Defending killing and eating animals is morally wrong

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Oikeiosis
 
Reply Fri 4 Dec, 2009 08:36 pm
@Kroni,
Kroni;101348 wrote:
I disagree with premise 2, that killing the animal causes it harm. Now hear me out, I'm not saying that it is not in the interest of the animals to live. My point is that the animals we consume have been so domesticated that they would be unable to survive as a species without us. If we were to stop eating them, they would cease to exist.


I question the plausibility of your arguing from the projected benefits of nonexistent cows as justification for breeding more cows for the abbatoir.

In other words, in what sense can a world that does not include a particular cow be bad for "it" (for the nonexistent cow) relative to a world in which "it" will exist? Nonexistent entities don't have interests, so the claim that we're obligated to bring nonexistent cows into existence is nonsensical. "Some life is better than no life" only makes sense when we're talking about entities that already exist, be it a fetus, a child, an adult, etc. Similarly, no one would argue that I'm being unfair to my nonexistent children, or as-of-yet-unconceived-progeny, simply because I choose not to have children.

Doubtful too is your underlying assumption that more cow lives are better than few, inasmuch as cows are bred to be killed and eaten anyway. But let's not delude ourselves; your claim that we should continue to breed and eat cows because they would go extinct otherwise doesn't really stem from a genuine concern for the welfare of the cows, does it? Rather, it's a nonsensical and self-serving excuse that stems from an unwillingness to accept a moral injunction against a gustatory pleasure (e.g., eating steak).
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2009 07:54 pm
@CosmicHolist,
CosmicHolist;96652 wrote:
Why is it morally acceptable to kill a nonhuman animal if it is killed painlessly? Death is still a harm for an animal because such an event deprives it of future experiences and continued existence. Is it morally acceptable to kill a human if it is killed painlessly? I imagine your answer would be "no" for precisely the same reason: death is still a harm for a human because such an event deprives it of future experiences and continued existence. That said, there are special cases in which it may be in the best interest of a particular human or nonhuman to be euthanized because it is experiencing interminable pain and suffering; but in ordinary cases, no such consideration is available to justify killing (even if administered painlessly).



Okay, so in your view our exploitation of nonhuman animals is morally justified regardless of whether there is actual pain involved. Again, I'd ask the same questions I did in the previous response just above.


I see no reason to not have a stratified objective, if it helps nonhuman animals, good, if it helps humans (in a holistic sense as best as we can determine it) better. Compassion for animals is simply projection, and assumes a great deal about the qualia of a foreign species. That being said, I tend to think that behaviorally, there is a lot to be said about the sentience of certain animals and I tend to feel compassion for them and dislike harming them, however, I question the practicality of the vegan diet and the overall benefit to humans. If you want to divorce me from anthropocentrism, it will be very difficult because I have the belife that self interested rational action, if one can reason deeply enough, presents the best overall course of action, as in rational game theory.



CosmicHolist;96652 wrote:
Having read through the thread carefully, and through the OP in particular, I can state with confidence that NM was not suggesting that we not eat anything living. According to his argument, sentient animals--those organisms with the capacity to experience pain and pleasure--have an interest in living their lives unfettered and free from human interference. In other words, possessing sentience is a sufficient condition for moral status, because only sentient beings can be harmed in the morally relevant sense. Plants are most certainly alive but not sentient, so humans starvation is not a consequence of NM's position.


It seems wholly unrealistic that the average person live on a vegetarian or vegan diet in terms of monetary and time constraints. Can you reconcile these constraints with your philosophy or provide information that discredits this stance?



CosmicHolist;96652 wrote:
The "appeal to nature" is a commonly committed logical fallacy (Appeal to nature - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), so it would be useful to explain in some detail why it represents an invalid form of reasoning. The appeal to nature is essentially a fallacy of relevance and consists of the claim that something is good or right simply because it is natural, or because it can be inferred from evolutionary principles, and so forth. Four main problems render this line of reasoning invalid.

First, there is no clear notion of what it means for something to be "natural," as the term itself is often vaguely defined or laden with cultural and religious contexts. Indeed, one could argue that predation, murder, rape, torture, and genocide are perfectly natural, but few would condone such behavior.



CosmicHolist;96652 wrote:
Second, it is worth noting that nearly every form of oppression and discrimination in human history has been defended as "natural." We have routinely justified as natural the sexism rooted in the notion that women should be disenfranchised and subservient to men. We have routinely justified as natural human enslavement on the ground that such social arrangements represent the "natural superiority" of one race or rank over another. And now, we routinely justify as natural the exploitation of other sentient species on the similar ground that it is only "natural" for us to do so--which is speciesist to the core.


It isn't that it is natual, its that stopping it would have gross negative affects on world economy and is totally infeasable until it is made more practical and available to the average and poor consumer. The term "Speciesist" does not seem rational to me, it presumes too much. You will have to explain why specieism is wrong to the logical positivist/radical empiricist in me because I don't see it. As of now, it seems like some form of philosophical confusion resulting from a gap in reasoning.


CosmicHolist;96652 wrote:
Third, if one insists on taking the behaviors of wild animals as an ethical guide (and no one really ever suggests doing so until confronted with questions of animal rights, but we'll ignore that), it must be noted that many animals are actually vegetarians. Also, it just isn't morally relevant whether some animals eat other animals or not. Most carnivorous animals simply cannot live without eating meat, but we do not fall into that category. With very few exceptions, humans live fine without eating meat. Lastly, unlike nonhuman animals, humans are moral agents. That is, we don't take the behaviors of wild animals as our ethical guide. Furthermore, to say that nonhuman animals are no more innocent than we is to suggest that nonhuman behavior is morally culpable. However, nonhuman animals lack moral agency--they simply survive. Besides, if we really wanted to defy commonsense and insist that nonhuman animals are moral agents and thus are not above moral culpability, then we would have to accord basic moral rights to vegetarian species at the very least (the ones we happen to exploit the most).


Humans can live fine without eating meat, but it needs to be practical. Can you feed the world without meat? Can you make non meat alternatives cost effieicent for those who can barely afford to put food on the table? I can't really afford (to my knowledge, perhaps you could enlighten me) in terms of time and money, to be vegetarian.

CosmicHolist;96652 wrote:
Fourth, it is interesting to note that when it is convenient for us to do so, we attempt to justify our exploitation of animals by resting on our supposed "superiority." And when our supposed "superiority" gets in the way of what we want to do, we suddenly portray ourselves as nothing more than another species of wild animal.


A contradiction if it is a single entity doing this. Citation would be nice. Really I don't know about an overall "superiority". We certainly have a superior ability to manipulate our environment to suit us. Many of us like to think we are better than animals, we are just better at hiding the fact. We have animalistic urges pushing us, but they are hidden by social conditioning (though that itself is part of our nature) and multilayered with reasoning. Humans are animals who are unusually able to gain a level of control that allows them to carry out multistep plans and problem solve. It doesn't necessarily make us better at picking the right problem. We are the only species tomassacre our own on a consisten basis. We can do this because of our reasoning ability, we can make immesne tasks seem like nothing. We are still very much animals who gladly exploit our own, nevermind a critter we only know in passing and whos sentience we can only conjecture by drawing biological paralells and extrapolating, especially with the great benefit our exploits give us. Those who exploit only justify to rid themselves of those who would bother them, not to try to make themselves feel better, for they have no qualms.
 
13usta57
 
Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2009 06:29 pm
@New Mysterianism,
"killing and eating animals is morally wrong" according to whos morals?
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 01:28 pm
@13usta57,
13usta57;108627 wrote:
"killing and eating animals is morally wrong" according to whos morals?


According to anyone who holds to that moral view, presumably. Does that clear things up for you?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 04:14 pm
@New Mysterianism,
Our eyes are in the front. We sure like to kill one another, especially in teams. What a nice combination, intense brotherhood and the joyous mutilation of the enemy.

Has anyone suggested vegetarianism to lions? Or only to humanity, a far superior predator?

Is it sympathy for animals or a righteous elitism that motivates vegetarians? Or neither? Or both?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 06:32 pm
@Kroni,
Ok, so was NewMysterian banned and then re-registered as CosmicHolist and banned again? If so this might be going out to no one...

NewMysterian wrote:
Moreover, in the US, at least, the law generally imposes on humans no "duty to aid" even when humans are involved. If I am walking down the street and see a person lying passed out, face down in a puddle of water and drowning, the law imposes no obligation on me to assist that person even if all I need to do is roll her over, something I can do without risk or serious inconvenience to myself.


First of all, it certainly does, though I'm sure it depends on where you live. I don't remember what it's called, but you can be charged with a crime. You also dismissed legality as being important to morality later. I think you would be in the wrong if you did not roll the person over.

Secondly, if we don't have the responsibility to prevent lions from killing animals in the wild, why do we have the responsibility to prevent people from killing animals in the wild?
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 07:31 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;109381 wrote:
Secondly, if we don't have the responsibility to prevent lions from killing animals in the wild, why do we have the responsibility to prevent people from killing animals in the wild?


First, unlike human beings, lions have no choice in the matter. They eat to survive, period. If we were to "police nature" by preventing lions from eating their prey, we would be harming the lions. Nonhuman carnivores are no more guilty or innocent than nonhuman herbivores, since both simply do what they must to survive.

Second, human beings, as omnivores, have a choice. NewMysterian/CosmicHolist has already dealt with some embarrassingly misinformed nutritional objections, provided the relevant links, and so forth, so I won't pursue the matter further. There's plenty of vegetarians out there whose limbs haven't fallen off yet.

Third, and most importantly, human beings are moral agents. We have the capacity to make informed ethical judgments and act accordingly. We can formulate moral principles and reference these in determining the consequences of our actions. As such, we can be held morally responsible. Nonhuman animals, however, cannot be held morally responsible because they cannot engage in moral reasoning. They are not moral agents.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 07:36 pm
@New Mysterianism,
"Moral agents" is just a phrase. As well as the rest of the righteous spiel. That being said, I was a vegetarian once. I don't think it's pretty, our mass slaughter. But it's not pretty the way we treat one another either. And I wonder if moralism in general isn't founded on the pleasure of righteousness, of playing the hero.

Yes, we do have sympathy, but is this genuine sympathy enough? Or does it need to be amplified by the idea of ourselves as heroes before we act, preach, focus on just one of many many possible righteous causes.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 07:49 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;109424 wrote:
"Moral agents" is just a phrase. As well as the rest of the righteous spiel. That being said, I was a vegetarian once. I don't think it's pretty, our mass slaughter. But it's not pretty the way we treat one another either. And I wonder if moralism in general isn't founded on the pleasure of righteousness, of playing the hero.

Yes, we do have sympathy, but is this genuine sympathy enough? Or does it need to be amplified by the idea of ourselves as heroes before we act, preach, focus on just one of many many possible righteous causes.


A moral opposition to animal exploitation is no more a matter of "elitism" or "righteousness" than is an opposition to theft, rape, murder, torture, sexism, racism, slavery, or genocide. Whether we regard ourselves as "heroes" when advertising our opposition to these wrongs and formulating ethical arguments in support them is irrelevant and ad hominem (appeal to the person fallacy). Dismissing a moral argument as "righteous spiel" is not a valid counterpoint.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 07:52 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;109420 wrote:
First, unlike human beings, lions have no choice in the matter. They eat to survive, period. If we were to "police nature" by preventing lions from eating their prey, we would be harming the lions. Nonhuman carnivores are no more guilty or innocent than nonhuman herbivores, since both simply do what they must to survive.

Second, human beings, as omnivores, have a choice. NewMysterian/CosmicHolist has already dealt with the misinformed nutritional objections, provided links, and so forth, so I'm not going to pursue the matter further. There's plenty of vegetarians out there whose limbs haven't fallen off yet.

Third, and most importantly, human beings are moral agents. We have the capacity to make informed ethical judgments and act accordingly. We can formulate moral principles and reference these in determining the consequences of our actions. As such, we can be held morally responsible. Nonhuman animals, however, cannot be held morally responsible because they cannot engage in moral reasoning. They are not moral agents.


I don't believe the "moral agents" part is significant to the argument. We feel the compunction to save people from non moral agents, even if they require food to survive. That is because peoples lives have special value for us. NewMysterian was arguing that animals also had a special value.

He also rejected parts 4-8 form his argument. So even if it immoral for the workers at the slaughterhouse to kill animals, how is it our responsibility to stop them any more than it is to stop a bear from killing a fish?



I suspect that some day we'll be able to grow meat in the lab, and the whole argument will become moot.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 07:55 pm
@New Mysterianism,
I'm not so sure. You sound ready to string some meat-eating humans up. A world without exploitation is like a world where no one craps. It's not gonna happen. I don't think humans are all that sympathetic. We are predators. It's a little Quixotic to try to convince a species known for genocide to begin respecting animal rights.

The violation of animal rights has been the survival of our children. True, we could manage to stop eating meat. But I don't think we really want to. And a "right" is just an invented human concept, however desirable.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 08:04 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;109431 wrote:
I don't believe the "moral agents" part is significant to the argument. We feel the compunction to save people from non moral agents, even if they require food to survive. That is because peoples lives have special value for us. NewMysterian was arguing that animals also had a special value.


Valuing humans over nonhumans in rare situations of conflict is not inconsistent with the view that animals have the right to live their lives free from human ownership and exploitation.

Second, NewMysterian did not claim it was our moral responsibility to physically prevent abbatoir workers from killing animals. Rather, he suggested going vegetarian as a way in which to reduce the market demand for animal meat.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 08:14 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;109437 wrote:
Valuing humans over nonhumans in rare situations of conflict is not inconsistent with the view that animals have the right to live their lives free from human ownership and exploitation.


Yes, but saying that animals deserve protection only from humans seems like an odd view. It makes the "bad" part of an animal being killed the actions of the killer instead of the pain and death of the animal itself.


Quote:
Second, NewMysterian did not claim it was our moral responsibility to physically prevent abbatoir workers from killing animals. Rather, he suggested going vegetarian as a way in which to reduce the market demand for animal meat.


I'm not sure it would decrease market demand, but that's an economics argument.

He began the thread with a claim that going vegetarian was a moral responsibility. He later dropped the going vegetarian part from the argument and talked only about the slaughterhouses, at least that was my impression.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 08:36 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;109439 wrote:
Yes, but saying that animals deserve protection only from humans seems like an odd view. It makes the "bad" part of an animal being killed the actions of the killer instead of the pain and death of the animal itself.


The basic right not to be treated as a thing means that we cannot treat animals exclusively as means to human ends-just as we cannot treat other humans exclusively as means to the ends of other humans. Even though we have laws that prevent people from owning other humans, or using them as unconsenting biomedical subjects, we generally do not require that humans prevent harm to other humans in all situations.
For example, we do not require that Jane risk serious harm by intervening to prevent Simon from killing Jones.

Similarly, the basic right of animals not to be treated as things means that we cannot treat animals as our resources. It does not necessarily mean that we have moral or legal obligations to render them aid or to intervene to prevent harm from coming to them.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 09:02 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;109441 wrote:
The basic right not to be treated as a thing means that we cannot treat animals exclusively as means to human ends-just as we cannot treat other humans exclusively as means to the ends of other humans. Even though we have laws that prevent people from owning other humans, or using them as unconsenting biomedical subjects, we generally do not require that humans prevent harm to other humans in all situations.
For example, we do not require that Jane risk serious harm by intervening to prevent Simon from killing Jones.


We have laws against slavery, but we don't expect people to go out preventing slavery. I agree.



Quote:
Similarly, the basic right of animals not to be treated as things means that we cannot treat animals as our resources. It does not necessarily mean that we have moral or legal obligations to render them aid or to intervene to prevent harm from coming to them.
Yes, I do think you have to specify the claim that it is the exploitation of animals that is wrong, not their deaths, in order to avoid saying that we should police the wilderness. But that's a dispassionate claim, and is at odds with the compassion people feel towards animals. I think people don't feel bad about animals dying horrible deaths in the wild because it is natural, but they do feel bad about a relatively painless death by the hand of man.

Humans have more rights than just "not being treated as resources" (people would argue). So animal rights aren't the same. What is the source of them then?

Back when food was scarce and we needed to fish or hunt to survive, I don't think you would object to us using animals as a resource. Now that we can choose not to, you say that we should choose not to. I'm curious why you say that because I don't have a real strong reason why not, it just doesn't feel right.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 09:33 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;109445 wrote:
Humans have more rights than just "not being treated as resources" (people would argue).


Humans certainly have more rights than nonhumans. For example, animals cannot vote or operate motor vehicles, so according them these rights would not be meaningful to them. The only claim I made was that both humans and nonhumans have the same fundamental right not to be regarded as property or treated exclusively as means to an end.

Quote:
So animal rights aren't the same. What is the source of them then?


If I understand this question correctly, it could be rephrased as follows:

"Rights were devised by humans. How can they even be applicable to animals?" There are two ways to answer this question.

First, just as the moral status of a human or animal is not determined by who caused the human or the animal to come into existence, the application of a moral concept is not determined by who devised it. If moral benefits went only to the devisers of moral concepts, then most of humnankind would still be outside the moral community. Rights concepts as we currently understand them were actually devised as a way of protecting the interests of wealthy white male landowners; indeed, most moral concepts were historically devised by privileged males to benefit other privileged males. As time went on, we recognized that the principle of equal consideration required that we treat similar cases in a similar way and we subsequently extended rights (and other moral benefits) to other humans. In particular, the principle of equal consideration required that we regard as morally odious the ownership of some humans by other humans. If we are going to apply the principle of equal consideration to animals, then we must extend to animals the right not to be treated as a resource.

Second, it is irrelevant whether animals devised rights or can even understand the concept of rights. We do not require that humans be potential devisers of rights or understand the concept of rights in order to be beneficiaries of rights. For example, a severely retarded human being might not have the ability to understand what a right is, but that does not mean that we should not accord her the protection of at least the basic right not to be treated as a resource of others.

Quote:
Back when food was scarce and we needed to fish or hunt to survive, I don't think you would object to us using animals as a resource. Now that we can choose not to, you say that we should choose not to. I'm curious why you say that because I don't have a real strong reason why not, it just doesn't feel right.


NewMysterian addressed this concern in a previous post, but i'll give you my response, which is fairly similar.

I assume as a fundamental moral principle that no person should be required to destroy his or her life for the sake of others; therefore, any diet having this consequence is not morally justified.

In other words, if you cannot meet basic nutritional needs on a vegetarian diet, or if alternative food sources are unavailable in your particular region, then vegetarianism as a moral requirement is overridden for you. To insist otherwise, we can agree, imposes unreasonable moral demands by violating your fundamental right not to be required to destroy your life for the sake of others.

I'm not sure whether I picked up on all your questions (or whether I understood correctly the ones I answered), so feel free to reiterate them.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 10:12 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;109450 wrote:
Humans certainly have more rights than nonhumans. For example, animals cannot vote or operate motor vehicles, so according them these rights would not be meaningful to them. The only claim I made was that both humans and nonhumans have the same fundamental right not to be regarded as property or treated exclusively as means to an end.


Do you consider the human right to life to be greater than an animals? Going back to the lion example, if a starving lion was attacking a giraffe you might not shoot the lion, but if it was attacking a human you would, correct?

Quote:
If I understand this question correctly, it could be rephrased as follows:

"Rights were devised by humans. How can they even be applicable to animals?" There are two ways to answer this question.

First, just as the moral status of a human or animal is not determined by who caused the human or the animal to come into existence, the application of a moral concept is not determined by who devised it. If moral benefits went only to the devisers of moral concepts, then most of humnankind would still be outside the moral community. Rights concepts as we currently understand them were actually devised as a way of protecting the interests of wealthy white male landowners; indeed, most moral concepts were historically devised by privileged males to benefit other privileged males. As time went on, we recognized that the principle of equal consideration required that we treat similar cases in a similar way and we subsequently extended rights (and other moral benefits) to other humans. In particular, the principle of equal consideration required that we regard as morally odious the ownership of some humans by other humans. If we are going to apply the principle of equal consideration to animals, then we must extend to animals the right not to be treated as a resource.
Often when equal consideration has been withheld in the past, it has been out of ignorance. Africans were considered to be subhuman, women considered to have inferior intelligence. Those assumptions were factually incorrect. The question of how close animal cognition is to ours is a scientific one that I'm not exactly qualified to answer, but it is not necessarily factually incorrect to say that it is different "enough".

Some religious groups extend equal consideration to all living things, even insects. But I don't think you'd argue that we will keep advancing and considering more and more living things as deserving equal consideration. I don't know what your actual belief on the subject is.

Personally I would draw the line at "having a sense of self" which is much less inclusive than the the one mysteria used. I don't think pain, suffering, or life have any meaning to an organism without that sense, and we can't project our value system onto them. Similar to assuming that your cat is "lonely and wants to fall in love and get married". The mirror test has been used for this, but I don't know how accurate it really is.


Quote:
Second, it is irrelevant whether animals devised rights or can even understand the concept of rights. We do not require that humans be potential devisers of rights or understand the concept of rights in order to be beneficiaries of rights. For example, a severely retarded human being might not have the ability to understand what a right is, but that does not mean that we should not accord her the protection of at least the basic right not to be treated as a resource of others.
Yes, I agree with this.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 11:25 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;109464 wrote:
Do you consider the human right to life to be greater than an animals? Going back to the lion example, if a starving lion was attacking a giraffe you might not shoot the lion, but if it was attacking a human you would, correct?


Remember that the only claim I have made is that both humans and nonhumans have a fundamental right not to be regarded as property or treated exclusively as means to an end. What this entails is that we should apply the principle of equal consideration to the interests of both humans and nonhumans. However, this does not necessarily entail that nonhumans have an inviolable right to life in situations of genuine conflict.

So, in cases of genuine conflict like the one you describe, the choice we make is largely dependent on which party we value more. But in assuming we shoot the lion to save the human, it does not follow that lions are resources we are free to exploit. Valuing the human over the lion in morally special cases is consistent with the view that both humans and nonhumans have the same right not to be treated as resources in ordinary cases.

Here's a useful analogy: a sinking cruiseliner is a morally special case in which we generally give priority to women and children over adult males when deciding who occupies the lifeboats. But does it follow from this that, in ordinary cases, we are free to treat adult males as resources? Of course not. Morally special cases (cruiseliners, wild animal attacks) do not translate to ordinary cases. Similarly, valuing humans over nonhumans in morally special cases is consistent with the position that both have a fundamental right not to be treated as resources in ordinary cases.

In sum, in morally special cases, where there is a situation of genuine conflict, we may choose the human over the nonhuman. But here's the relevant point to be made: in recognizing that nonhumans have a basic right not to be treated as resources, we must apply the principle of equal consideration to their interests. Our routine slaughter of animals for food cannot be morally justified because our desire to satisfy our gustatory pleasures does not constitute a situation of genuine conflict.

Quote:
Personally I would draw the line at "having a sense of self" which is much less inclusive than the the one mysteria used. I don't think pain, suffering, or life have any meaning to an organism without that sense, and we can't project our value system onto them.


I actually agree with NewMysterian that sentience (the capacity to experience pleasure and pain) is a sufficient condition for inclusion in the moral sphere (and equal consideration of interests). Consider: there are some mentally impaired human beings who lack reflective self-awareness. We don't regard this capacity as morally relevant, however, because we still accord these sentient humans the same right not to be treated as our resources.

Why don't we regard reflective self-awareness as morally relevant in such cases? Because mentally impaired humans, as sentient beings, can still be harmed. They have the same interest that normal humans and nonhumans have in avoiding harm and living their lives free from exploitation. Similarly, sentient beings like cows, pigs, and chickens (the ones we routinely exploit) may lack reflective self-awareness, but this is morally irrelevant when considering their interest in avoiding harm.

In sum, cognitive inferiority is not a relevant indicator of moral inferiority. We may, from a pragmatic standpoint, deny a mentally impaired human or nonhuman animal the right to vote or operate a motor vehicle, but what the equal consideration of interests requires is that we not exploit these sentient beings as our resources.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 8 Dec, 2009 11:58 pm
@New Mysterianism,
I think we should feed ourselves to the lions. For the Categorical Imperative tells me so.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 12:18 am
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;109491 wrote:


In sum, in morally special cases, where there is a situation of genuine conflict, we may choose the human over the nonhuman. But here's the relevant point to be made: in recognizing that nonhumans have a basic right not to be treated as resources, we must apply the principle of equal consideration to their interests. Our routine slaughter of animals for food cannot be morally justified because our desire to satisfy our gustatory pleasures does not constitute a situation of genuine conflict.


Yes, you're right, this position doesn't seem inconsistent to me.

Out of curiosity, are you against using animals as resources in drug testing? That is another case of the "choose between an animal life and a human life". Food is not a genuine conflict and is what we've been discussing here, but if we are applying strictly equal consideration, shouldn't it be wrong to kill two animals with drug testing to save one human?

Actually, I'm not sure about the whole "used as resources bit". Is that against using horses to pull a plow as well?


Quote:
I actually agree with NewMysterian that sentience (the capacity to experience pleasure and pain) is a sufficient condition for inclusion in the moral sphere (and equal consideration of interests). Consider: there are some mentally impaired human beings who lack reflective self-awareness. We don't regard this capacity as morally relevant, however, because we still accord these sentient humans the same right not to be treated as our resources.

Why don't we regard reflective self-awareness as morally relevant in such cases? Because mentally impaired humans, as sentient beings, can still be harmed. They have the same interest that normal humans and nonhumans have in avoiding harm and living their lives free from exploitation. Similarly, sentient beings like cows, pigs, and chickens (the ones we routinely exploit) may lack reflective self-awareness, but this is morally irrelevant when considering their interest in avoiding harm.

In sum, cognitive inferiority is not a relevant indicator of moral inferiority. We may, from a pragmatic standpoint, deny a mentally impaired human or nonhuman animal the right to vote or operate a motor vehicle, but what the equal consideration of interests requires is that we not exploit these sentient beings as our resources.
I know this isn't meant as a logical proof, but it seems to me that your line of reasoning goes like this:

1) All humans have equal consideration rights
2) Some humans aren't self aware
3) self awareness is not a requirement for equal consideration

Now to pick an example (I don't know which mental impairment you were thinking of), I don't see it as immoral to pull the plug on someone in a persistent vegetative state, and use their organs as resources. And the rest of the argument is based on the first premise.

I'm not entirely sure what level of self awareness I would require for rights either, it's a complicated question.

Animals have an interest in avoiding harm, but ants have an interest in avoiding death. We don't consider it wrong to kill ants.


I appreciate you taking the time, my posts haven't been very concise.
 
 

 
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