If we should take babies seriously, should we not take pigs seriously too?

“A baby seems to me to be no more capable of reason than a pig or a cow. These mammals seem to have wills. They also non-verbally communicate their desires and often require human assistance in order to meet their basic needs. If we should take babies seriously, does it follow that we should take pigs seriously too?”

Next you’ll be advocating eating babies. 🙂

Babies and pigs are nothing like alike. Even on the day of birth, a baby seems nothing like a pig to me. When my first baby was first born she looked directly into my eyes and smiled. There was humanity and reason in her eyes.

Babies are obviously nothing like pigs, because fast forward a year or two and one is talking to you whereas the other never will. And they are talking to you because of something that happened in that year or two, and it isn’t something that happens in pigs, ever. This is not a small difference, it is a radical difference.

What is also interesting is that there are things that the pigs can do that babies can’t. A pig can do everything it can do in its life within months of its birth, including walking and feeding. Humans have to learn these skills over a much longer period than pigs, even though in the distant past, our ancestors had their full repertoire built in just like pigs have it built in. Why is that? It is because in humans, all sorts of functions that in other animals are controlled by genes are instead controlled by ideas. So they have to be learnt. And everyone learns them in a slightly different way. Everybody learns slightly different speaking. Nobody learns the exact same meaning of words, and nobody speaks language in exactly the same way.

If what you have in mind is the idea that adults or older children have reason but babies do not, that idea makes no sense. How does reason get switched on, and when? The fact that a baby learns to talk means that the baby must have been making inexplicit conjectures about what things mean and what we call different things in order to learn language, and they are learning vastly more than just the words they can speak. Pigs do none of this. All their knowledge is built into their genes.

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘If we should take babies seriously, should we not take pigs seriously too?’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/if-we-should-take-babies-seriously-should-we-not-take-pigs-seriously-too/

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