July 23, 2008

Apes, legal personhood and the plight of Nim Chimpsky. [Via Bng Bng]
  • Can't listen at the moment, so sorry if my comments are not a propos. I think the key point is that chimps are sophisticated creatures and certainly capable of a very high level of suffering; so they ought to be treated decently and with respect. But trying to get them human rights seems to me confusing and liable to weaken the case. Legal personhood, as I understand it, is more or less exactly the bit of human legal status that chimps don't need. Corporations and other bodies have legal personhood; it allows ownership of property, contractual obligations, and so on, without any rights to welfare or whatever. If I'm wrong I hope one of m'learned monkey friends here will explain the position properly.
  • You can read the transcript on the page, Pleg. It's quite interesting. The point about the Austrian chimp, Matthew, is that with legal personhood he could be given a legal guardian. In this event, he could avoid being sold off as an "asset" because a "mysterious businessman" is prepared to pay for his upkeep if the funds are managed by his guardian.
  • Doh! But what's the point of giving him legal personhood merely in order to take all the relevant rights away again immediately and confer them on a legal guardian? He's still in effect an asset of his guardian, isn't he - it's just that the guardian's rights are now entrenched. Is that good for the chimp? Maybe, maybe not at all; but either way his legal personhood is effectively a fiction. I think the reference to "clever hands phenomena" is a misunderstanding for Clever Hans, incidentally.
  • > misunderstanding for Clever Hans That makes sense. I was wondering why "clever hands" sounded familiar but somehow wrong.
  • If this chimp has personhood, why not Nim?
  • ^Yes. De facto personhood should extend to preserving the best things left <:(!)
  • Better rivers than corporations.