Monday, July 20, 2009

Do Feral Children have Language, Rights?

In May, the BBC reported on a Siberian child 'raised by dogs.' According to the article:
Russian officials have taken a five-year-old Siberian girl into care, saying that... "For five years, the girl was 'brought up' by several dogs and cats and had never been outside"... The police said the girl had managed to master "animal language only", but seemed able to understand Russian.
Do many Siberians believe "animals" can speak a "language?" Many US linguists and philosophers would call such beliefs naive. And what is "animal language?" Is there a universal language all (nonhuman) animals are thought to share? Doesn't that suggest a break between humans and animals at the same time a continuity exits (i.e. language)?

In an essay "Feral Selves and Familiar Others," Peter Steeves briefly speculates that the ability of feral children to be socialized as a member of a different species suggests that in some ways many dogs are able to be sociallized into humans--a becoming-human if you will--(as are some other "pets" like monkeys).

One must wonder whether a feral child is entitled to less rights than a human socialized child because he is "only an animal." Or do we admit the (racist) importance of genetic heritage to moral considerability? At the very least, ought we not morally consider all animals who can potentially be socialized as humans just as we do with infants?

No comments:

Post a Comment