What is Wrong with Eating Meat

In light of all the jokes about dead turkeys I have had to endure in the last week or so I started thinking about what it is exactly that is wrong with eating meat.

Is there something that is morally unacceptable about eating meat? This is a very interesting question, and having been raised as a vegetarian I have always felt that the answer is a resounding YES! I have argued elsewhere  that eating meat is something that at least needs to have an argument in its favor and that the typical arguments given as to why it is OK to eat meat horribly fail to work. But let me take another look at this issue.

Utilitarianism does not have much to say on this question. The modern Singer-ish view is that it is suffering that matters, the killing and eating are not the morally relevant properties. So, as Singer himself admits, were it possible to kill the animal in a way that did not cause it to suffer then there would be nothing morally wrong with doing so. Suppose that we raised cows on a beautiful farm and delighted their cow senses in all ways science prescribes. We let them live rather long lives, in an open pasture, with their families. Then one night when the cow is asleep we simply come and painlessly kill it.  The cow experiences no pain, and we cannot really say that it suffers in the sense that it will not get to enjoy its life tomorrow because it is not the kind of animal that can have these sophisticated kinds of suffering (they require, as Singer is right to point out, higher mental capacities), nor, because of this can we say that the other cows will suffer very much, or even at all, due to the dead cow’s being absent. If this could be arranged then what, according to utilitarianism, is wrong with butchering the cow and eating it? You might even say that it is better that the cow live this kind of life than no life at all, and so it is morally laudable to raise and slaughter cows in this manner. Singer’s response is to point out that this would severely limit the kinds of killing allowed; so much so in fact that it would rule out the kind of slaughter-house meat industry we now have. It may be the case that Singer is here taking a ‘let’s fix the serious problem first’ kind of attitude, because after all we know that the meat industry is producing a huge amount of animal suffering or it may be the case that he is simply acknowledging a consequence of his theory that he is willing to live with. At any rate there are those who think that there is still something wrong with the cow killing I described earlier. These people are attracted to Regan’s position that makes appeal not to utilitarianism but to Kant.

Regan’s view is that we are forbidden to treat animals as simply means to our ends. This is because to do so is to violate their rights. They have, Regen argues, the right to live in virtue of the fact that they are the subject of a life. To be the subject of a life is to have experience such that it matters to you what happens to you. That animals express preferences is evidence that they are subjects of a life and so they have the right to live. We know that cows must have this right on Regan’s account, because to deny that cows have it is to deny that infants do. So, on Regan’s view all subjects of a life have what Kant called value beyond compare, or dignity. A lot of people balk at this point because of intuitions about what it takes to have a right.

I have argued that we can get the same results that Regen wants without having to say that animals thereby have a right to be treated in certain ways. Rather what we argue is that we, as moral agents, have duties towards animals in spite of the fact that they don’t have rights. These obligations towards animals are grounded in the two concerns that Regen and Singer each point to. We ought not to cause animals to suffer because suffering matters, we also ought not to kill them, even painlessly, because their life matters to them. It is not that they (the animals) recognize this that makes it important. It is the fact that we recognize, through our ability to universalize, that we cannot but help but contradict ourselves when we make it be the case that sentient beings are used simply as a means because that would entail that we, as sentient beings, could be treated that way. No, as Kant rightly points out, we want it to remain the case that we cannot treat sentient beings in certain ways but then make an exception to that universal rule (in the case of nonhuman animals).

So the critics of Regen (I’m looking at you Cohen-lovers) are right that animals lack the capacity for morality (though there may be rudiments there, to be sure I think there are) because they lack the ability to apply general rules to particular situations. But wecan do this, and doing so reveals to us that we are obligated to treat sentient beings in certain ways. Thus we get Singer’s prohibition against suffering. Then we can argue about what we are to count as sentient (insects? Plants? Etc..) but we know that cows are and so we have an obligation not to cause them unnecessary suffering. We can similarly get Regen’s intuition via universalization arguments. We cannot will that it is morally acceptable to take the life of a creature who prefers to live because that would mean that someone could take my life even when I prefer to live and that can’t be right. No, we of course want murder to remain immoral, but we want to make an exception in this case (nonhuman animals). None of this suggests that animals have rights, that is none of this suggests that animals make claims on us.  We make claims on ourselves; morality is a law that we give unto ourselves. It is literally irrational to act immorally and to the degree that we respect reason we respect morality.

All of this is very well and good but all that it says is that we ought not to kill animals in order to eat them. Why can’t we be like some Buddhists who argue that if the animal dies of natural causes it is OK to eat it? Thus we finally arrive at the question we have been considering. Is there something morally wrong with eating meat? So far in answering this we have found instead that there is something morally wrong with causing suffering, and with treating animals as a means only. But if we avoid doing this and we still end up with some meat, should we be allowed to eat it? It is hard to see how you would be harming the animal, and overcoming its preference to live was caused by something that you were unrelated to (I hope!). It is helpful to think about this in the human case. Why don’t we want to eat people who accidentally demise? Besides the obvious answer that we don’t need to because of all the animals that we eat, the point here is that even so we would think there was something wrong about it. No doubt we could get over it, we know that there are and have been cannibals, but we would still feel that something was wrong (as evidenced by the fact that it normally takes desperate situations to even get people to consider this option). So what is going on?

One natural kind of thing to think is that we somehow don’t respect that person as a person when we consume them. We feel as though we are treating their body simply as a means to our ends, i.e. whatever we use the energy derived from their flesh to do. You turn that person completely and ultimately into a thing when you eat it. Now of course I understand that there have been cultures where eating someone is not thought disrespectful in this way but rather seen as a way to make the deceased person a part if you in a very intimate way. Notice however that this is implicitly the same thing as I have been saying in that it acknowledges that you ought not treat the body simply as a means (to get nourished or gustatory delight). You eat the body out of a profound sense of respect, with a sense that they are becoming one with you. I think there is an interesting question here about  whether or not there is a way to determine what the correct answer is in this respect.

So if this is right we can say that the reason it is wrong to eat meat is because it fails to be universalizable, which surely is a basic requirement for what counts as moral. If something remotely like physicalism is true then eating the person’s body is eating the person, and so we are treating them as a means only. Granted they are dead and it probably does not matter to them (or maybe, as Nagel has argued, you can harm the dead) you still use them as a means. This may actually be the psychological reason that people feel compelled to respect the dead (i.e. the body). They want to respect the person, as they want to be respected. This is the sense that you cannot but help to notice that you are eating that person. Now if we grant the likely hypothesis that animals are very much like us in certain respects (yes, yes, I know NOT ALL!) then to the respect that they are like us is to the respect that we ought not to eat their flesh as purely a means to get nourishment or even worse gustatory delight.

Notice also that if we did the above mentioned kind of cow slaughter it would be very likely that we would become attached to the animal and this would further make it evident that we were eating an individual.  On this view it is wrong to eat flesh because you treat the creature whose flesh it is simply as a means to nourishment.

One objection may be that on this view it seems possible that there be a person who would not mind being eaten after he was dead. So it is not the case that we are talking about something truly universilizablile. Not everyone will see that they simply want to make an exception of themselves to a general moral rule. They may be convinced that there is more to the person than the body (I doubt this, but even so remember that in most major religions you will get your body back (i.e. in the resurrection)) or they may think that even if the person is their body, when it stops working and you are dead there is no longer any reason for you to care what happens to you. Each of these critics agree that in some sense the person is no longer there and so you are not using them as a means. Sure you are using the body, but not the person so why should you care if that happens to your body when you die? Do you feel that way about your car? To see that you don’t imagine that your kids had your body stuffed and mounted in their living room simply because they thought that it made the room look nicer and perked them up as well. It seems to me that this is imply a case where they treat the body in a disrespectful way. Not because they harm the person who used to be (in) that body but because the person who does it sees that they are using the person strictly as a means. They are not respecting the person who that body belonged to. So if one buys this line of argument, have we arrived at the conclusion that it is immoral to eat meat?

There is a further wrinkle. Scientists are now starting to make cloned meat in laboratories. This meat is cloned from a few animal cells and so it seems as though a vegetarian should not have a problem with it. The problem here is that the texture of the artificial flesh is not like that of regular meat because the muscle is not exercised. So what they do now is to stretch the cultured meat over a think flexible sheet and grow it in layers. They then try to stack those layers. Alternatively they have tried to grow it in little balls that expand and contract. It looks like they will have to just build artificial legs and grow the meat on that. Next thing you will now they will say that they need to add some regulatory functions to the legs to let them run on their own. Pretty soon it looks like what you are saying is that in order to cultivate meat you need to cultivate a cow. If that turns out to be the case then lab meat is just as bad. But what if it doesn’t? What if they can grow it on artificial legs that are controlled by very simple brain stem-ish mechanisms? Just the body without any of the other things that make cows alike to the way that we are. Could we eat it then? I don’t know that we would. Again it is useful to consider the human case as an analogy. Would we allow people to grow human cultured bodies that were run by the computer equivalent of a brain stem? If not why not?

Shsesh! That turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be!!!! Guess I better get to actually doing some grading!

94 thoughts on “What is Wrong with Eating Meat

  1. Well as a meat eater, I agree that there should be minimum suffering when it comes to the slaughtering(ugly word),of farm animals for food. But what are your thoughts on killing animals,as in the mass killing of the birds in China during the bird flu pandemic and killing the cows in Europe during the mad cow outbreak? Should they not have been given medical care instead? I’m being a bit obtuse right now professor but I don’t believe in
    absolutisms when it comes to certain moral issues. I wanted to ask professor Singer, and are those leather shoes you’re wearing? :)

  2. HI CHRISSYSNOW, thanks for the comment!

    Well, Singer isn’t committed to saying that all killing of animals is unjustified (neither is all killing of humans). He is a utilitarian, so he thinks that the action that maximizes the interests of sentient creatures is the right action. So there will be plenty of times when the morally correct action will involve killing an animal. His point is that we cannot automatically assume that animals don’t matter…he certainly isn’t an absolutist on this issue!

    So for Singer it is conceivable (I do not know for sure) that he would be ok with those killings, or with wearing leather shoes. That is a perfectly consistent utilitarian position.

    My own view about the leather shoe issue is that we shouldn’t do it, but because of socio-economic reasons some people cannot avoid it. In those cases it seems to me that it is an excusable act. The much, much, much, more important issue is the one of the attitude of the average person which tollerates and implicitly endorses the factory farming of animals that we currently have.

  3. You say:
    “But we can do this, and doing so reveals to us that we are obligated to treat sentient beings in certain ways. ”

    Whoa whoa whoa. Non sequitor my friend. You have not shown that being capable of applying moral rules means we are obligated to all other living beings (or even sentient ones, in the strictest definition). You are assuming as truth what you are trying to prove. That’s just sloppy.

    I have no moral prohibition against killing animals for my clothes or food. For one they are substantially different from other humans and thus can be categorized and dealt with in a different manner. What is immoral to do to a neighbor has no bearing on what I can morally due to a pig. The pig has no morality outside the illusory one that is created from group dynamics and rule structures. The pig is not a human so it does not cause me to have a moral obligation. The pig is not a moral agent, so again no obligation. I have no obligation or moral principal against the suffering of the animal. I may have an emotional response if I have grown attached to it, but that is all.

    You say that universalizability, which you seem to substitute for irrational Anthropomorphizing at times, is neccesary for a moral rule. This is absurd as such simplistic and un-nuanced morality is not only childish but ultimately destructive. Lying is always wrong? So I should tell the murderer where his target is? You cannot take “murder is wrong” and use this fallacy of universalizability to make it apply to animals.

    I’ll stop eating meat when you animals develop a civilization. Until then I can and will automatically assume animals don’t matter.

  4. Hi Jimmy_D,

    ” You are assuming as truth what you are trying to prove. That’s just sloppy.”

    Uh, no, I was refferring back to a previous post where I argued for teh claim that I was making…that’s not sloppy. You should have read the otehr post before crying foul. That’s just lazy.

    “I have no moral prohibition against killing animals for my clothes or food.”

    You may not feel the force of the obligations that you have, but that is so much the worse for your moral character.

    “For one they are substantially different from other humans and thus can be categorized and dealt with in a different manner.”

    Now this is a non sequitor! No one is denying that animals are different than humans or that they can be categorized and dealt with is a different manner. But even though this is true it doesn’t follow at all that we are allowed to kill them for food or clothing! You need to take an ethics course.

    “What is immoral to do to a neighbor has no bearing on what I can morally due to a pig.”

    Do you have an argument for this or do you just like to assert falsehoods for fun? Obviously the pig and your neighbor have relevant similarities (liek that they feel pain). No one is saying that they are the same in all respects; but they are the same in some relevant respects (though not all obviously).

    “The pig has no morality outside the illusory one that is created from group dynamics and rule structures. The pig is not a human so it does not cause me to have a moral obligation. The pig is not a moral agent, so again no obligation. I have no obligation or moral principal against the suffering of the animal. I may have an emotional response if I have grown attached to it, but that is all.”

    Wow, this is ignorant! As a human you have a general obligation not to cause unneccessary suffering. Animal can suffer. So, you have an obligation not to cause them to suffer unneccesarily. The ways in which we currently get our meat and fur cause animals unneccessary suffering, thus you have an obligation not to engage in those activities or those which support it. Ou obligations to animals follow from facts about animals ability to feel pain. Why does it matter if they are people or moral agents? You haven’t given any reason to think that your view is true. All you have done is to say ‘they aren’t poeple so they don’t matter’. But why doesn’t their pain matter? It matters in the human case, right? So why does the pain of non-persons matter less than the pain of people? Only a monster could think that the pain of non-persons is less important!

    “You say that universalizability, which you seem to substitute for irrational Anthropomorphizing at times, is neccesary for a moral rule. This is absurd as such simplistic and un-nuanced morality is not only childish but ultimately destructive. Lying is always wrong? So I should tell the murderer where his target is?”

    Things are not as simplstic as you would likk them to be. According to me (and Kant), telling an un-truth to the murder isn’t lying, since it is a justifed falsehood.

    I’ll stop eating meat when you animals develop a civilization. Until then I can and will automatically assume animals don’t matter.”

    Wow, you sound like a real asshole! That’s exactly the kind of thing white assholes said to justify enslaving blacks back in the day. Why does having a civilization matter? You still haven’t given any reason that we should disregard their suffering.

    • “As a human you have a general obligation not to cause unneccessary suffering. Animal can suffer. So, you have an obligation not to cause them to suffer unneccesarily.”

      Says who? Show me where this is written in the Homo Sapien instruction manual. I have no obligation to do anything. If I so choose, I can rampage and destroy whatever life I want to see die on the grounds that I have a greater level of intelligence and control over my surroundings, therefore I am fittest for survival within the constructs of the current environment. Disagree? Then stop me. Man is capable of anything he wants, and to believe that invisible obligations exist to prevent him from doing so is to live in a fantasy world.

        • I am engaging in an argument. I believe that, taking away the lens of human perspective, that everything we do is completely natural simply because we live on this planet. Our “synthetic” materials are still made from things we found on this planet. So what if we then use them to blow each other and everything else up?

          I will not disagree with your sentiment that I am an asshole. I question myself as to why I am that way, but so far have not come up with any answers!

        • I don’t think that you know what an argument is. You are making assertions (“I believe…”) what I want is a reason fro thinking that what you are saying is true. I gave you a reason fro thinking what I said is true (i.e. that there is a logical contradiction entailed by the claims that you are making)…

          Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery! ;)

        • That’s because for all matters philosophical, 2+2 might as well = cheese. There is no logic or morality to anything. It’s all made up and applied by humans to blanket the world with ideas like those of Berkeley or Plato. I see it as a matter of opinion. Only thing is, I have much more evidence to support my argument based on the reality of the world we live in. Any notion of “immorality” in killing animals, for any purpose, can easily be defeated by simply examining nature.

        • You seem to contradict yourself. On the one hand you seem to think that everything is an opinion which would make your view just an opinion (and so not really true)…but on the other hand you seem to think that you actually have the right view…both of these can’t be true at the same time. So which is it?

  5. Hmmm,
    I’m a staunch meat eater; every time I try to think about not eating meat I just kind of come up with a blank. Sure I don’t like the idea of animals (or anyone) suffering, but I disconnect the suffering from my omnivorous habits.

    Perhaps the best way I can respond to your argument is to take up your suggestion, “Now of course I understand that there have been cultures where eating someone is not thought disrespectful in this way but rather seen as a way to make the deceased person a part if you in a very intimate way.”

    I’d change this sentence such that it did not refer to people but to animals: I respect animals and eating them is not a violation of some sort but a way to incorporate them. (The same would hold for plants.) These are the things that our bodies somehow convert into life; it’s near alchemy how our body converts food into our living structures. Sure people have a general understanding of what is going on, but no one anywhere has the full story of how what we eat becomes what we are (I’d love to see someone try to explain how food becomes memory).

    Along the same line of thought, though I have never done so, I believe that I would kill my own food. I am not one of those who is happy to eat meat but not willing to do what is necessary to eat it. Killing and growing your own food is a ritual that we have become increasingly disconnected with in modern times. The whole process of hunting and growing to eating and living is not anything to be ashamed of, as long as it is done with a respect for nature. I like to think that I am in the Native American / animistic tradition.

    Of course this does not excuse me from blatantly enjoying food from meat factories that treat animals like commodities, but I see no problem in being a respectful meat eater in general.

    (On a side note, this notion of process and ritual is how I get away from cannibalism too. Killing a person and then eating them is a ritual I would have no part in.)

    And good on you for giving such a nice response to that loudmouth.

  6. Hi Noah, thanks for the support.

    Yeah, I think I have to agree with you that as long as one is respectful and the animal doesn’t suffer then there is nothing wrong with killing it and eating it, but as I say then the same should apply to humans as well. Though YOU may not have a part in that process/ritual you cannot blame OTHERS who do choose to be a part of it, right?

  7. Hi,

    No, I can’t say I have a problem with the few tribes left in world who are cannibals. I think there are a few out in Indonesia and as long as they keep to themselves, we should leave them be.

    As for the Hannibal Lecters, my major problem is the murder part of it. I have no desire to eat people but I have a much more serious revulsion at the idea of killing and killing a person for food. Something about the worth of a human life precludes using a person as food. Our culture values people very highly and hence someone from our culture that kills and eats people is sick, not traditional. If they were traditional then they would leave, not kill and eat people they didn’t like.

  8. Yeah, I pretty much agree with what you say here. As long as people are consistent in the way that you are that is fine. Most people are nowhere near as consitent as you, though!!!

    Also, what about that recent case in Germany? The guy he ate wanted to be eaten, and the report I link to estimates about 10,000 people in Germany have cannibalism fetishes…notice also that the German cannibal cites ‘wanting the other person to become part of him’ as a reason for wanting to eat him.

  9. I remember this story.

    I think that Western culture has been dominated by Christianity for a long time and this has lead to a neglect of things that other cultures may do better at, specifically dealing with nature: the whole “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground,” can be a bit much. The fetish is a reaction against this tradition of dominating nature instead of being part of it.

    I don’t mean to minimize what these people feel by calling it a reaction though: the fetish is a reaction, the desire that they have to deal with their world differently is legitimate. The fetish may be the only way that they have to express their general frustration. With repression comes more extreme reactions and I see cannibalism as somewhat extreme.

    The notions of using your enemy’s (or a virgin’s) blood as a source of strength and getting someone’s power by defeating them are still quite prevalent nowadays, especially in fantasy stories. My guess is that some concept of essences is at work here and add in intimacy and trust issues and it becomes less surprising to see this sort of thing being discussed (don’t forget the automatic internet multiplier- if taboo, multiply by 4 million).

    As for the guys who actually went through with it, I don’t know. That bit about Hansel and Gretel…….

  10. I just got back from Alaska… I had to strongly resist the urge to buy the T-shirt that said:

    “Remember to bring a compass because it is awkward to have to eat your friends.”

  11. Something about the worth of a human life precludes using a person as food.

    Ah, here is thing missing assumption! What is this ‘something’ and where is the argument that animals lack it?

  12. Ahh, the worth of a human life. Good question! A few things to take note of…

    One of my first thoughts I can think of refers back to the end of Terminator 2 when the Terminator (Arnold) shakes Sarah Connor’s hand. Both of them worked as hard as they could, both nearly losing their lives (?), in order to save John Conner from the T1000 and to prevent judgment day (world annihilation). That was their mutual mission and neither would have been successful without the effort of the other.

    Some things we cannot accomplish without the help of another person (or lots of people). Ending poverty, starvation, war etc. will obviously never be accomplished without people working together. Sometimes just saving one person’s life requires all the effort two people can give. An animal may be useful in these situations, but it wouldn’t make any difference how many animals you had at your disposal if what you need is a person to pull you to safety or pat you on the back (think the choking scene with the priest and billy zane in The 5th Element. In fact I’ve actually been sitting with 2 friends when one started choking on a sucking candy. Luckily my other friend realized what was happening and performed the Heimlich maneuver.).

    But so what? You ask what the worth of a human life is, with respect to another organisms life.

    In my view, there is no pleasure in this world that can be found purely in the material. I could have all the greatest food, the best house, all the money, etc., but this isn’t what makes you happy (though it does make it easier). If you want to be happy, you need to share your life with other people.

    No animal can give you this. Sure, a pet may act as a good substitute. You can get a lot of pleasure out of keeping dogs, cats, or whatever, and many people consider them part of their families. But there is a limit to the shared experiences that you can have when only dealing with non-human animals.

    One of the biggest deficiencies, as I noted above, is what we can accomplish. Yes, an animal may assist you in some task, and they may even have a some understanding of what is going on (I once heard of a police horse, after chasing a criminal one day, blocked in a car driven by the criminal the next day and did not budge until the officer realized what was going on.) but these cases are limited (and almost never involve animals we eat- see ‘Zlateh the Goat’ by IB Singer (highly reccomended), or ‘Babe’ the movie for the only instances I can think of, both fiction). So there is little accomplishment without reference to other people. Without accomplishment or achievement, I find it hard to be happy.

    The case where my friend almost died because of a piece of candy stuck in his throat also illustrates how much we rely upon other people for getting through the day. We can barely get by sometimes without help only other people can give. He was a good friend of mine at the time, lots of fun, and if he died then, almost needless to say, it would have made me miserable.

    So the difference between a human life and an animal’s is that our happiness and safety are tied to other humans in ways that cannot be made with non-human organisms. I do not deny that animals may play a significant role in our lives, but there is a limit to what we can accomplish and enjoy without another person.

  13. I’m sure they do. I know even trees of the same species communicate by releasing chemicals into the air when under attack so that nearby trees will start taking defensive action.

    However, you asked me what was different about the worth of a human life as compared to an animal life, and I said that there were benefits that other people provide that make their lives worth more to me.

    I don’t think the way animals live is germane to the reasons why I don’t kill people. I was arguing that I am repulsed by the idea of killing people because of the relationship I have with other people that I don’t have with other animals. Anything else the animals do is irrelevant to this specific point,

    I agree that the way animals live is relevant to the overarching argument about eating meat. The fact that their lives are very much like ours is one of the reason I am respectful of animals. However, insofar as I maintain this respect as argued above, I don’t see why I can’t eat meat.

  14. The question is not whether you can eat it or not; I have conceeded that there is nothing wrong with your repesct-based defense of eating meat. What I deny is that you have given any reason for thinking that it is morally acceptable to kill an animal in order to get the meat. When I asked for some reason you started talking about the social behavior of humans which doesn’t do any work for you, as you sem to acknowledge. So I’ll ask again: Why is it ok (according to you) to kill an animal in order to get its meat while it is not ok to killa human to get its meat?

  15. I’m sorry I forgot about the concession about eating meat.

    It’s not ok to kill a human because of the special relations we have with other humans. I believe humans are worth more to us alive than the nutrition we would get from them dead. That’s what I was trying to make clear in my second to last post.

    Killing animals (and plants) is not morally reprehensible because our lives depend upon consuming nutrients we do not make ourselves; it is basic survival.

    I need a bit of clarification here though:

    If you make the claim that things that rely upon each other mutatis mutandis in the ways I described 4 posts ago, then how do you allow for the killing of plants, insects and other life forms? We still have to eat, and if you say that anything that has such an integrated life should be excluded, then I believe you may have cast your net too wide such that there is nothing for us left. All animals, insects and plants have complex interconnected lives.

    So I need to know a better way you make the distinction between plants, animals, insects and any other living things to know how to better respond. The distinction I drew for killing was only between humans and everything else. I know you said something about sentience, but that is very different than this last distinction about animals relying on each other.

  16. “I believe humans are worth more to us alive than the nutrition we would get from them dead.”

    So, what about the infirm? The elderly? The homeless? Porr people? We can eat those that are not worth more alive, right?

    Killing animals (and plants) is not morally reprehensible because our lives depend upon consuming nutrients we do not make ourselves; it is basic survival.

    Of course we have to eat something but we can survuve without eating meat so we need some reason to eat them. Plants are not sentient so there is no harm in eating them…the same may be true for some insetcs. Just how far down this goes is an open empirical question. I agree that IF the only way to survive were to kill and eat an animal then we would be morally excused for doing so.

  17. I think we have a problem of scale here. Human life is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy off the value chart for me compared to animals. Whatever difference you might think there is between the infirm, elderly etc. and healthy folk is really, for all my purposes here, infinitesimal. I can conceive of no situation, save something out of a horror film, such that people are somehow going to be worth more dead.

    The reason I asked for the last clarification was to see your response when it came to nutrition. I recall a scene from the Matrix in which they crew of the ship is eating some engineered slop full of nutrients. It looks like if sentience is a bit more widespread than you believe, than this is your future- a daily pill and no more. (I actually feel I am on the side of the animals here- I think that they are smarter than we give them credit for and that we overvalue our own intelligence. Hence if I had your view, I’d immediately have to eat only vegetables, just to err on the side of caution.)

    Now, I am respectful of animals when I eat them, but I don’t buy your argument that because we can assume that they value their lives through some theory of sentience we are obligated not to take their lives. As far as I am concerned, sentience is irrelevant.

    I value mutual enrichment of each other, which is why humans rank so high (nature is also way up there).

    Now enriching my life includes having a good time with friends, trying new things and other general debauchery. Part of this is trying new foods. You may be aghast and say I am back at using animals to my ends, but I don’t think that is accurate.

    I am not using the animals for mere gustatory delight. I respect them and nature and I want to leave nature in better shape than I found it. So the interactions I have with other people and the world is shaped by my relation to what I eat. Dining is best as an occasion shared with others and how that food arrived at the table is not separate, it is part of the occasion. I did mention the notion of ritual in my original comment above to go to this exact point: I don’t take the death of the animal to be separate from my experience of eating it.

    (This is probably why I was previously confused about who understood and argued what. I conflate the act of killing and eating such that I appreciate what I have more, but it made me miss the force of your arguments. I apologize for my shoddy arguing- I knew my position and didn’t account for its consequences.)

    I think that your view would remove something valuable from my life and the world. Sure, we can have a good time and eat lots of good food and none of that food has to come from animals. But we lose all of that culture that does involve killing and eating animals. You may say good riddance, but since I don’t find ethical consequences in the property of sentience, it seems to me that I am giving up something for nothing.

  18. I think we have a problem of scale here. Human life is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy off the value chart for me compared to animals.

    You say that, but the trouble is nothing in yoour argument supports this conclusion. You argued that humans are more valuable alive than used as food; how does that get you this very strong conclusion? It can’t be because of the utility that every human has since that is clearly not true. So your defense fails.

    As far as I am concerned, sentience is irrelevant.

    Again, this is easy to sya but where is the argument? Why is sentience irrelevant? It seems quite obviously top be relevant. Suffering is bad; we should therefore try to minimize suffering. How is this line of reasoning irrelevant?

    Besides this you are quite clearly contradicting yourself. You say that sentience is not morally relevant but then you say “Now enriching my life includes having a good time with friends, trying new things and other general debauchery,” so clearly sentience plays a role in your argument for the value of human life. Perhaps you are right to point out that this is not bearing all of the weight in your argument, but without sentience your argument doesn’t go through at all. If animals are capable of anything remotley like what you are (and you have admitted that they are) then by killing them you deprive them of something valuable, something that you yourself do not want to be deprived of…so again your defense fails.

    As far as I can see there is no way to justify the killing of animals for food. Nice try though.

  19. On your first point:

    I agree that nothing about utility gets me where I want to be, but I’m not a utilitarian so this isn’t a problem.

    I regard the enrichment of life as fundamental, and this is why I put such a high value on human life: pretty much the the only way to have a rich life is with other people.

    Insofar as it is fundamental, I don’t think it needs much argument to back it up. Granted, I am pretty sure I am outside of consequentialism, deontology or virtue ethics, so the onus is on me to explain myself. Maybe one day I’ll get around to writing an ethics. If you have any thoughts about having an ethics based upon the enrichment of life, I’d sure like to hear them.

    On the second point:

    You are right that what I said was over the top. I was getting frustrated trying to make myself clear. What I should have said was that sentience doesn’t play a role in my thought about this stuff because I don’t regard it as the fundamental thing that is going on. It is incidental, not fundamental.

    As for killing animals, it is not for food, but for the overall experience, which I put a premium on. I do feel bad about killing something that is sentient, but not enough to completely forgo the loss of the experience.

    I’m going to have to concede something here. I still want to be able to eat meat on occasion, as an occasion. Insofar as animals are so much farther lower down on my scale of worth, I don’t feel all that bad about killing a just few. So to stay consistent, I ought to cut back.

    As for not allowing something to happen to others that I wouldn’t let happen to myself, I think this only applies to other humans. Animals are different enough to my mind, according to how much they enrich our world, that, regardless of the property of sentience, it is not wrong to kill and eat them every so often.

    Perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree at this point.

    (and thanks, I do think it was a damn good try. I had to go outside all of the ethical theories that I knew to even try to mount a response. I’m actually quite pleased with myself, even if I don’t convince you that I’m allowed to have my steak, even if only once and a while.)

  20. I regard the enrichment of life as fundamental, and this is why I put such a high value on human life: pretty much the the only way to have a rich life is with other people.

    The same is true of animals so, again, you haven’t distinguished human life from animal life.

    As for killing animals, it is not for food, but for the overall experience, which I put a premium on. I do feel bad about killing something that is sentient, but not enough to completely forgo the loss of the experience.

    I’m sure the Jeff dhamer’s of the world feel exactly the same way

    Insofar as animals are so much farther lower down on my scale of worth, I don’t feel all that bad about killing a just few.

    Animals are different enough to my mind, according to how much they enrich our world, that, regardless of the property of sentience, it is not wrong to kill and eat them every so often.

    Imagine someone who said this about, for instance, women or blacks. They are just so far down on MY scale of worth that I don’t feel bad raping/murding just a few, since I value the experience/ritual. This is clearly an abhorrent thing to say (I’m sure you agree). I suppose you would claim that because these are persons it is different, but we can imagine someone who has a different scale of value. In short you haven’t given any reason that a person should accept your claim about ALL humans having value (your argument is that only the ones that enrich your life are valuable, our imagine person may simply respond that women/blacks don’t enrich his life, or at least that they don’t enough to matter).

    Besides this, my point was that animals have lives which can be enriched in mostly the same ways as our lives can be. If so then your ethics of life enrichment should apply to them as well…at least you haven’t given any reason to think otherwise. You seem very focused on enriching human life, but why? What is it about animal life that makes it such that it shouldn’t be enriched?

    Perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree at this point.

    Afraid I can’t do that. That like me agreeing to disagree about whether you could rape ‘once in a while’…not going to happen. What you need is a good argument that what you are doing is morally permissible; you haven’t given that and I won’t excuse you on a promisary note!

    I’m actually quite pleased with myself, even if I don’t convince you that I’m allowed to have my steak, even if only once and a while.)

    I don’t care if you have your steak (as I have said, I think the result of the investigation of the original post is that eating meat is morally acceptable but NOT killing in order to get it. So have your steak…just wait for the cow to die of natural causes then respectfully absorb it all you want!!

  21. As for the rapists and racists of the world, my system is based upon mutual enrichment, while they clearly are taking something for themselves only. So all these sorts of things fail.

    If someone were to say that some minority didn’t enrich his or her life and hence it was ok for them to do bad things, well I’d compliment them on their superior grasp of ethical theory and pity them for their absolute ignorance about anything else. I don’t think I have to give a reason for the innate worth of all humans. If you are the type of person who needs to appeal to a theory to know the value of human life, you are a pretty pitiful person. (Oh look at that person from country X. How should I treat them? Let me consult my chart….)

    As for the Jeff Dhamers and Hannibal Lecters of the world, they come out even worse. They destroy the potential for mutual enrichment for a transitory pleasure of their own. They are the biggest sickos.

    As for moral permissibility, my theory says that the goal is to enrich my and other people’s lives, and having a good meal goes to this. Since a good meal with friends enriches our lives, it is permissible.

    Farm animals have limited capacity to enrich human lives. So we have limited responsibilities to them in return. This nullifies your claim, in my mind, that if something is the same for animals as it is for us, then we should hold animals as equals in that regard.

    Any other consideration about how to treat animals, i.e. because they are sentient and have the potential to have somewhat enriched lives, is secondary to this concern. The humane treatment of animals does follows from these other considerations though.


    And you know very well that there aren’t any freshly dead cows around that died of natural causes.

  22. As for the rapists and racists of the world, my system is based upon mutual enrichment, while they clearly are taking something for themselves only. So all these sorts of things fail.

    Well, this doesn’t show that they fail at all. The racist and rapists can agree that it is mutal enrichment that is impotant of those that matter of course. This is exactly what you are arguing. For these kinds of people only certain groups deserve mutual enrichment. Your system doesn’t have any way of saying what is wrong with their way of doing things. Sure you don’t agree with it, but that isn’t an argument.

    I don’t think I have to give a reason for the innate worth of all humans.

    Well then I don’t think I need to give a reason for the innante worth of all senteint beings, so there. See two can play at the just-making-a-statement-without-argument game.

    As for the Jeff Dhamers and Hannibal Lecters of the world, they come out even worse. They destroy the potential for mutual enrichment for a transitory pleasure of their own. They are the biggest sickos.

    Again you can say whatever you want but there is nothing in your ethical theory which gives this result.

    Any other consideration about how to treat animals, i.e. because they are sentient and have the potential to have somewhat enriched lives, is secondary to this concern.

    Yes, so you keep saying, but you haven’t given any reason to believe that it’s true. It is human life that needs to be enriched: why? You don’t say. Face it you are just too selfish to give up something that you enjoy. Nothing that you say here even remotely justifies killing animals for food.

    And you know very well that there aren’t any freshly dead cows around that died of natural causes.

    Easy fix: buy a farm. Get some cows. Let them live pleasant cow-lives and then when they die of natural causes butcher and eat them.

  23. You argued from the fact that we value our lives to get to say that all sentient beings value theirs. Then from there you argue that we should not kill animals, because they obviously would also value their life. However, you don’t provide an argument for the worth of human life, you just state that we wouldn’t want to be killed. So you presupposed the value of human life to begin with. So I don’t need to give a reason, unless you do.

    As for why we need to enrich our lives, I can ask you why suffering matters. This just seems like the flip side of the coin. So if you have a reason why suffering matters, then I’ll provide a reason why enrichment matters.

    As for the rapists, racists, and cannibals-for-pleasure (which henceforth will just be known as ‘bad people’), I think it is just ignorance which is the cause of why they think that they cannot be enriched by some minority group (or only by ‘those that matter’). Variety is the spice of life, in my humble opinion, and these bad people are seriously limiting themselves and others in this endeavor. Therefore it is precluded from the meaning of mutual enrichment, to give and take something new from another, to do these bad things.

    Farm animals are different in this respect. Unless you know of some charming farm animals I ought to meet, of course.

  24. Oh, and yes I am too selfish to give up eating meat- under my theory I should cut it out to save nature (the meat industry is horrible to animals and the world). But the argument is now a matter of principle, so I have no intention of going quietly.

  25. So you presupposed the value of human life to begin with. So I don’t need to give a reason, unless you do.

    No, that’s not right. You claim that human life has some valie that all other forms of sentient life lack. THAT is what you need to give an argument for. For me it is easy. Sentient life is valuable and humans are sentient, so they are valuable…same goes for animals. That is my point and you haven’t addressed. Why think that humans are special?

    As for why we need to enrich our lives, I can ask you why suffering matters. This just seems like the flip side of the coin. So if you have a reason why suffering matters, then I’ll provide a reason why enrichment matters.

    You seem to be confused about my argument. I did not question the value of enrichment. I questioned the value of priveledged human enrichment. Why shouldn’t animals enjoy the benefits of enrichment? If it is valuable, according to you, then you are denying animals something valuable; something which should be wrong according to you.

    As for the rapists, racists, and cannibals-for-pleasure (which henceforth will just be known as ‘bad people’),

    Who said anything about ‘cannibal for pleasure’? I am thinking of the cannibals who claim, as you do, that the ritual enriches their life.

    I think it is just ignorance which is the cause of why they think that they cannot be enriched by some minority group (or only by ‘those that matter’).

    Again, you are missing my point. The point is not whether the Nazi is unaware that jews can enrich their lives. The Nazi thinks that the jews do not deserve to have their (the jews’) life enriched. The Nazi enjoys lots of mutual enrichment –with other members of the master race, of course– but they deny that jews are capable of and/or don’t deserve the same priveledge. You haven’t given any reason that THIS is wrong on your view.

    Therefore it is precluded from the meaning of mutual enrichment, to give and take something new from another, to do these bad things.

    Again, you miss the point. The Nazi’s are all for mutual enrichment, let us suppose, but they define ‘mutual’ as ‘between equals’. This is exactly what you do!

    Farm animals are different in this respect. Unless you know of some charming farm animals I ought to meet, of course.

    **sigh** again you miss the point. I am NOT claiming that animals are valuable because they enrich OUR lives. I am claiming that they should be valuable –according to you– because they can enjoy much the same kinds of enrichment that our lives do (they depend on each other etc, etc, etc) and IF, as you claim, enriched lives are valuable, then their lives should be valuable….unless you have some principled reason why it is only human lives that deserve enrichment, which you so far have not given.

    Oh, and yes I am too selfish to give up eating meat

    And this is a good thing?

    I have no intention of going quietly.

    Who asked you to? I just want you to be consistent or admit that you don’t have a leg to stand on…

  26. Here’s the basic outline of my argument:

    1. Mutual enrichment matters.
    2. Only other humans (and possibly nature as a whole) can provide mutual enrichment to humans.
    3. Therefore human lives matter (and possibly nature as a whole matters) to humans.

    That’s it.

    The argument is why can we kill farm animals and not people. I recognize that farm animals are not completely different from ourselves. But they are significantly different. Insofar as farm animals (as sentient as they may be) cannot enrich our lives (they are excluded from step 2 above) they need not to be treated the same as humans:

    1. Mutual enrichment matters.
    2. Farm animals cannot provide mutual enrichment to humans.
    3. Therefore farm animal lives matter less to humans.

    I think you want me to say:

    1. Mutual enrichment matters.
    2. Sentient animals can provide mutual enrichment to sentient animals.
    3. Therefore sentient lives matter to sentient animals.

    But line 2 is false- farm animals do nothing for me, and hence there is a counterexample.

    Now you want me to say that this is the same as being a bad person: some minority group does nothing for me and so their lives don’t matter. However, the root of treating others badly is ignorance. Ignorance is what facilitates racism and hate, and learning about other cultures teaches you the benefits of having different peoples around. I believe that a little education, history and experience show us the value of other people and their role in mutual enrichment, and this is what separates people from farm animals.

    If a person says another person doesn’t deserve the privilege or is incapable of mutual enrichment, then they do not understand how mutual enrichment works. You need other people, especially other people who are different from yourself. If everyone was the same, there would be no enrichment at all, just a vanilla world. So racism is particularly bad under my theory.

    Farm animals, however, are not part of human enrichment unless they have been playing dumb in some grand plot for thousands of years.

    I do agree that:

    1. Mutual enrichment matters.
    2. Farm animals can provide mutual enrichment to farm animals.
    3. Therefore farm animals lives matter to farm animals.

    But this only tells me that farm animals shouldn’t kill each other.

    Perhaps you claim that because enrichment matters to me, and sentient animals’ lives can be enriched, then I shouldn’t treat them as a means to my ends. But I make no claims about means to an ends. I’m not a deontologist. This is your view; it has absolutely no sway over me (just as it wouldn’t for a consequentialist, though I am not a consequentialist). I have provided a reason why human lives matter to me without appealing to a ‘not using others as a means to an ends’ claim, so I am free to use farm animals as means to my ends.

    And as far as I can tell, I have been consistent, and I have already agreed to cut back on meat, so I am feeling pretty good about myself. One of us keeps missing the point badly, and each of us thinks it is the other…. see, this is what makes life interesting and good, and why my theory kicks butt.

  27. Perhaps you claim that because enrichment matters to me, and sentient animals’ lives can be enriched, then I shouldn’t treat them as a means to my ends.

    No, that’s not what I claim. I recognize that you are not a deontologist or a conssequentialist. My point was that if your first premise is true (mutual enrichment matters) then it matters. Plain and simple. If mutual enrichment is valuable then when you deprive animals of their opportunity for mutual enrichment then you deprive them of somethign that is valuable and so by your own theory do something immoral. So when you conclude “But this only tells me that farm animals shouldn’t kill each other,” that is where you go wrong. Your arument, shows that animals lives are valuable TO THEM and so you need some reason which makes it morally permissible to deprive them of the thing which you claim is valuable. You simply haven’t done that.

    If a person says another person doesn’t deserve the privilege or is incapable of mutual enrichment, then they do not understand how mutual enrichment works. You need other people, especially other people who are different from yourself. If everyone was the same, there would be no enrichment at all, just a vanilla world. So racism is particularly bad under my theory.

    No. The Nazi can agree with this. Sure it take differences, but WHAT kinds of differences? According to you there are some differences that matter and some that don’t but you haven’t provided any support for that claim.

    But line 2 is false- farm animals do nothing for me, and hence there is a counterexample.

    Again you miss the point. Why is your enrichment more important than the animals? Suppose that someone argued that lions should be allowed to hunt, killand eat humans since that enriches their lives. You are fine with that? According to your view that, from the animals point of view, enriches their lives and, again from their point of view, your enrichment doesn’t matter. But this is absurd. So your view is absurd.

    And as far as I can tell, I have been consistent

    That’s the problem; you apparently can’t tell that your view is inconsitent. You want human enrichment to matter but you don’t have any argument that gives you that conclusion.

  28. Only other humans (and possibly nature as a whole) can provide mutual enrichment to humans.

    By the way, I hope you realize that I am only granting this for the sake of argument and because I think there are more serious problems with your view. I actually think that this is quite indefensible…but that’s another story.

  29. if your first premise is true (mutual enrichment matters) then it matters.

    The problem as I see it is that you, as a deontologist, keep foisting your beliefs onto me without realizing it. You apparently take this sentence to mean that if mutual enrichment matters then it is the end all of things that matter in the universe and hence it is our duty to protect it as much as possible.

    For me to get anywhere with the statement requires other premises, namely my original line 2. Your line 2 is ‘If something matters, then it Matters, as in it is The Good in the universe. This move from small m to big M is not innocent as you claim.

    Animals’ mutual enrichment is not identical to humans mutual enrichment. Why, you ask? Do farm animals appreciate a good story? Do they sit around philosophizing? I regard this as a historical fact, that animals are different than humans.

    So your move from small m to big M glosses over the fact that the enrichment of humans and animals is different.

    Our enrichment includes eating a good meal every so often, and this can include meat. The enrichment of farm animals includes, well, I really have no idea what their enrichment includes. No matter. But my position does deprive some animals of their lives. And depriving an animal of its life ensures that it will not have any more possible enrichment. But whatever it is, this enrichment, it isn’t the enrichment that humans have.

    My line 2, “Only other humans (and possibly nature as a whole) can provide mutual enrichment to humans,” reflects that mutual enrichment is a nuanced phenomenon. People have to work together to learn and accomplish things; enrichment doesn’t occur on its own but takes effort on the part of more than one party. In some sense, it is difficult and it is beyond the scope of farm animals.

    But you ask, Why is your enrichment more important than the animals? I am arguing that insofar as farm animals can have the sort of enrichment I am talking about, it is minimal. So why should I deprive them of their minimal enrichment? Because not doing so deprives me of my mutual enrichment. Why should their minimal mutual enrichment be more important than mine. (I think you are aghast at this point.) If I am constantly worrying about some mutual enrichment that I could possibly be preventing, then I can’t leave my room for fear of ruining something. I do try to keep my damage down, but I refuse to be a shut in.

    As for the kind of differences that matter to mutual enrichment, the simple fact of the matter is that you can’t tell (in the case of other people). You can’t predict who (or what culture) will come up with the next great story or your favorite dish or figure out how to make clean energy. This is why you shouldn’t limit yourself when it comes to culture: people get the benefit of the doubt. But farm animals don’t (again, unless you know of any charming farm animals for me to meet).

    As for you comment on lions, how would anyone ever know such a thing? You say something absurd and then attribute it to me. Please.

  30. You apparently take this sentence to mean that if mutual enrichment matters then it is the end all of things that matter in the universe and hence it is our duty to protect it as much as possible.

    No, I take it to mean that mutual enrichment matters. But that is not what you mean by it. You mean

    1′ the mutual enrichment of humans matters

    and this is not what you have supported.

    Animals’ mutual enrichment is not identical to humans mutual enrichment. Why, you ask? Do farm animals appreciate a good story? Do they sit around philosophizing? I regard this as a historical fact, that animals are different than humans

    Care to explain why this matters at all? Their lives are enriched by other kinds of things, so what?

    So your move from small m to big M glosses over the fact that the enrichment of humans and animals is different.

    Again, so what? I never said that it was exactly the same, what I said is that their lives are capable of being enriched and so according to you they (should) deserve that.

    But whatever it is, this enrichment, it isn’t the enrichment that humans have.

    Again, SO WHAT? You need some support for your claim that the kind of enrichment that humans are capable of is important enough to deprive aniumals of their chance at enrichment. You haven’t given it.

    I am arguing that insofar as farm animals can have the sort of enrichment I am talking about, it is minimal.

    It’s getting tiring asking the same thing oevr and over again, but maybe someday you’ll answer the question: why is the kind of enrichment that humans have so much better than what animals have?

    Because not doing so deprives me of my mutual enrichment. Why should their minimal mutual enrichment be more important than mine. (I think you are aghast at this point.) If I am constantly worrying about some mutual enrichment that I could possibly be preventing, then I can’t leave my room for fear of ruining something. I do try to keep my damage down, but I refuse to be a shut in.

    This is preposterous reasoning. No one is asking you to be a shut in! No one is asking for you to give up (very much) enrichment. Be serious!

    As for the kind of differences that matter to mutual enrichment, the simple fact of the matter is that you can’t tell (in the case of other people). You can’t predict who (or what culture) will come up with the next great story or your favorite dish or figure out how to make clean energy. This is why you shouldn’t limit yourself when it comes to culture: people get the benefit of the doubt. But farm animals don’t (again, unless you know of any charming farm animals for me to meet).

    Look, this just doesn’t address the issue at all. You claim that we should not kill and eat people because of the possibility of their contributing to our enrichement, but what about the case of the senile homeless person? You must admit that, since there is no possibility of their contributing to your enrichment, it is then ok to kill and eat them, right?

    As for you comment on lions, how would anyone ever know such a thing? You say something absurd and then attribute it to me. Please.

    Yeah, please. Please tell me what is absurd about it?

  31. I am trying to think of how much enrichment you think farm animals have. I don’t think chickens make friends. I don’t think cows learn much of anything. In fact, I think they are pretty brain dead animals. I’m not a farm person, so I really have only limited experience with such things, but I don’t think I am that far off.

    So just about all of the enrichment we have (culture: philosophy, art, sports, etc. Friendship. Watching your kids grow and learn (just having kids is not necessarily enriching). Doing something good in the world.), farm animals do not. I am open to the possibility that they have some, but we can only go by what we know to be part of enrichment. If you know of the other things that enrich farm animals’ lives, do tell, but it seems to me that you would be making up a Disney story.

    (perhaps the point about how we can only use our own experience is underlying your claim that I am limiting mutual enrichment to human enrichment. I’d say that other highly intelligent animals like primates, some cats, dogs and birds, maybe dolphins, etc. would be able to have enriched lives. But these aren’t the animals this discussion is about, and it is not possible for us to jump out of our skin and know what species very different from ourselves value.)

    No one is asking for you to give up (very much) enrichment.
    Perhaps, but this isn’t your call to make. On the flipside, I don’t think the animals are losing that much.

    Suppose that someone argued that lions should be allowed to hunt, kill and eat humans since that enriches their lives.

    How would anyone know this? No science I have ever heard could even remotely come to this sort of conclusion. Science doesn’t even have the theoretical resources to deal with concepts like enrichment; enrichment has to do with culture and ethics under the current discussion (and if the argument about lions is not based in science, why would I believe it). So this statement is ad hoc nonsense to me.

    And should we kill and eat senile homeless people? I’d still put them above farm animals, so unless we absolutely had to, no, but they would go before the healthy.

    (If we assume someone to have less ability than a farm animal, then this is a tough question. I’d say that we really don’t know how the brain works and so it isn’t fair to claim that they automatically have less ability than a chicken. As for the truly brain dead, the Terry Schiavos, I’d say then it would be better to donate the body to science, as long as the family was ok with it.)

  32. By the way, I hope you realize that I am only granting this for the sake of argument and because I think there are more serious problems with your view. I actually think that this is quite indefensible…but that’s another story.

    I’d actually be quite interested in your ideas… but I wouldn’t want to corner all your time.

  33. Hey Noah, sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I have been real busy!!

    “I’m not a farm person, so I really have only limited experience with such things, but I don’t think I am that far off.”

    all I can say is spend time with more animals. Each animal has a unique personality and is truely an individual.

    If you know of the other things that enrich farm animals’ lives, do tell, but it seems to me that you would be making up a Disney story.

    See, part of the problem is that you haven’t really defined ‘enrichment’. I have been taking it at face value and so have interpreted it to mean something like ‘whatever makes life better’. The lives of animals are capable of enrichment in that sense, it is, of course, not going to include most of the things that enrich human life but so what? My point is that you seem to be assuming that human life is the only life that is worthy of enrichment. I want to know why youy think that. Sure farm animals don’t do most of the things that you talk about, but again so what? A pig’s life may be enriched simply by giving it slop, community, and some mud to wallow in. Why is that any less intrisically valuable than the thinsg you mention? You have already, several times, denied any allegience to utilitarianism or deontology so what on Earth can you appeal to in order to answer this question? You haven’t given any indication of anything which would satisfactorily answer this question.

    Perhaps, but this isn’t your call to make. On the flipside, I don’t think the animals are losing that much.

    yes, actually, it is my call to make. If you are immorally taking something away from those that do not deserve to have it taken away for some minimal gain that your life could do without, then it is the moral communitie’s call. As for your claim that animals aren’t losing much, that’s pretty arrogant. What you consider “that much” is all they have!

    How would anyone know this?

    The point is not about how we could know it. The point is that, from your moral theory, the enrichment of the lion’s life is intrisincally valuable and so if this were the case you should admit that the lion should be allowed to hunt and kill humans. This is, of course, nonsense which shows how silly the idea of enrichment for enrichment’s sake is.

    As for your claim that science can’t del with enrichment, that is absurd. It is an objective fact what things makes a certain species’ lives better. So it is perfectly within the perview of science to determine which things enrich a certain kind of life.

    I’d still put them above farm animals

    Why? They have nothing to offer enrichment wise so there is no reason at all to put them above animals (according to you). That’s what I mean about being consitent. You want to privilege huma life and experience but then you offer a theory which is unable to deliver those results.

    I’d say that we really don’t know how the brain works

    I’d say we know more than you think.

    , as long as the family was ok with it.)

    Why should the family have to consent according to you? I thought that mutual enrichment was what mattered…

  34. Busy is cool, thanks for getting back to me! I hope you didn’t have to endure too many turkey jokes this year. Although if you had run into me, it would’ve been likely that I would have made much less tasteful (sic) jokes.

    You have already, several times, denied any allegience to utilitarianism or deontology so what on Earth can you appeal to in order to answer this question?

    And I maintain that I take mutual enrichment as fundamental and hence would never appeal to those other theories for backup. If I did that then it would be tantamount to conceding that those theories were more fundamental.

    I appeal to personal experience: we use what we feel has enriched our lives. Learning and friendship, e.g., are two things that have enriched my life, and hence I feel that it is my responsibility to try to educate those who I can teach and also be the best friend I can be. I expect it to be similar for many people and I appeal to our common understanding of such things, i.e. we both believe that friendship has enriched our lives in some way. There are lots of cheap highs out there but we can distinguish between those and what has really enriched our lives. (I think the move I am making is actually similar to the virtue ethicist appealing to virtues to answer how they make decisions, except that I’m talking about enriching experiences.)

    This is also why I don’t recognize that rolling around in mud and eating slop to be enriching. Having food to eat is better than not having food to eat in terms of not suffering, but it does nothing for enrichment on its own. Rice alone does not enrich my life, it nourishes me. A fancy meal cooked in a special way may enrich my life because it can provide a new experience or be an occasion to spend with friends. So that’s why I don’t think that giving pigs slop counts as enrichment of their lives: they don’t distinguish between slop and quality cooking. All they do is eat indiscriminately. It is unreasonable to stretch the notion of enrichment to make it fit feeding farm animals. I said I’m for the protection of the smarter animals that can learn and can make distinctions something like we make, but if we start expanding enrichment to include any consumption of food, then it loses its meaning. This isn’t me trying to make exceptions for humans; I’m trying to maintain a distinction between nourishment and enrichment. (Pigs roll around in mud to cool down because they don’t sweat. Again not enrichment but physical requirement.)

    yes, actually, it is my call to make. If you are immorally taking something away from those that do not deserve to have it taken away for some minimal gain that your life could do without, then it is the moral communitie’s call.

    I claim you are begging the questions of moral community: you assume your community to be right. I think your community (vegetarians for the reasons you state) is just confused.

    What you consider “that much” is all they have!

    What they have is being protected and fed, and these things do not register on my ethical scale. Nor does being ‘an individual’. I’m unsure of how much ‘personality’ we can attribute to chickens or cows. These things aren’t dogs or even horses; I’ve never heard a story about a charming cow. ‘Charming cow’ actually sounds like an oxymoron.

    As for the whole lion thing, all the relevant science I can think of is that some animals like to hunt for their food and will get bored if everything is provided for them. It’s a long way from liking a challenge to specifically pinpointing that a certain animal must hunt another specific animal for the best possible enrichment. Frankly, I find this so incredibly unlikely that I’ll just concede that I’ll become a vegetarian if any science ever shows that one carnivore becomes enriched (not just well nourished) by specifically hunting another specific animal.

    And about what to do with senile homeless folk: My point last time was to say that we give people the benefit of the doubt that we don’t give farm animals because we know farm animals have no chance of enrichment (maybe someone will invent a cure for senility tomorrow; there is no cure for being a chicken). If you still want a reason not to eat a crazy person, I’m going to appeal to what I said long ago: it’s just not what we do in our culture. We do not get enrichment from killing people. As I have maintained, I do not have a problem with the cannibalistic tribes left in this world because it is part of their culture and I respect that (as long as they respect our culture and keep to themselves). Culture and tradition are important to enrichment, and since enrichment is not nourishment, there is no contradiction for me to say that I am not enriched by killing and eating people because it is not part of my culture whereas others may be.

    “as long as the family was ok with it”

    Why shouldn’t we respect the benefit that burial rights give the family? Families grieve for their loved ones and I don’t see how enrichment automatically implies that society should take hold of a dead body for someone else’s benefit. It is my experience that (some) tradition enriches our lives, and so I respect tradition in general. I’d hope that the family would donate the body to help others (this is my personal belief), but if they feel that it is important that they should bury their dead according to tradition, and this tradition enriches their lives, the rest of us should have a measure of respect for that tradition. (Of course some traditions are hateful, and we should do as much as possible to eradicate those, but burial rights tend not to be that way.)


    “I’d say that we really don’t know how the brain works”

    I’d say we know more than you think.

    You’ll have to enlighten me one day.

  35. Hey Noah, no no turkey jokes this year! I try to spend as little amount of time around meat eaters as possible…

    I appeal to personal experience: we use what we feel has enriched our lives.

    Right, this is the problem I have been trying to call your attention to. You keep talking about what enriches YOUR life as thogugh that has some special significance but you don’t say why it should (or does). I keep pointing out that animals have experience and so can have enriched lives EVEN THOUGH the things that enrich their lives will be different from the things which enrich your life. You haven’t addressed this point. Also, I have pointed out that the things which enrich YOUR life aren’t necessarily the things which will enrich the lievs of otehrs. You hint that this is supposed to be common knowledge but that’s not an argument. Some people will disagree with you (e.g. about friendship or variety being important) and you don’t have any way of saying that they are wrong.

    I’m trying to maintain a distinction between nourishment and enrichment.

    This distinction doesn’t help you out, I’m afraid. The pig enjoys new experience and it enjopys being with other pigs (especially its family), this is enrichment according to you. True, its life is not enriched by the same things as yours, but SO WHAT? Why not answer my question?

    claim you are begging the questions of moral community: you assume your community to be right. I think your community (vegetarians for the reasons you state) is just confused.

    No. You’re the one that is confused. I meant by ‘moral community’ rational agents not vegetarians. I do not assume vegetarianism to be correct, I argue for it. I have given a utilitarian argument, a deontoligcal one, and no an enrichment based one. No assumptions here; only arguemnts.

    these things do not register on my ethical scale.

    So you keep saying, and I keep asking why not? If enrichment is fundamental then cows deserve to have their lives enriched. You claim that what they have doesn’t qualify, but again why not? DEFINE enrichment in such a way that it rules this out…

    As for the whole lion thing, all the relevant science I can think of is that some animals like to hunt for their food and will get bored if everything is provided for them.

    What does science have to do with it? If you don’t like lions then think about super smart aliens that want to hunt us, the point is the same. Don’t doge the issue, asnwer my question!

    there is no cure for being a chicken

    really? Suppose that we are able to genetically enhance the brain function of chickens (this is not impossible) they would then be able to have enrichment right? So, someone may do that tomorrow so why not give them the benefit of the doubt that you are willing to give to the senile people? Oh I forgot, chickens taste good…

    We do not get enrichment from killing people.

    No, you don’t…others may. It is a new experience, you can share it with friends, etc, etc, all of your criteria are met…this is just a cop out!

    I don’t see how enrichment automatically implies that society should take hold of a dead body for someone else’s benefit.

    Sure it does. This will enrich my life so it is morally ok for me to do it…

    You’ll have to enlighten me one day.

    Pick up any good neuroscience textbook. I recommend Eric Kendal’s ‘the principles of neural science’ or Zigmond et als ‘Fundamental Neuroscience’

  36. You keep talking about what enriches YOUR life as though that has some special significance but you don’t say why it should (or does).

    I do talk about what enriches my life because that is what I know best. I don’t talk about it because I think I have some special access to enrichment that other people don’t have. Yes, you are right that other people may disagree with what I have said counts as enrichment, but really they don’t. You keep trying to stretch the meaning to include animals, I am trying to maintain a more everyday conception of friendship, culture, learning, etc. Sure there will be disagreements, but no one I know would count wallowing in the mud and eating slop among them.

    I keep pointing out that animals have experience and so can have enriched lives EVEN THOUGH the things that enrich their lives will be different from the things which enrich your life.

    What are these experiences?

    True, [a pigs] life is not enriched by the same things as yours, but SO WHAT? … you claim that what they have doesn’t qualify, but again why not? DEFINE enrichment in such a way that it rules this out…

    It would be ok if someone had a disagreement with me, say a cannibal, about enrichment. But I would expect that person to give me a reason, say, that in their culture eating another person forces you to respect the person you are eating, gives you tremendous respect for the human body, and makes you recognize how similar we are to all the other animals, hence increasing our respect for them and nature. I can imagine someone saying these things and me having respect for that person and that culture, even if eating people is not for me (How is this a cop out? We are all allowed to make decisions about what we think is best. And as I have said before, it is mostly the killing people I don’t like (destroying enrichment). Secondly I know that our bodies aren’t particularly different than cows, so there is no novelty in eating our flesh. So I don’t and wouldn’t eat people because no part of it is of any interest to me. ).

    If we do as you’re saying, allow anything to count as enrichment, even if it has no relation to our understanding of the word, then grass and cockroaches can have enriched lives. I can’t be expected to accept that things with very different lives become enriched by very different things just because you say they do without some reasons. You maintain that what animals do does count, but you can’t give a reason how it enriches their lives, you only say they enjoy certain things. I can appreciate the cannibal’s position even if I disagree with it, but there is no similar argument for wallowing in mud.

    I don’t define enrichment because I allow for other people (and myself) to be enriched by things I haven’t considered. But I do expect to be able to understand it if some reasons are provided, which can’t be done for farm animals unless you butcher the meaning of enrichment.

    Suppose that we are able to genetically enhance the brain function of chickens (this is not impossible) they would then be able to have enrichment right?

    Sure, but I’d say it would cease to be a chicken at that point. It would be a chicken-sapien, not just a chicken, and I don’t think it unreasonable to allow me to have some special rules to deal with these new hyper-intelligent fowl.

    On the other hand, if we were able to cure someone of senility, then that person would merely be healthy. So there is a difference between a sick person and a normal chicken.

    This will enrich my life so it is morally ok for me to do it…

    Well, there are moral conflicts in every system. Some people will want one thing and others will want another, mutually exclusive, thing. Deontologists get to argue about conflicting duties, consequentialists about what is the greatest good, etc. In this case we have the people who want to bury their dead whole vs. those who want to use the bodies to help save lives. Tradition vs. medical science. I don’t pretend to have the final answer to this (I have stated my opinion), but you can’t begrudge me a problem that everyone else has too.

    If you don’t like lions then think about super smart aliens that want to hunt us, the point is the same.

    This was actually specifically on my mind a while back. If the aliens are so smart that we are cockroaches to them, then I don’t think any one of us has any recourse. We are just a disease carrying pest that needs extermination.

    I’d hope that if this ever comes to pass, that we meet super-smart aliens, they will recognize our society and culture as having some merit. We aren’t technically incompetent; we have science and philosophy and agriculture, etc. If anything, they ought to just leave us alone on our little planet if they are so smart and don’t like us. This is what we try to do for lions anyway; we don’t eat lions. So what’s the problem?

    You want something to be different, You want the aliens to be specifically enriched by killing us, Predator style. But say you have some deontological duty that specifically requires that you slaughter and eat a cow every so often. What would you say: it wouldn’t\couldn’t happen? Why not? It doesn’t happen under any definition of enrichment that I know of currently (even your expanded view), and so I don’t think I have to answer this unless you answer what you would do if you came upon a duty that required you kill and eat animals.

    Pick up any good neuroscience textbook.

    Man, if you think that I am disagreeable when it comes to ethics, you don’t even want to think about talking to me about philosophy of science.

    I try to spend as little amount of time around meat eaters as possible…

    Our loss. Hopefully this only applies during Thanksgiving.

    ——–
    I think your community is just confused.
    ….No. You’re the one that is confused.
    NO, YOU’RE CONFUSED
    NO YOUR %$J!@**$ CONFUSSED

    I think we ought to reserve our statements on the location of the confusion till we resolve our other disagreements.

  37. Well, Noah at this point I don’t really know what is left to say. For some reason you keep missing my point, whether intentionally or not I don’t know…but I am going to give it one last try…

    I do talk about what enriches my life because that is what I know best.

    That’s fine, the problem comes when you try to generalize from your personal experience to enrichment in general. You need an argument here, one which you don’t have or won’t give…

    Yes, you are right that other people may disagree with what I have said counts as enrichment, but really they don’t.

    You don’t know enough people…

    You keep trying to stretch the meaning to include animals, I am trying to maintain a more everyday conception of friendship, culture, learning, etc.

    No. I am using the ordinary meaning of the word “enrichment”, as I said, which is just “to make better through the addition of some desirable attribute or quality”. If you don’t believe me look it up. if you don’t mean to be using the standard meaning of the word thenit is up to you to supply a working definition…you haven’t done that…but at any rate the way you have been talking certainly seems to be in line with the standard meaning and in that case there is no reason to limit it to the attribute or qualities that make Human life better.

    I don’t think it unreasonable to allow me to have some special rules to deal with these new hyper-intelligent fowl.

    But it is. If you are going to spare the senile person simply because there is the possibility that they may be capable of enrichment at some point then the same applies here, or at least you haven’t said why not. The point about restoring the person to health is absurd. That should not play a role in the theory that you have presented. You sure do like to bend the rules when it suits you, but I demand consitentcy.

    But I do expect to be able to understand it if some reasons are provided, which can’t be done for farm animals unless you butcher the meaning of enrichment.

    This is ridiculous! You claim not to define enrichment because you don’t want to limit it but you are doing exactly that! You then tell me that I am butchering the definition of the word even though you haven’t defined it at all! C’mon, be serious. You complain about grass and cockaroaches but I think that whatever else is true it is clear that to be enriched requires having experience. Grass doesn’t so it is out. Cockaroahs, who knows. My guess would be not since they lack a sophisticated neural architecture, but I am open to being wrong about that. At any rate this is irrelevant since we know that cows chickens and pigs do have experiences and so can have better or worse lives. There are qualities and attributes that make an animal’s life fuller and more beneficial, so there are things that enrich their lives. You don’t need intellegince to have an enriched life, or at least you have NOT defended this claim.

  38. You’re right, I’m getting a bit tired of this argument too, and we both keep thinking the other is missing the point. I didn’t think that I was making any sort of horrible distinction between enrichment and the sorts of pleasures farm animals have, but I guess I was mistaken that it was innocent.

    Enrichment makes your life better in some lasting way (I thought this was obvious). None the examples you give for farm animal enrichment last; they are transitory pleasures. Most of the people I know can distinguish between transitory pleasures and enrichment. You keep trying to conflate the two to justify your counterargument.

    And funny enough, you are right: I never looked up the definition of enrichment. But you did and your definition does nicely: “to make better through the addition of some desirable attribute or quality”. How does anything you have said about farm animals give them a new beneficial attribute or quality? Rolling around in mud does not confer an attribute or quality. Anything about what chickens do: no attributes or qualities. Cows that stand around and eat grass: no beneficial attributes or qualities there. You have never explained how anything that farm animals have falls under the idea of conferring a beneficial attribute. So, I don’t see how anything I have said has been that far off and it looks like you didn’t really appreciate the definition yourself even though you did go look it up.

    (See, look at your sentence: There are qualities and attributes that make an animal’s life fuller and more beneficial, so there are things that enrich their lives. This is awkward. You are referring to having slop and rolling in mud as qualities and attributes that make a pig’s life better. Having an appreciation for modern art is a quality that makes life better; rolling in mud is not an attribute. You have been (unintentionally?) using the wrong concept of quality: you wanted anything that makes the quality of life better to count as enrichment, when the definition clearly meant quality as in attribute or property.)

    As for the hyper-intelligent fowl thing, you wanted to know why I don’t eat a senile homeless person. Again you ask me to have a solution to problems that everyone has a difficult time with: no one has a good solution for exactly what to do with these people. We could use the senile for food, but I think it is better to try to help them because they are sick. Making someone healthy is not the same as making chickens intelligent. There is a big difference between restoring something to the way it was and adding something that was never there. I think we should try to help sick people become healthy again so that they can have enriched lives.

    If we grant human intelligence to chickens, I think that we should just consider them humans (in a chicken suit). But why would would my theory say we should make all chickens into humans? There are plenty of humans (too many?) and adding all the chickens in the world to that number definitely would lead to suffering.

  39. Enrichment makes your life better in some lasting way (I thought this was obvious).

    Why is this obvious? It doesn’t follow from the definitiont hat I presented and which you agreed to.

    How does anything you have said about farm animals give them a new beneficial attribute or quality?

    **sigh** You need to look these words up in the dictionary. Pleaseure is a quality/attribute and animals can have that. So is contentment, so is friendship, etc. All of these animals are capable of. You want enrichment to include an intellectual component but htere is nothing in the defintion that suggests this.

    Again you ask me to have a solution to problems that everyone has a difficult time with: no one has a good solution for exactly what to do with these people.

    That’s not true at all. No moral theory, except yours, suggests that we should kill and eat senile people.

    Making someone healthy is not the same as making chickens intelligent. There is a big difference between restoring something to the way it was and adding something that was never there.

    What’s the relavant difference?

    But why would would my theory say we should make all chickens into humans?

    It shouldn’t. The point is that you claim that if there is the possibility of making a senile person rational then we shouldn’t eat them I pointed out that there is the possibility of making animals rational so the same reasoning should apply.

    But anyway, like I said, I have grown tired of beating my head against your studied ignorance so I will let you have the last word….this argument isn’t enriching my life.

  40. I took your advice and looked it up. No one lists enrichment and pleasure as synonymous, so you are the only one who doesn’t make this distinction.

  41. I know I said I would let you have the last word, but you see, this is exactly what I am talking about. I never said that ‘enrichment’ and ‘pleasure’ were synonyms; that’s clearly not true. What I said was that pleasure is a desirable quality and so having it can enrich an animal’s life. according to the standard definitionof the word, which you agreed to.

  42. so having [pleasure] can enrich an animal’s life

    Can doesn’t imply does. Since you now admit there is a distinction, to maintain your argument you need to show how pleasure of farm animals does enrich their lives as opposed to being merely pleasurable. Otherwise you are stuck.

    • You can’t possibly be being serious right now!

      Look,
      (1)To enrich is to add a desirable quality or attribute
      (2) Pleasure is a desirable quality or attribute (so is contentment, so is friendship, etc)
      (3) Therefore the addition of pleasure (contentment/friendship) enriches

      QED

  43. Not all pleasures count (Is this hard to miss?). Take drugs. Crack gives pleasure but no one thinks it is life enriching. This is why you need to justify how the pleasure of animals count because no one thinks eating slop is enriching either.

  44. Actually it is hard to miss. There is nothing in the definition of enrichment that would rule that out. Again you seem to assuming a definition of enrichment that you don’t want to share.

    But even if we grant that point it doesn’t help you. Plausibly, the reason that pleasure derived from smoking crack doesn’t contribute to enrichment is because it doesn’t contribute to a generally flourishing life (or another way to put the put: it is not desirable to an ideal agent)…eating slop, however, does contribute to a generally flourishing life FOR A PIG. Again you are confused about what contributes to an enriched HUMAN life and what contributes to an enriched non-human life.

  45. You’re putting a lot of stock in the dictionary definition. This is fair, but dictionary definitions are rough and ready descriptions that are mostly accurate but nothing to hang your philosophical hat on. If you really don’t realize that enrichment doesn’t just mean pleasure, I’d suggest trying to find the word out in the wild, being used by people.

    And as I have said before, I don’t count nourishment as enrichment either. Just eating is indistinguishable from gluttony, which, may be pleasurable but not something anyone considers enriching either. Nourishment may be considered a prerequisite to enrichment, but I can’t see how eating food alone is anything above nourishing.

    (I suppose your next argument would be “Being nourished is a desirable quality or attribute.” But no one says this: if some hunger organization gets food and medicine to some starving kids, they say they saved their lives, not enriched them. If they build a school, then they might use the word enrichment. Say some warlord uses child soldiers, who he feeds pretty well because well fed kids fight harder than emaciated ones. Is that warlord enriching those kids lives?)

  46. One last point: I am not distinguishing between human life and animal life. If I say that eating slop is enriching, then it is enriching for everyone, not just pigs.

    However, you seem to want me to make up some story about how eating slop is enriching for a pig because that is what is part of a flourishing pig life. This is tantamount to having a special rule, something I am not doing: I am treating every animal the same according to the meaning of enrichment. If I get to make up special rules for particular animals, then I get to eat my steak.

  47. Now here is an interesting case of a conflict over what to do that turned into a nasty moral dispute — and that went absolutely nowhere — and accomplished nothing.

    Notice how each party to the dispute ends by attempting to foster disapproval of the other’s attitude — and that the “reasoned discussion” ends with vigourous (and somewhat rude) insults — both of which seem to me to be a bit defensive.

    Did the giving of reasons do anything at all to change either person’s attitude?

    ***

    I want to offer an apology to you, Dr. Brown, in case I said something that offended you. And for that reason I am adding this one last post.

    I realize that I use vulgar language sometimes, and that some folks find it offensive. So I want to apologize, in particular, for that; should that have offended you. I also want to apologize if my honesty about the fact that I find “vegetarian-moralists” to be, as I put it, “silly” and frequently “annoyingly self-righteous”.

    Anyway, please notice that your response to my (well, as it turns out, next to last post — in MORAL TRUTHMAKERS) was to insult me by comparing me to a 16th century inquisitor. Plus you ended by writing “Farewell SYNTACTIC Terrorist” — which, I guess, was your high-brow way of saying that my THOUGHTS don’t matter — and no one should take me seriously.

    I really, genuinely, am sorry to have hurt your feelings, and provoke insults. But the reason why I have decided not to post on this site anymore is that — after reading almost all of it — it would seem that you almost never change your opinion on anything no matter what anyone says. And that takes the fun out of it for me.

    I honestly do wish you well; and a happy and sucessful academic philosophical career. Please let us part company without hard feelings — for I have enjoyed the time that I’ve spent at your site, despite the fact that I have chosen to no longer post on it. Please just respect my freedom of choice in this matter, and let me go my own way with your good wishes.

    Again, I genuinely apologize for any grief that I may have caused you; and genuinely wish you the best.

  48. No apology necessary Richard!

    You are right that this debate with Noah went no where but reasoned argument can’t help everyone…I’ll leave it to posterity to decide whether Noah views about enrichment are inconsistent or not….if anyone cares…

    But at any rate it is not your comments about vegetarianism that provoked my ire (though they are tiresome). I just can’t take a person seriously anymore once they say outright that they only care about the rules of morality if they are under some kind of outside pressure…hence the comment about the inquisition…as for ‘syntactic’ v. ‘semantic’ that was a joke. You called me ‘Dan Brown’ so I called you ‘syntactic terrorist’…don’t read too much into it…

    I am glad you enjoyed your time here and sorry I do not change my mind enough for your taste but…what are you gonna do?

  49. Richard, you assert that, as humans, we have “a general obligation not to cause unneccessary suffering.”

    I would appreciate it if you could explain to me exactly where that obligation comes from.

  50. Hi Jeff, thanks for the comment!

    This duty comes from the recognition that it is irrational to deny that we have such a duty. Here, roughly, is the argument.

    1. Suffering is a morally relevant property in my own case. I recognize that some suffering is necessary but all things considered I am concerned to minimize it in my own case and so only allow what we might call justified suffering.

    2. My suffering is no more or less important than any other suffering from an ‘objective’ standpoint. This is to say that while I myself am prone to over estimate the significance of my own suffering I can see that from your point of view your own suffering will be as important to you as mine is to me. Thus there is no reason to privilege any one case of suffering over another.

    3. Thus any suffering that is caused should be caused for sufficient reason, that is should be justified.

    4. Unnecessary suffering is unjustified suffering

  51. “This duty comes from the recognition that it is irrational to deny that we have such a duty. ”

    Which doesn’t actually explain where the duty comes from, or why it is irrational to deny its existence.

    “My suffering is no more or less important than any other suffering from an ‘objective’ standpoint.”

    What objective standpoint?

    “This is to say that while I myself am prone to over estimate the significance of my own suffering I can see that from your point of view your own suffering will be as important to you as mine is to me.”

    Surely you realise that this demonstrates very aptly the [i]sub[/]jectivity of suffering?

    “Thus there is no reason to privilege any one case of suffering over another. ”

    As long as the subjects of said suffering are identical, then you are quite correct. On the other hand, when the subjects are very different, say a rapist and his victim, or Hitler and Anne Frank, that dynamic changes, does it not?

    Finally, this argument hinges

    “Thus any suffering that is caused should be caused for sufficient reason, that is should be justified.”

    And who is it who determines exactly what is “sufficient reason” to cause suffering? Who decides which suffering is “justified” and which is not?

  52. Which doesn’t actually explain where the duty comes from, or why it is irrational to deny its existence.

    Well, it explains where the duty comes from. It comes from our recognition that it is irrational to deny it. Now if you reject rationality its tie to contradiction and consistency then I don’t know what else to say but if you accept those commitments and one accepts that it is irrational or contradictory to deny something then should affirm it, no? The argument that follows is supposed then show what is irrational or contradictory about denying that we have such a duty.

    Surely you realise that this demonstrates very aptly the [i]sub[/]jectivity of suffering?

    yes I do realize that and don’t call me Shirley :) But seriously suffering is subjective but what is not subjective is that suffering is objectively bad. The point is that if we consider two cases of suffering of more or less equal intensity then we do not have any reasons to say that one matters more than the other (everything else being equal). The point is that it is inconsistent to think that your suffering is more important just because it is yours and so matter more to you than the suffering of someone else. You can see that it is inconsistent when you realize that from the others point of view their suffering is just as important to them as yours is to you.

    As long as the subjects of said suffering are identical, then you are quite correct. On the other hand, when the subjects are very different, say a rapist and his victim, or Hitler and Anne Frank, that dynamic changes, does it not?

    This should be obvious. You are introducing justification by talking about a rapist and their victim. The rapists might deserve to suffer while the victim doesn’t. I was clearly talking about a cases where some action of mine would cause suffering needlessly (that was the original challenge wasn’t it?)

    And who is it who determines exactly what is “sufficient reason” to cause suffering? Who decides which suffering is “justified” and which is not?

    That is a hard question but it is besides the point here. You challenged me to give an argument for my claim that we have a duty to avoid causing unnecessary suffering. i did that. It is a further question to then go on and ask when we have sufficient reason or justification for causing suffering but one obvious thing we might say to begin is that I demand a substantive reason be given in my own case. Given this and the reasoning above it is pretty straightforward to derive that my getting pleasure as a result of great suffering is not sufficient reason to cause great suffering even if my pleasure is as great as the suffering. That is all I need for my purposes.

  53. Oooh, oooh, how do you do italics? I thought it was HTML but apparantly not.

    “But seriously suffering is subjective but what is not subjective is that suffering is objectively bad.”

    Gotcha.

    “The point is that if we consider two cases of suffering of more or less equal intensity then we do not have any reasons to say that one matters more than the other (everything else being equal). The point is that it is inconsistent to think that your suffering is more important just because it is yours and so matter more to you than the suffering of someone else.”

    I disagree, I would consider the fact that it is *your* suffering to be an excellent reason to say that it matters more. Survival is probably the strongest biological imperative, I would say it inconsistent to consider that your own suffering should not matter more to you than somebody elses.

    “This should be obvious. You are introducing justification by talking about a rapist and their victim. The rapists might deserve to suffer while the victim doesn’t. I was clearly talking about a cases where some action of mine would cause suffering needlessly (that was the original challenge wasn’t it?)”

    Sorry, you are, of course, right here. But I’ve merely used rather extreme examples in order to get my point across. The point was that there is only no reason to “privilege one case of suffering over another” when the subjects are exactly the same. For example, if I got smacked in the mouth on two different occasions, there would be nothing to distinguish the two. If I and somebody else got smacked in the mouth, both would be important to me, but my own suffering would certainly be *more* important.

    “That is a hard question but it is besides the point here. You challenged me to give an argument for my claim that we have a duty to avoid causing unnecessary suffering. i did that. It is a further question to then go on and ask when we have sufficient reason or justification for causing suffering but one obvious thing we might say to begin is that I demand a substantive reason be given in my own case. Given this and the reasoning above it is pretty straightforward to derive that my getting pleasure as a result of great suffering is not sufficient reason to cause great suffering even if my pleasure is as great as the suffering. That is all I need for my purposes.”

    Fine, fine. The questions were designed to put forward the subjectivity of the concepts of “sufficient reason” and “justified suffering”. The point is that, whilst you may not consider the pleasure gained from eating meat to be sufficient reason to justify the suffering of an animal, if others do then their morality is not compromised by such an act.

  54. Italics is done with html…the code is “em” and “/em” replacing the quotes with html brackets…

    I disagree, I would consider the fact that it is *your* suffering to be an excellent reason to say that it matters more. Survival is probably the strongest biological imperative, I would say it inconsistent to consider that your own suffering should not matter more to you than somebody elses.

    Of course what you say is the reason that your suffering matters to you more than the others does but to the other creature their suffering matters to them as much as yours does to you, which is to say that they matter equally. Not subjectively, but objectively.

    The point is that, whilst you may not consider the pleasure gained from eating meat to be sufficient reason to justify the suffering of an animal, if others do then their morality is not compromised by such an act.

    And if I say the same about eating Humans? You may not see the pleasure gained from torturing and eating Humans to be sufficient reason to justify the suffering of a Human, if others do then their morality is not compromised by such an act, right? If not why not? In my case I do not think that any amount of pleasure would justify someone making me suffer if I did not want to be suffering. I think that it is also true from your point of view (mutatis mutandis) and fom this it follows that pleasure gained is not enough by itself to justify causing suffering.

  55. “And if I say the same about eating Humans?”

    The same is true.

    “You may not see the pleasure gained from torturing and eating Humans to be sufficient reason to justify the suffering of a Human, if others do then their morality is not compromised by such an act, right? If not why not?”

    Of course it isn’t, because of the subjectivity of morality.

    “In my case I do not think that any amount of pleasure would justify someone making me suffer if I did not want to be suffering. “

    Presumably, for the pig, no matter how good it tastes eating pork is never justified. The point I was attempting to make is that you appeared to suggest that there was an absolute and objective moral case against the eating of meat, which does not appear to be the case.

    “I think that it is also true from your point of view (mutatis mutandis) and fom this it follows that pleasure gained is not enough by itself to justify causing suffering.”

    I disagree, this does not necessarily follow at all. Pleasure gained (in the case of eating meat) is certainly enough to justify causing the suffering. Mutatis Mutandis only applies where one variable is altered. In my previous example, for instance, the variable would be who is the slapper, and who the slappee. In the case of meat eating there are two variables, the eater/eaten and the human/animal.

    What I am essentially saying is that sufficient reason to justify suffering of a human, is not the same as sufficient reason to justify the suffering of an animal

  56. I am not sure I am following you any more…I do think that there is an absolute and objective moral case against eating meat, or more precisely against factory farming (i.e. against causing unnecessary suffering in order to get it) and this follows from a general duty not to cause unnecessary suffering, which I gave the argument for. What is your disagreement with the argument I gave? To repeat, I gave an argument that it is irrational to deny that animal suffering matters and so we need a compelling reason to override their desire not to suffer and that gaining pleasure us not enough to override that. The argument starts from my own case and generalizes. As far as I can tell you haven’t responded to the argument at all.

  57. Apologies for not being clear.

    “I am not sure I am following you any more…I do think that there is an absolute and objective moral case against eating meat, or more precisely against factory farming (i.e. against causing unnecessary suffering in order to get it) and this follows from a general duty not to cause unnecessary suffering, which I gave the argument for.”

    The argument I have is essentially that even if we have an obligation not to cause unnecessary suffering, the simple fact that “justified suffering” and by extension necessary suffering is defined not by any objective criteria, but is subjective to the personal morality of each individual, and that hence your argument, whilst valid for you, is not necessarily valid for an individual who considers the killing of an animal to eat it’s meat both just and necessary, and is therefore not an an absolute and objective moral case against eating meat, or even factory farming, though I share your views on that issue.

  58. the simple fact that “justified suffering” and by extension necessary suffering is defined not by any objective criteria, but is subjective to the personal morality of each individual, and that hence your argument, whilst valid for you, is not necessarily valid for an individual who considers the killing of an animal to eat it’s meat both just and necessary,

    This is where you are wrong. What counts as justified suffering is defined by an objective criteria, as I outlined above. Namely by the fact that other things being equal suffering is bad wherever you find it. The suffering of the animal is bad for it. That is a reason not to cause it unless it can be outweighed by a reason. If we take your route and hold that the pleasure derived from eating it is enough to justify the causing of suffering then you are committed to that universally. But that is absurd because that means that you are committed to the claim that the pleasure I would get from eating you is enough to justify your suffering. To repeat: to deny this is to assert that your pleasures/suffering is objectively more important than someone else’s and there is no reason to believe this since the two are the same in all relevant respects.

  59. “This is where you are wrong. What counts as justified suffering is defined by an objective criteria, as I outlined above. Namely by the fact that other things being equal suffering is bad wherever you find it. The suffering of the animal is bad for it. That is a reason not to cause it unless it can be outweighed by a reason.”

    Yes, but the point is that it is outweighed by a reason – that it is pleasurable to eat meat.

    “. If we take your route and hold that the pleasure derived from eating it is enough to justify the causing of suffering then you are committed to that universally. But that is absurd because that means that you are committed to the claim that the pleasure I would get from eating you is enough to justify your suffering.”

    Not at all, remember morality i subjective, at all times. I might consider it moral to kill and eat one pig, but consider it immoral to kill and eat another. There is nothing to restrict that subjectivity, because nothing is exactly the same. Sure, they might both be pigs, but they’re different pigs. Likewise, considering it moral to eat a pig does not mean that I have to consider is moral to eat a human, because the circumstances have changed, from a pig to a human.

    At best, you can say that once you have made the decision to kill and eat a pig, should you ever meet the exact same pig again you would logically be forced to make the same decision, otherwise there are no such restraints.

    “To repeat: to deny this is to assert that your pleasures/suffering is objectively more important than someone else’s and there is no reason to believe this since the two are the same in all relevant respects.

    First of all, it’s not objectively more important but subjectively. Secondly, the two are not the same in all respects at all. One is happening to somebody else, and the other to me, this is most certainly a (perhaps the most!) relevent respect.

  60. You seem to be missing the point. You cannot just assert that morality is subjective. You need to give an argument for it. You haven’t. I, on the other hand, did give an argument for the claim that it is not subjective which you haven’t addressed.

    As I said at the of this discussion I assume that we agree on standards of rationality and consistency but it now looks to me as though you do not accept that, or only in some strangely perverted form. It doesn’t matter that the pigs are different; what matters if whether or not they are the same in relevant respects (can they suffer).

    First of all, it’s not objectively more important but subjectively. Secondly, the two are not the same in all respects at all. One is happening to somebody else, and the other to me, this is most certainly a (perhaps the most!) relevent respect.

    Well, you again keep missing the point. I agree that subjectively it is more important but objectively they are equally important. What is your response to this?

  61. “You seem to be missing the point. You cannot just assert that morality is subjective. You need to give an argument for it. You haven’t.”

    It’s easy. You consider eating meat to be morally wrong. I believe it is a perfectly moral action. If morality were objective, there could be no disagreement. If morality were objective, then you would be able to tell me exactly what was and was not moral, and I wouldn’t be able to disagree. Whether it be from God, or from some natural law, there would be something defining what is moral and what is not. No such thing exists, rather we are each left to our own devices, heavily influenced by those around us, to decide what is moral and what is not. Therefore, morality cannot be objective.

    This is why there is no purpose in arguing whether eating meat is morally right or wrong, there is simply no correct answer.

    “It doesn’t matter that the pigs are different; what matters if whether or not they are the same in relevant respects (can they suffer).”

    You are wrong. That they are different is a relevant respect. There is no need to make a consistent moral judgement when the subjects themselves are not consistent in all respects.

    “I agree that subjectively it is more important but objectively they are equally important. What is your response to this?

    That there is no objective importance inherent to suffering. It is up to the subjective judgement of the individual. Some people may consider their suffering to be of absolutely no importance whatever compared to, say, a friends. Others will consider theirs to be of far more importance. The very fact that there are differences in how important people consider their suffering to be is, in itself, proof that they cannot be objectively equal.

  62. At this point I can see there is no use in talking with you about this but I can’t help one final response.

    Your argument for subjectivity is as old as it is unsound. That there is disagreement shows at most that we do not know what the moral truths are not that there aren’t any. This si easy to see if one thinks about other cases where there is massive disagreement. If you were right then whether or not there is a God is subjective, whether or not the speed of light is constant is subjective, whether or not evolution is true is subjective, etc. But that is clearly ridiculous!

    The very fact that there are differences in how important people consider their suffering to be is, in itself, proof that they cannot be objectively equal.

    And again you have missed the point. The point here is, to repeat for the nth time, that when you have two cases of suffering of roughly equal intensity, and all other things being equal, that occur in different creatures there is no reason to think that one of them is any more important than the other from an objective standpoint (that is from a neutral, rational standpoint). That people make judgements about the relative merits of suffering is not relevant here because they are not keeping other things equal.

    You are wrong. That they are different is a relevant respect. There is no need to make a consistent moral judgement when the subjects themselves are not consistent in all respects.

    This is too absurd to take seriously…

  63. “Your argument for subjectivity is as old as it is unsound. That there is disagreement shows at most that we do not know what the moral truths are not that there aren’t any. “

    This is essentially the same argument theist use, and it is just as old, and just as unsound. They say God exists, you say objective morality exists. They present no evidence for the existence of God, you present no evidence for the existence of objective morality. They say that since God hasn’t been proved not to exist, he exists. You are saying the same about objective morality. It’s a logical fallacy.

    There is literally no evidence at all that morality is objective, yet plenty that it is subjective. It is illogical to conclude anything other than that which has the most overwhelming evidence in favour.

    “If you were right then whether or not there is a God is subjective, whether or not the speed of light is constant is subjective, whether or not evolution is true is subjective, etc. But that is clearly ridiculous!”

    No no no, what is ridiculous is this attempt to analogise things that are very, very different. God is either there, or it isn’t. It’s a binary question. Morality is not. The speed of light is a provable and verifiable constant. It can be measured. Morality cannot be “proved” to be right. It’s not something you can measure. Evolution is a concept for which we have absolute, irrefutable physical proof. We have no irrefutable proof that morality is objective.

    “And again you have missed the point. The point here is, to repeat for the nth time, that when you have two cases of suffering of roughly equal intensity, and all other things being equal, that occur in different creatures there is no reason to think that one of them is any more important than the other from an objective standpoint (that is from a neutral, rational standpoint). “

    I’m not missing your point, you are missing mine; there is no objective standpoint. You cannot stand apart from two people under torture, and say that their suffering is equally important, because you have no way of knowing this. It is simply your subjective point of view.

    “This is too absurd to take seriously…”

    It makes absolute sense. We judge Hitler and Anne Frank differently, because their actions were not consistent. That same concept can be applied to any difference.

    • *Sigh* you need to take an ethics class asap! I don’t have time to go through all of this with you…but a quick (I swear *final*) comment.

      You need an argument that morality is different and you haven’t given that. For all you have shown morality may turn out to be like the speed of light or like God’s existence. Just like he either exists or he doesn’t so too it is either wrong to eat meat or it isn’t…at least nothing you have said here shows any different. I have given an argument that starts us on the path to proving basic tenants of morality and you haven’t said anything that addresses it. I never said that there wasn’t any proof that morality wasn’t objective so therefore it is, that is just stupid! What I said was that since logical consistency commits us to the claim that suffering is bad wherever we find it is bad when we find it in animals which means we need a GOOD reason to cause it. Pleasure derived from eating meat is not a good reason because again consistency would require absurd commitments (i.e. that I could eat you for pleasure even if you didn’t want to be eaten).

      I’m not missing your point, you are missing mine; there is no objective standpoint. You cannot stand apart from two people under torture, and say that their suffering is equally important, because you have no way of knowing this. It is simply your subjective point of view.

      There is a way of knowing this and I have repeatedly outlined it for you…but I am afraid that is all I have patience for. Good day, Jeff.

  64. Hi Professor Brown,
    I started off watching your video discussion with Pete Mandik, and ended up reading the entirety of this thread. Go figure!
    At any rate, as a philosophy student very interested in phil mind and cog sci, and also happening to be a vegetarian (vegan, to be precise) we seem to have a bit in common.
    I want to apologize in advance if my characterization of your interlocutors offends you. I am trying to speak plainly.
    I first wanted to admire your patience in argument on this topic–it certainly outlasts mine. I presume these are mostly undergraduates (non-philosophy majors?) posting here, so perhaps I should have relaxed standards, but it is a bit depressing to see how much back-and-forth is simply due to a lack of appreciation for the mechanics of argument (on their part, of course). It is even worse to think that the many arguments above that, ahem, didn’t end in complete concession on their part, are likely to result in their thinking they have won–or even worse, that you just “agreed to disagree.”
    Now I am in no place to give advice, but after reading over your discussion with “noah” I started trying to think more precisely about what was going wrong. One thing you said, I found particularly pertinent:
    “That’s what I mean about being consistent. You want to privilege human life and experience but then you offer a theory which is unable to deliver those results.”
    I think this point, were it emphasized earlier and more explicitly in the argument, might have helped a lot. The thing to realize, I suppose, is that often times your student interlocutors do not, properly speaking, DISAGREE with your objections or find them uncompelling, but rather, they don’t even seem to understand why you are criticizing them the way you are. The idea above, though it may seem so intuitive after years of thinking about theory-construction and philosophy more generally, is (apparently) not intuitive to the novice. That is, when defending an (ethical) theory, one must rely on the definitions and criteria stated in the theory to decide what that theory implies–i.e. whether it is OK to eat homeless people, etc. What your interlocutors, such as “Noah,” seem to do repeatedly is to propose some theory or analysis of “good” or “right” etc., and then proceed to use their pretheoretic intuitions when judging the permissibility of particular cases. Now what I have said may seem remedial, but based on many of the above comments, it needs saying. I think a lot of discussions like these can be cut straight to the core if you skip the routine of offering counterexamples and running reductios–the kinds of things you’d do for someone who is practiced in the art of argument–and instead explain what is required of them to have a satisfactory argument.
    I don’t like the idea of only arguing with people who are, basically, advanced in philosophy. For one, I hate the cloistering effect that it can have (the interdisciplinary nature of cog sci is part of what draws me to it). And I hate to sound like a no-good, standard analytic-philosophy intellectual elitist. But when I see the kinds of pseudo-arguments offered above, I just wonder if there’s any hope.
    Once again, I admire you for your patience.

  65. In reply to Miles – “I hate to sound like a no-good, standard analytic-philosophy intellectual elitist.” – You said it……
    Philosophy has no real advantageous take on this debate more than any other perspective. We, the human live alongside other non-humans in a relational, socially constructed world. Currently, eating one another is part of those relations. Morals and ethics are therefore a human phenomena, to be adopted or not. I personally eat as ethically as I can afford. Where’s the intellectual debate, In your own film, book or legend perhaps? Vegetarianism is good and so is a considerately dispatched fillet steak!!!!

  66. If you were assuming that because something is not universal then it ought not be done implying it’s converse that if something is universal then it ought to be done, then I think you might have stumbled into the naturalistic fallacy. That because something is not the norm or natural then it is wrong. It begs the question, is the norm good? What is good?

  67. I really shouldn’t chime in, I’m just a random outside observer reading this years after the fact but I have a question based in statements I’ve read here through these arguments and I’m curious as to the answer. Think of me as Devil’s Advocate… (and, by the way, I am thoroughly, and probably obviously, untrained in philosophy so forgive me if I slept though this particular Phil 101 lecture at my own Alma Mater…)

    So, please consider…
    1. It is always immoral to cause needless suffering
    2. One can choose whether to engage in arguing philosophical matters.
    3. Arguing philosophically with someone makes them angry, humiliates them, or makes them question years of life choices.
    4. Anger, humiliation and self-doubt are all forms of suffering (at least to cognitive humans like us–I doubt a pig feels humiliated often).

    If 1 is true and you choose to participate in 2 (which you clearly do, as evidenced by this blog post), you cause 3. Since your choice to participate in arguing philosophical matters causes suffering, is it not immoral? Therefore, should you not refrain from saying or doing anything that may cause another to suffer, even if the suffering is small?

    Said slightly tongue-in-cheek, of course, but I guess that leads me to my questions: At what level of causing suffering ought one consider the morality of causing said suffering? Killing an animal? Belittling it? Letting it see you are there and might be a threat? Along the same lines, If you recognize that, as a professor, pop quizzes cause unnecessary suffering, are you morally obligated to never give a pop quiz, or a test, or to make somebody suffer when they feel bad that they don’t understand? Why or why not?

    You also stated that objective morality either is or is not, that is, that it contains a binary existence. Either I need you to explain that or I’ll say I disagree. “God either does or does not exist” is a very easy binary as existence of one singular being can either be proved or not (or disproved or not), but I find it a poor analog to “objective morality either does or does not exist”. From how I see it, every action has many different moral implications all competing for importance.

    One could say that it is immoral to drive over the speed limit. Driving over the speed limit causes suffering: to neighbors who might have more dust kicked into their yards, to humans or animals you may hit with your car, or to others or yourself as you could crash causing either property damage or injury. (If nothing else, the knowledge of the *risk* of these potential externalities may cause suffering.) According to the “avoiding unnecessary suffering” rule, speeding is out. However, there is going to be a time when there is an exception to this rule. Your father/lover/a hobo is sitting in the seat next to you having a heart attack and you need to drive a long way to get them to a hospital. (Let’s say you live in Wyoming, there’s no cell coverage and no ambulance or flight for life would come either way.) You know you can: a) speed and cause the unnecessary suffering of the others as mentioned (the suffering is unnecessary if you can choose whether to inflict it, yes?), and save the human having a heart attack from suffering death; or b) you can go the speed limit and have the person next to you die, saving the suffering of the others, but being directly responsible for the choice that caused the (seemingly unnecessary) death of the person in your car.

    No doubt, chance plays a part in all this. Is it a different choice if there is only a 10% chance of hitting a child, but a 100% chance of damaging property? How about a 50% chance of hitting a child? What if the person in the next seat is not a person but a cow having a heart attack? I take it to the level of absurdities but I think you can see where I’m going with this.

    In this case, there seems, in real life anyway, to be competing moralities in which you need to choose that which would cause the least suffering, right? As I see it, the existence of morality is not binary as is the existence of God, but it more like a group of tiny moralities in which analogs may be difficult or impossible to find and right/wrong choices are difficult to make.

    It seems, to me at least, with none of the formal training in the discipline and sport that is philosophy, that morality is ever a grey area and that absolute morality does not exist. It is tempered and altered by risk, chance, emotion, choice, and irrationality. Ultimately, morality may be more the “general social will” than anything that can be deduced by pure reason alone. In some societies, killing and eating any animal may be fine. In others, (like Jainism, or fructarians), it is seen as immoral to take any life.

    Anyway, I thought I’d bring this stuff up. I’d love a response, and I’m not really advocating for a meat/veg lifestyle, because, let’s be honest, who’s going to change a mind on an internet blog?

    Anyway, keep up the good conversation, as an ENTP, arguing is a sport and I’ll switch positions and challenge assumptions just for shits and grins!
    (Like the statement that it is “irrational to deny that animal suffering matters”, but that’s a topic for another day!) Ciao!

  68. Wow…started the last to paragraphs with “anyway” ouch.

    Anyway, enjoying the blog, even if I disagree with much of what most people say. ;)

  69. Thanks for stopping by!

    I think it is obvious that it is *needless* suffering which is at issue (notice that is what you yourself quote me as saying in 1). But you are right that any time one’s actions cause suffering one needs to worry about whether the suffering is justified. Now, what counts as the proper justification is of course what is the real issue but no one can disagree (rationally) with the claim that unjustified suffering is unjustified! (btw, if you are interested in what I think is a good justification read J. S. Mill’s defense of free speech in On Liberty)

    You say,

    objective morality either does or does not exist”. From how I see it, every action has many different moral implications all competing for importance.

    How is this disagreeing with what I said? Objective morality either does or doesn’t exist…you say it doesn’t…ok…I give an argument for why it does…we disagree about whether it does or doesn’t but those are the only two options!

    • Can someone please explain again; firstly ‘objective’ then ‘reality’ and then together would be even more amusing!!!!

      Please read The Social Construction of Reality by Berger & Luckman 1966 and then some Thomas Kuhn etc.

      Surely the most cogent debate here is how vegetarians and meat eaters can & should work together to enforce legislation that demands consummate respect and care to the animals eaten, both in life and in the processes of their demise?

      Whereas, ‘In vitro’ or cultured meat is a whole new ‘ball game’ – please discuss????

  70. Let me preface this by saying I am a Vegan – for health reasons AND because I believe it’s incorrect.

    It’s my own internal logic, I believe that living creatures should be treated a certain way because there are qualities that I respect.

    That being said: I know it’s purely my choice and my choice alone to choose to be consistent. Anyone arguing for objective morality is so clouded in their instilled dogma that they can’t or choose not to see past it.

    We evolved. We made our rules.

    There are people all over the world with different ethics and morality. People who truly believe it’s right to sacrifice humans, to be sacrificed, to murder perpetrators of wrongdoing.

    Any objective moral truth you can think of: An example can be made that someone, somewhere has felt it to be the correct course of action, and justifiable.

    I don’t claim to see into the minds of others, and maybe objective morality can be proven when we develop a moral-brain-scanner, until then, I’ll take the more obvious route; that we just came up with rules that suited us based on current needs and those rules often linger into the future.

  71. While I find virtue ethics more compelling than Kantianism, I mostly agree. But then there’s this:

    “If something remotely like physicalism is true then eating the person’s body is eating the person, and so we are treating them as a means only.”

    Even assuming every person is identical with a body, it just doesn’t follow that every body is identical with a person. Severely impeding the functioning of a human body (such as by killing it) ends its personhood in a similar manner to how a chess club that still meets in the same place, with the same members, but now practices interpretive dance and watches action movies instead of playing chess has ceased to be a chess club in all but name.

  72. “To be the subject of a life is to have experience such that it matters to you what happens to you. That animals express preferences is evidence that they are subjects of a life and so they have the right to live.”

    I disagree with this statement that seems to go unchallenged. All organisms exhibit preferences for survival. Even the simplest organisms express preferences. There would be no evolutionary advantage for an ant to crawl directly into a flame without exhibiting a reaction to physical damage. Moreover it would show preference to avoid the flame.

    That reaction is itself not evidence of “an experience that it matters to you what happens to you”. Even the simplest single-celled organisms express preferences when exposed to noxious stimuli. Every organism does. I don’t think anyone would argue that every living thing “wants” to live on any higher level beyond that which is biologically programmed or simple mechanical.

    With regards to the animals we eat (chickens, cows, rabbits, fish), it’s controversial at best whether they possess a distinct consciousness. For example, have ever passed the self-awareness “mirror test.” If they don’t, then it puts the idea of suffering into question. (How is it possible to suffer without a district consciousness or awareness of self?) My problem is that this too often goes unchallenged by those arguing about animal suffering.

    • Animals certainly possess a consciousness. Self-awareness refers to a degree or level of consciousness. Animals at many levels express awareness of their environment. Quite obviously, animals process information and communicate with one another. How would an unconscious animal communicate?

      “I don’t think anyone would argue that every living thing “wants” to live on any higher level beyond that which is biologically programmed or simple mechanical.”

      You’re probably right, not every living thing. So, we can agree that there are many levels of consciousness. It is a narrow vision that argues that a being is either conscious or it is not.

      Having self-awareness is not a requirement for suffering. I would agree that consciousness is required. Experiencing pain is enough to suffer. Isolation can cause suffering.

      Or the opposite.. not being isolated can cause suffering. Put a mirror to a betta fish and see what happens. They exhibit fear and awareness, not of self, but of what the betta perceives as another betta. So the gills pop out and they blow up to look threatening. They are in fear. Experiencing fear or stress causes suffering.

      Temple Grandin knew this. She could see that cows were suffering from stress in the cattle shute. The cows were very aware of the other cows’suffering… they could see it, sense it. So she redesigned the process to reduce their awareness of their environment, thus eliminating their unnecessary suffering.

      People don’t challenge this because it is obvious that cows and rabbits are conscious.

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