humans are animals

The Moral Status of Animals First published Tue Jul 1, 2003; substantive revision Mon Sep 13, 2010 What is distinctive about humanity such that humans are thought to have moral status and non-humans do not? Providing an answer to this … Continue reading

The Moral Status of Animals
First published Tue Jul 1, 2003; substantive revision Mon Sep 13, 2010

What is distinctive about humanity such that humans are thought to have moral status and non-humans do not? Providing an answer to this question has become increasingly important among philosophers as well as those outside of philosophy who are interested in our treatment of non-human animals. For some, answering this question will enable us to better understand the nature of human beings and the proper scope of our moral obligations. Some argue that there is an answer that can distinguish humans from the rest of the natural world. Many of those who accept this answer are interested in justifying certain human practices towards non-humans—practices that cause pain, discomfort, suffering and death. This latter group expect that in answering the question in a particular way, humans will be justified in granting moral consideration to other humans that is neither required nor justified when considering non-human animals. In contrast to this view, many philosophers have argued that while humans are different in a variety of ways from each other and other animals, these differences do not provide a philosophical defense for denying non-human animals moral consideration. What the basis of moral consideration is and what it amounts to has been the source of much disagreement.

The species Homo sapiens share a genetic make-up and a distinctive physiology, but this is unimportant from the moral point of view. Species membership itself cannot support the view that members of one species, namely ours, deserve moral consideration that is not owed to members of other species. Humans are morally considerable because of the distinctively human capacities we possess. But which capacities are only human? There is no activity that is uncontroversially unique to humans. Both scholarly and popular work on animal behavior suggests that many of the activities that are thought to be distinct to humans occur in non-humans. Darwin brought us closer to the animal world, but equally brought animal nature closer to us. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/ ).

The notion of personhood identifies a category of morally considerable beings that is thought to be coextensive with humanity. Historically, Kant is the most noted defender of personhood as the quality that makes a being valuable and thus morally considerable. Yet Kant’s view of personhood cannot distinguish all and only humans as morally considerable. Some humans are not persons, i.e. infants, children, people with advanced forms of autism or Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disorders—do not have the rational, self-reflective capacities associated with personhood.

More to the point, rationality itself is suspect as a basis for moral right. On one hand, human rationality is bounded by lower level instincts and mechanistic behavior, and on the other, non-humans exhibit behavior that can be deemed moral. Thus morality is orthogonal to rationality. As a matter of fact, individuals that are hyper rational and lack lower level motional control of their behaviors are nor deemed highly moral, but rather are characterized as psychopathic (http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/04/29/psychopaths-and-rational-moral/ ).

Al Dunlap [That would be “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, former CEO of Sunbeam and notorious downsizer.] effortlessly turns the psychopath checklist into “Who Moved My Cheese?” Many items on the checklist he redefines into a manual of how to do well in capitalism. There was his reputation that he was a man who seemed to enjoy firing people, not to mention the stories from his first marriage — telling his first wife he wanted to know what human flesh tastes like, not going to his parents’ funerals. Then you realize that because of this dysfunctional capitalistic society we live in those things were positives. He was hailed and given high-powered jobs, and the more ruthlessly his administration behaved, the more his share price shot up.

Some models of human behavior in the social sciences assume that humans can be reasonably approximated or described as “rational” entities (see for example rational choice theory, or Downs Political Agency Models). Many economics models assume that people are on average rational, and can in large enough quantities be approximated to act according to their preferences. The concept of bounded rationality revises this assumption to account for the fact that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice because of the finite computational resources available for making them.

Bounded rationality is the idea that when individuals make decisions, their rationality is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the time available to make the decision (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality ).

If morality is defined in terms of social behavior, non-humans exhibit different moral behavioral modes (http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals?%ca&language=en ). Social life may be regarded as a sort of symbiosis among individuals of the same species: a society is composed of a group of individuals belonging to the same species living within well-defined rules. When biologists interested in evolution theory first started examining social behavior, some apparently unanswerable questions arose, such as how the birth of sterile castes, like in bees, could be explained through an evolving mechanism that emphasizes the reproductive success of as many individuals as possible, or why, amongst animals living in small groups like squirrels, an individual would risk its own life to save the rest of the group. These behaviors may be examples of altruism. Revengeful behavior has been reported in non Homo sapiens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethology ).

Humans are animals in ways so subtly that we are unaware of it. Humans are subject to the same instinctual drives and influences as other animals are; it’s only human arrogance that would ever lead us to think otherwise. Fifty to seventy percent of the variation between individuals – in intelligence, in personality, in political leanings, or just about any other mental character you care to name – derives from the genes; zero to ten percent derives from the home environment; and the mysterious remainder is due to chance or to non-parental environment. (The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker)

The understanding that other people’s emotional states depend on the fulfillment of their intention is fundamentally important for responding adequately to others. Psychopathic patients show severe deficits in responding adequately to other people’s emotion. Psychopaths can teach us a lot about the nature of morality. At first glance, they seem to have perfectly functioning minds. Their working memory isn’t impaired, they have excellent language skills, and they don’t have reduced attention spans. In fact, a few studies have found that psychopaths have above-average IQs and reasoning abilities; their logic is impeccable. But the disorder is associated with a severe moral deficit. (http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/04/29/psychopaths-and-rational-moral/ ).

So what’s gone wrong? Why are psychopaths so much more likely to use violence to achieve their goals? Why are they so overrepresented in our prisons? The answer turns us to the anatomy of morality in the mind. That’s because the intact intelligence of psychopaths conceals a devastating problem: the emotional parts of their brains are damaged, and this is what makes them dangerous.

When normal people are shown violent imagery or other painful stimulus, they automatically generate a visceral emotional reaction. Their hands start to sweat, and their blood pressure surges. But psychopaths feel nothing. When you peer inside the psychopathic brain, you can literally see this absence of emotion. After being exposed to fearful facial expressions, the emotional parts of the normal human brain show increased levels of activation. So do the cortical areas responsible for recognizing faces. As a result, a frightened face becomes a frightening sight; we naturally internalize the feelings of others. The brains of psychopaths, however, respond to these fearful faces with utter disinterest.

I am more inclined to take the position of Schopenhauer. For him, all individual animals, including humans, are essentially the same, being phenomenal manifestations of the one underlying Will. The word “will” designated, for him, force, power, impulse, energy, and desire; it is the closest word we have that can signify both the real essence of all external things and also our own direct, inner experience. Since everything is basically Will, then humans and animals are fundamentally the same and can recognize themselves in each other. For this reason, he claimed that a good person would have sympathy for animals, who are our fellow sufferers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer ).

Schopenhauer emphasizes the necessity of finding a basis for Ethics that appeals, not to the intellect, but to the intuitive perception (http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_the_Basis_of_Morality/Translator%27s_Introduction ). According to Schopenhauer, the end of Ethics is not to treat of that which people ought to do (for ” ought ” has no place except in theological Morals, whether explicit, or implicit)

risk perception

Risk as Analysis and Risk as Feelings: Some Thoughts about Affect, Reason, Risk, and Rationality

Paul Slovic,

Melissa L. Finucane,

Ellen Peters,

Donald G. MacGregor

Risk as Analysis and Risk as Feelings: Some Thoughts about Affect, Reason, Risk, and Rationality

  • Paul Slovic,

  • Melissa L. Finucane,

  • Ellen Peters,

  • Donald G. MacGregor

Herbert Alexander Simon

Herbert Alexander Simon (June 15, 1916 – February 9, 2001) was an American political scientist, economist, sociologist, psychologist, and professor—most notably at Carnegie Mellon University—whose research ranged across the fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive science, computer science, public administration, economics, management, philosophy of science, sociology, and political science. With almost a thousand very highly-cited publications, he was one of the most influential social […]

Herbert Alexander Simon (June 15, 1916 – February 9, 2001) was an American political scientist, economist, sociologist, psychologist, and professor—most notably at Carnegie Mellon University—whose research ranged across the fields of cognitive psychologycognitive science, computer science, public administration, economics, management, philosophy of science, sociology, and political science. With almost a thousand very highly-cited publications, he was one of the most influential social scientists of the twentieth century.[4]

Simon was among the founding fathers of several of today’s important scientific domains, including artificial intelligenceinformation processingdecision-makingproblem-solvingattention economicsorganization theorycomplex systems, and computer simulation of scientific discovery.

He coined the terms bounded rationality and satisficing, and was the first to analyze the architecture of complexity and to propose apreferential attachment mechanism to explain power law distributions.[5]

He also received many top-level honors later in life. These include: becoming a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciencesin 1959;[6] election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1967;[7] the ACM‘s Turing Award for making “basic contributions to artificial intelligence, the psychology of human cognition, and list processing” (1975); the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics “for his pioneering research into the decision-making process within economic organizations” (1978); the National Medal of Science (1986); and the APA‘s Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology (1993).

As a testament to his interdisciplinary approach, Simon was affiliated with such varied Carnegie Mellon departments as the School of Computer ScienceTepper School of Business, departments of Philosophy, Social and Decision Sciences, and Psychology. Simon received an honorary Doctor of Political science degree from University of Pavia in 1988 and an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from Harvard University in 1990.

Bounded rationality

Models of Man: Social and Rational by Herbert A. Simon Citation: Herbert A. Simon. Models of Man: Social and Rational. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1957, 279 pp. This book summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff. Models of Man: Social and Rational is, according to the author, a collection of mathematical essays […]

Models of Man: Social and Rational

by
Herbert A. Simon

Citation:

Herbert A. Simon. Models of Man: Social and Rational. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1957, 279 pp.

This book summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff.
Models of Man: Social and Rational is, according to the author, a collection of mathematical essays on rational human behaviour in a social setting. The work employs mathematical formulae in support of the authors assertions regarding human behaviour.

Models of Man: Social and Rational will be of interest to those who desire an understanding of the human component of environmental problems and solutions. Simon divides his essays into four sections, each dealing with an overarching topic. The first part is concerned with causation and influence relationships. The author offers a philosophical discussion of the causal relation and examines; causal ordering and identifiability, and spurious correlations. He concludes the first section with notes on the observation and measurement of political power and the bandwagon and under-dog effects of election predictions.

The second section of the book addresses social processes. It begins with the presentation of a formal theory of interaction in social groups. This section considers the mechanisms involved in pressures both; toward uniformity and upon deviate members. The section is concluded with an examination of skew distribution functions. The brief third section is devoted to motivation which is comprised of two essays. The first of these is a comparison of organisation theories. The second essay is a formal theory of the employment relation.

The final section of the book concerns rationality and administrative decision-making. The first three essays offer an economic perspective while the last two offer a psychological perspective. In the former category is the first essay which examines productivity and the urban/rural population balance. The author discusses the application of servomechanism theor to production control. The final essay from an economic perspective is a behaviour model of rational choice. The last essay save one examines rational choice and the structure of the environment. The final essay is a comparison of game theory and learning theory.

Models of Man: Social and Rational combines multiple perspectives, primarily philosophical, economic and psychological, to create a model for rational human behaviour in a social setting.


Administrative Behavior: a Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organization is a book written by Herbert A. Simon (1916–2001). It asserts that “decision-making is the heart of administration, and that the vocabulary of administrative theory must be derived from the logic and psychology of human choice”, and it attempts to describe administrative organizations “in a way that will provide the basis for scientific analysis”.[1]:xiii-xiv[2]:xlv-xlvi[3]:xlvii-xlviii[4]:xi The first edition was published in 1947; the second, in 1957; the third, in 1976; and the fourth, in 1997. As summarized in a 2001 obituary of Simon, the book “reject[ed] the notion of an omniscient ‘economic man’ capable of making decisions that bring the greatest benefit possible and substitut[ed] instead the idea of ‘administrative man’ who ‘satisfices—looks for a course of action that is satisfactory’”.[5] Administrative Behavior laid the foundation for the economic movement known as the Carnegie School.

The book crosses social science disciplines such as political science and economics.[6] Simon returned to some of the ideas in the book in his later works, such as The Sciences of the Artificial (1969).[6][7] The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited the book as “epoch-making” in awarding the 1978 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to Simon.[8][9] A 1990 article in Public Administration Review named it the “public administration book of the half century” (1940-1990).[10] It was voted the fifth most influential management book of the 20th century in a poll of the Fellows of the Academy of Management


Bounded rationality is the idea that in decision-making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision. It was proposed by Herbert A. Simon as an alternative basis for the mathematical modeling of decision making, as used in economics and related disciplines; it complements rationality as optimization, which views decision-making as a fully rational process of finding an optimal choice given the information available.[1] Another way to look at bounded rationality is that, because decision-makers lack the ability and resources to arrive at the optimal solution, they instead apply their rationality only after having greatly simplified the choices available. Thus the decision-maker is a satisficer, one seeking a satisfactory solution rather than the optimal one.[2] Simon used the analogy of a pair of scissors, where one blade is the “cognitive limitations” of actual humans and the other the “structures of the environment”; minds with limited cognitive resources can thus be successful by exploiting pre-existing structure and regularity in the environment.[1]

Some models of human behavior in the social sciences assume that humans can be reasonably approximated or described as “rational” entities (see for example rational choice theory). Many economics models assume that people are on average rational, and can in large enough quantities be approximated to act according to their preferences. The concept of bounded rationality revises this assumption to account for the fact that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice because of the finite computational resources available for making them.

Origins

The term is thought to have been coined by Herbert A. Simon. In Models of Man, Simon points out that most people are only partly rational, and are irrational in the remaining part of their actions. In another work, he states “boundedly rational agents experience limits in formulating and solving complex problems and in processing (receiving, storing, retrieving, transmitting) information“.[3] Simon describes a number of dimensions along which “classical” models of rationality can be made somewhat more realistic, while sticking within the vein of fairly rigorous formalization. These include:

  • Limiting the types of utility functions
  • Recognizing the costs of gathering and processing information
  • Possibility of having a “vector” or “multi-valued” utility function

Simon suggests that economic agents use heuristics to make decisions rather than a strict rigid rule of optimization. They do this because of the complexity of the situation, and their inability to process and compute the expected utility of every alternative action. Deliberation costs might be high and there are often other concurrent economic activities also requiring decisions.

Model Extensions

As decision makers have to make decisions about how and when to decide, Ariel Rubinstein proposed to model-bounded rationality by explicitly specifying decision-making procedures. This puts the study of decision procedures on the research agenda.

Gerd Gigerenzer opines that decision theorists have not really adhered to Simon’s original ideas. Rather, they have considered how decisions may be crippled by limitations to rationality, or have modeled how people might cope with their inability to optimize. Gigerenzer proposes and shows that simple heuristics often lead to better decisions than theoretically optimal procedures.

Huw Dixon later argues that it may not be necessary to analyze in detail the process of reasoning underlying bounded rationality.[4] If we believe that agents will choose an action that gets them “close” to the optimum, then we can use the notion of epsilon-optimization, that means you choose your actions so that the payoff is within epsilon of the optimum. If we define the optimum (best possible) payoff as  U^* , then the set of epsilon-optimizing options S(?) can be defined as all those options s such that:

 U(s) \geq U^*-\epsilon.

The notion of strict rationality is then a special case (?=0). The advantage of this approach is that it avoids having to specify in detail the process of reasoning, but rather simply assumes that whatever the process is, it is good enough to get near to the optimum.

From a computational point of view, decision procedures can be encoded in algorithms and heuristics. Edward Tsang argues that the effective rationality of an agent is determined by its computational intelligence. Everything else being equal, an agent that has better algorithms and heuristics could make “more rational” (more optimal) decisions than one that has poorer heuristics and algorithms.

Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman – Prize Lecture: Maps of Bounded Rationality