In Defense of the Interests and Moral Status of Nonhuman Animals

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Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 08:35 pm
(Could someone move this to the Ethics forum, please? Thanks.)

I'd like to the defend the following two positions:

1. Killing animals is prima facie morally wrong (can be overidden in certain cases)
2. Eating animals is ultima facie morally wrong (cannot be overriden)

My argument makes no appeal to utility, rights, pain or suffering, but to interests:

1. Causing harm is prima facie morally wrong (assumed).

Note: premise (1) is an assumed moral principle: harming is wrong, not because it violates some right, or because it fails to maximize utility, or because it breaks some social contract, or because it is absolute, but simply because it is wrong; the moral basis for premise (1) is grounded in compassion and the recognition of the interests of all sentient beings, period. Secondly, by "prima facie" is meant that the principle can be overriden in certain cases (e.g., self-defense). This argument is aimed at persuading people who already accept premise (1), since the argument itself hinges on its acceptability. Of course, those who deny premise (1) but wish to accept it for the sake of argument are encouraged to do so. At any rate, I am not interested in defending premise (1) apart from further clarifying its meaning and inferential relationship with other premises. Thank you.

2. Killing animals causes them harm.
3. Therefore, killing animals is prima facie morally wrong.
4. Animal-eating requires the killing of animals.
5. Therefore, animal-eating is prima facie morally wrong.
6. The wrongness of animal-eating is not overriden.
7. Therefore, animal-eating is ultima facie morally wrong.
-----
8. Vegetarianism is morally obligatory (see note).

Note: premise (4) allows for eating animals who died due to accidents, natural causes, or other sources which do not involve the deliberate actions of moral agents.

Some quick definitions:

Harm: to harm a being is to do something which adversely affects its interests; in particular, harming amounts to the thwarting, setting back, or defeating of another beings' interests.

Interests: Interests in this context refer to basic welfare interests shared by all sentient beings: physical health and vigor, normal bodily integrity and functioning, absence of pain and suffering, emotional stability and well-being, tolerable social and physical environment, a certain amount of freedom from interference and coercion.

Animal: sentient vertebrate species.

Sentience: requisite mental capacities to form desires that reflect basic welfare interests; e.g., the desire for physical health and well-being, etc.

There is much I have not clarified, but I'd rather wait to see whether the OP generates substantial interest before I provide further details. I've therefore intentionally kept it concise. I'll reply to your responses as promptly as possible.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sun 3 May, 2009 04:09 am
@New Mysterianism,
Hey there,

Not bad, but you've not shown why killing a sentient animal - for any reason - is wrong (or why you feel its wrong). Since your arguments want to convince or clarify, and since the entire structure hinges on this one point, I'd very much love to hear it.

Good terminology by the way; not sapient, not self-aware, but sentient. Also good structure - aside from the "its just wrong cuz it is" thing Smile

Nice post, thank you - looking forward to a clarification.

Thanks
 
ogden
 
Reply Sun 3 May, 2009 07:28 am
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism wrote:

1. Causing harm is prima facie morally wrong (assumed).

8. Vegetarianism is morally obligatory (see note).

Harm: to harm a being is to do something which adversely affects its interests; in particular, harming amounts to the thwarting, setting back, or defeating of another beings' interests.



If 1. is true, then 8. is false.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 3 May, 2009 09:03 am
@ogden,
Humans eating animals is no more immoral than when one of them eats us. Humans eat animals for the same reason that animals eat humans - nutrition.

Secondly, humans are persons. A person is any being or organism that exhibits significant intelligence and volition. Persons, for example, are more shaped by their environment than they are by their genes and primal instincts, while non-personal organisms are almost completely subject to their genes and primal instincts. For this reason, non-personal organisms cannot be expected to uphold the moral standards that we expect from other persons. Therefore, non-personal organisms are not granted the same rights as persons.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sun 3 May, 2009 09:26 am
@hue-man,
Hey guys.

I'm not avoiding your questions, but the current debate is in the "hello" thread on the same page. Would you mind reposting in there? I'll answer them thoroughly in there. Thanks.

Could a moderator please delete this thread?
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sun 3 May, 2009 02:00 pm
@New Mysterianism,
Closing thread - duplicate Opening Post. See this thread for discussion.
 
 

 
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