crime that are beyond rehabilitation actually paying for their crimes instead of living out their lives in jail.

Quote:However, sometimes dehumanization has led to unfortunate consequences: A de facto example would be the treatment of enemy soldiers and civilians (using the awful name "gooks") in the Vietnam war.

There is a big difference between dehumanising someone in your mind as a psychological mechanism that will allow a "normal" person to "pull the trigger" on another person in a war situation. As opposed to, for instance, taking someone against there will and torturing and killing them. Yes, I realise that this has happened in most likely every conflict in human history but it is not necessarily the norm. Which makes those people that do those types of things during a modern military conflict guilty of war crimes and I would suggest that as such they should be treated the same as any other criminal based on the severity of their actions.

As an ex-soldier, I can tell you that we were give very clear guidelines about what was acceptable on a battlefield. Specifically things like rules of engagement and the treatment of prisoners of war. Anyone who chooses to step beyond these guidelines deserved to be punished based on the consequences of their actions just as in civilian society.
As for the "basic human rights", these would be a good place to start;

Quote:Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

There are 30 all up in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but these are the ones that I tend to have in mind in this type of discussion.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. - Nietzsche
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09-11-2011, 08:48 AM (This post was last modified: 09-11-2011 08:51 AM by jrpurdon.)
Post: #6
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
(09-10-2011 08:54 PM)Flipper Wrote:  So you believe that all people deserve the same consideration and protection of their rights regardless of their actions? I would disagree with you. What about someone who takes away those same rights (whatever they may be) from another person? Why should they then have their rights upheld?

If they are indeed basic human rights, they are not yours to give or take away. Maybe you're talking about privileges of society? What is your definition of a basic human right and how is one granted these rights in the first place?
Sorry, didn't quite notice that you listed the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As I'm aware, criminals don't lose those rights. But they also essentially include the right to be punished (fairly) for violating the rights of others.

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09-11-2011, 12:06 PM
Post: #7
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
(09-10-2011 08:54 PM)Flipper Wrote:  
Quote:As Ali has pointed out I believe in another thread already, falsely convicted 'murderers' are a reality within the American system and there are several high profile cases in Canada as well.

So Vis, how many people in the entire prison population do you think would fall into this category? There are obvious flaws in the majority of legal systems (beyond reasonable doubt is still not 100%) but I would argue that in most cases guilt is fairly well established and can only get better with increasing technology. And I don't think that petty crimes should be punishable by death. Though I can see a certain sense in "death row" or life sentence prisoners clearly guilty of heinous crime that are beyond rehabilitation actually paying for their crimes instead of living out their lives in jail.

It's my understanding that there is a backlog of cases of wrongfully convicted murderers who want their cases reopened for the chance to prove what they are saying. I can't give you a number without doing some research this morning for which I don't currently have time (not trying to dodge, it's an interesting question actually and I'd like to know the answer so I will try in the next few days).

I expect the answer whatever it is to be heavily weighted with cases that were tried before the advent of definitive DNA testing, and I would also expect that that number would be dropping to something very low or hopefully nothing at all for new cases, given technology today.

In bringing the subject up I was specifically thinking of the crime of murder and not other crimes. If I was running the show, I would made rockhard indisputable evidence a necessary part of the criteria I mentioned in my previous post in order to pronounce a sentence of execution. I would expect that the number of people eligible for execution would drop substantially over what it is currently in North America. (for the sake of ease I have been thinking strictly of North America - apologies if I didn't make that clear)

While any victim's death has the same terrible impact on their family and friends, I do believe that there is a quantifiable difference in brutality and intent that could be brought into play - yes I can already see the problem with my idea - who decides? I do see a difference in intent and therefore appropriate punishment between an accidental shooting or lets say death of a pedestrian by a careless speeding driver, over the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world.
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09-11-2011, 12:16 PM
Post: #8
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
(09-10-2011 10:56 AM)Visqueen Wrote:  As Ali has pointed out I believe in another thread already, falsely convicted 'murderers' are a reality within the American system and there are several high profile cases in Canada as well.

I can't imagine a legal system which wouldn't falsely convict people of serious crime. It certainly doesn't exist at the moment.
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09-11-2011, 05:40 PM (This post was last modified: 09-11-2011 05:41 PM by Flipper.)
Post: #9
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
(09-11-2011 08:48 AM)jrpurdon Wrote:  If they are indeed basic human rights, they are not yours to give or take away. Maybe you're talking about privileges of society? What is your definition of a basic human right and how is one granted these rights in the first place?
Sorry, didn't quite notice that you listed the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As I'm aware, criminals don't lose those rights. But they also essentially include the right to be punished (fairly) for violating the rights of others.

This brings me back to one of my original questions, what qualifies someone to have these rights? Is it simply being a member of the species?

I have always thought that there can be no rights without responsibilities. In this case I would say that these universal human rights (I think saying "basic" human rights is muddying the water here a bit) come with the responsibility of ensuring that these rights are upheld for everybody or at the very least not deliberately violating these rights of any other person. To me once you refuse the responsibility you should no longer be protected by them yourself.

And I, for one, am not talking about petty, minor crimes like speeding or theft or anything like that, I'm not saying all criminals by any stretch of the imagination. I personally think that there would not be too many instances where someone has done something so terrible to another person or group of people that would warrant the forfeit of their rights. But I believe that there are some examples that would warrant it as have already been pointed out. Such as genocide and mass murderers etc. The problem I see with genocide though is it is not a one-man show. Someone or a group of people give the directions but it still takes others to carry them out, which makes it problematic.

Quote:But they also essentially include the right to be punished (fairly) for violating the rights of others.

What are the upper and lower limits of fair punishment though? Do you think that a person who kidnaps another person and subjects them to extended torture before slowly and painfully killing them deserves to be treated the same as a person who is imprisoned for something like embezzlement? What about if the same person did it to multiple victims or what about if those victims were children? I personally think that there are extreme cases that would warrant extreme punishment.

The following is not directed at you JR, it is the start of some general comments (I've come unstuck before as I have a tendency to change from answering someones specific comments to making general comments with out notice).

Personally I don't see it as a slippery slope. Personally I find slippery slope arguments lazy and not in the least persuasive. You could argue that once you started this sort of punishment the scope would gradually increase to include the most minor of crimes. If anyone that truly believes that then in my opinion they must be very feeble minded indeed. Slippery slope arguments are used by people who don't have a real argument against something, they are just trying to justify a position they can truly argue for outside of emotions. But that's just my opinion.

(09-11-2011 12:06 PM)Visqueen Wrote:  I do see a difference in intent and therefore appropriate punishment between an accidental shooting or lets say death of a pedestrian by a careless speeding driver, over the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world.

I totally agree, it is where that line is drawn that is the question.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. - Nietzsche
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09-11-2011, 10:14 PM
Post: #10
RE: What qualifies someone as human?
Flip, the slippery slope argument is completely relevant. In our country 50 years ago anyone charged with an offence was innocent until proven guilty, that is no longer the case with an ever growing list of offences, in our country it is possible to be arrested if you know someone who has been arrested, without charge and held for 90 days incomunicado, if you tell someone about it. No slippery slopes here, just lazy arguments.

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