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Update on Matthew Hiasi February 7, 2008

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Animal Intelligence, Ethics, Nina Rosenstand's Posts.
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On Dec,6, 2007 I posted a story from Austria about Matthew Hiasi Pan (“Hearts and Minds of Chimps”) who was about to be sold into an unknown future. Matthew Hiasi is a chimpanzee, and supporters have argued that he should be granted human status, as opposed to being legally classified as a thing. In Austria there are only those two legal options. Some of you may have wondered what happened to him: In mid-January the Austrian Supreme Court decided against Hiasi: He has been found to be a thing, with no rights. His British mentor is taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The trouble with the court ruling seems to be that the court has decided against making a distinction between “humanity” and “personhood.” It goes without saying that Hiasi is not a human being, genetically, but being a “person” requires (among other characteristics) the capacity for meaningful communication, a sense of purpose, and self-awareness, characteristics that apes share with us at least to some extent, as the stories of Washoe, Koko, Kanzi and Panbanisha have shown us. Even Kant finally came to the conclusion that there ought to be an intermediate category between a person and a thing (although he didn’t include animals in that category). Apparently it is too much of a challenge for the Austrian Supreme Court to consider the possibility of partial personhood.

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1. Moriae - February 7, 2008

One could defend this chimp with a simple comparison. Since this chimp isn’t likely planning the death of other chimps (or people) in order to get seventy-two virgin chimps in the great jungle in the sky, it would seem he has already proved to be a better man than most other men.


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