Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"In Defense of Dolphins"

Thomas I. White is the Hilton Professor of Business Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. His publications include five books (Right and Wrong, Discovering Philosophy, Business Ethics, Men and Women at Work and In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier) and numerous articles on topics ranging from sixteenth-century Renaissance humanism to business ethics.

He applied the Page 69 Test to In Defense of Dolphins and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of In Defense of Dolphins? Well, yes and no.

The book argues that the scientific evidence is now strong enough to support the claim that dolphins are, like humans, self-aware, intelligent beings with emotions, personalities and the capacity to control their actions. Dolphins should thus be regarded as “nonhuman persons” and valued as individuals. Accordingly, from an ethical perspective, the injury, deaths and captivity of dolphins at the hands of humans are wrong. Looking at everything from the structure of the dolphin brain, to cetacean emotional abilities and social intelligence, and the implications of the fact that humans and dolphins have dramatically different evolutionary histories, the book explores the idea that, in the person of dolphins, humans have truly encountered an “alien intelligence.”

Page 69 describes a scientific study that suggests that dolphins possess what psychologists call a “theory of mind” — that is, the very sophisticated ability to recognize the existence of other minds. So the page is representative in that it details some important findings about dolphins’ intellectual abilities. However, the page is not representative of what I consider to be one of the book’s main virtues — discussion of the philosophical (and especially ethical) significance of such research in a commonsense way. In this case, for example, having such advanced abilities supports the idea that dolphins are a “who,” not a “what.” That is, they experience life in a way that approximates ours, are entitled to “moral standing” and, therefore, recognition of their special status and appropriate treatment.
Read a sample chapter and learn more about In Defense of Dolphins at the book's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue