Is a Dolphin a Person?|
What Is a Person?
What makes someone or something a person? Does being human satisfy the definition of a person? No, there is actually a difference between “human” and “person”. “Human” is more of a biological concept, reflecting association in Homo sapiens. “Person,” on the other hand, is a philosophical concept, signifying a being with capacities of a specific sort. Such as being alive, being aware, feeling positive and negative sensations, emotions, a sense of self, and controlling your own behavior. Also, a person recognizes other persons and treats them appropriately, they can learn, retain, and recall information and solve complex problems with analytical thought. And a person can communicate in a way that suggests thought. The fact that “human” and “person” are separate concepts should be clear. It is possible to be human and not a person. For example, a person who is brain dead is still a human but has no personhood. As well as the other side of the distinction that it is theoretically possible to have “persons” who are “nonhuman.” This would be beings with the same traits as normal humans but who come from a different biological family. Which brings me to the question, “Is a Dolphin a Person”? Is a Dolphin a Person?
Well let’s go back to what generally describes a person. For one, a Dolphin is very much alive and is aware of its external environments. If they weren’t it wouldn’t be so easy to train them and they wouldn’t interact with the outside world, yet alone handle the demands of living in the ocean. Dolphins can also feel positive and negative sensations. Most nonhumans such as dogs react to cuts, bruises and broken bones just like we do. Likewise, Dolphins can feel pain and pleasure. Their brains have pain centers and their skin is especially sensitive. They experience pleasure from their frequent sexual behavior and from some of their “play” behavior. Their actions clearly suggest that they experience “positive and negative sensations.” So, does a Dolphin have emotions? Most definitely. The Dolphin brain has a limbic system, which is the part of the brain that generates emotions. Dolphins also appear to have what we call moods. Captive Dolphins can be keen to work some days, and single-mindedly stubborn on others. Moreover, Susan Shane writes, “Captive dolphins have been known to refuse food and starve themselves to death when a tank companion dies. Mother dolphins have carried the decomposing bodies of their stillborn calves for two weeks and longer. Such behavior indicates that social bonds between individual dolphins are very strong and emotional attachments are deep.” Can Dolphins have a sense of self? I think so. I mean they do have a unique whistle called a “signature whistle.” That’s almost like having a “name”, a concept that requires some sense of self. Also, Dolphins can recognize reflections of themselves in mirrors and know that it’s not another Dolphin. A Dolphin can also control its own behavior, meaning actions that are coming from within the person and not any external forces. Or in the case of a nonhuman, this means at least a notable ability to act independently of instinct, biological drives, or conditioning. Scientists have identified examples of various feeding strategies that appear to be the product of deliberation and choice. Such as, the use of mud rings, hydroplaning, and herding. Also, the fact that Dolphins have interacted with humans shows the ability of Dolphins to choose their behavior. Just like they interact with us, they recognize us as other persons and treat other persons appropriately. The most straightforward sign that we recognize someone else as a person is that we treat that individual as “some one”, not “some thing.” Dolphins have an established and well-documented concern for other beings. They try to save other Dolphins from drowning and in other cases even saved humans too. In the book “Discovering Philosophy”,...