Defending killing and eating animals is morally wrong

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Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 12:21 am
@New Mysterianism,
I should be quiet. The adults are talking.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 01:29 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;109523 wrote:
I appreciate you taking the time, my posts haven't been very concise.


My pleasure. I appreciate your willingness to debate the issue maturely.

Quote:
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?


Humans and nonhumans alike have an interest in not being used as unconsenting research subjects in biomedical experiments. Presently, we accord all unconsenting humans the right not to be used in this way. The question, then, is whether it is morally acceptable to use nonhumans in such experiments?

First, we should ask ourselves whether biomedical research is a "necessity" or case of genuine conflict. If it is not necessary as an empirical matter to use animals in biomedical research in order to generate findings that could lead to medical advances, then there is no need to inquire about its moral justification. So let's assume for the sake of argument that at least some animal research could do just that.

Thus, we have assumed that, from an empirical standpoint, it is necessary to use animals in research in order to generate findings that could lead to certain medical advances. However, in assuming that medical advances necessitate animal research as an empirical matter, it does not follow that animal research is therefore justified as an ethical matter.

Consider: if we were to use mentally impaired humans as unconsenting research subjects in biomedical experiments, we could circumvent the problem of having to extrapolate from animal models by generating findings that are directly applicable to human health. However, we rightly regard this practice as morally wrong, no matter how great the projected benefits to human health.

In other words, we do not regard the projected benefits of biomedical research as important or necessary enough to override the interest that mentally impaired humans have in not being used in experiments.

Therefore, should we apply the principle of equal consideration, it is inconsistent to maintain that the projected benefits of biomedical research constitute an ethical necessity or genuine conflict that justifies animal experimentation.

Quote:
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.


If the entity in question is sentient, then that entity has the basic right not to be used exclusively as a means to our ends. If a human is nonsentient--not conscious or aware of anything at all and will not regain consciousness or awareness of anything--then, by definition, that human cannot have an interest in not suffering (or in anything else, for that matter). In such a situation, a compelling argument could be made that it is morally acceptable to use the organs of such a human to save others--and it is common practice to do so if the human has previously agreed to donate her organs or if the family consents.

We should, of course, be concerned about whether an ostensibly brain-dead human really does lack all cognitive activity. We ought also to be sensitive to the concerns of those related to the comatose human; they may oppose the instrumental use of the human for various reasons.

Just to clarify my position:

1) Sentience (the capacity to consciously experience pain and suffering) is a necessary and sufficient condition for equal consideration rights, irrespective of race, rank, or species.

I've already argued why reflective self-awareness is not morally relevant, but as an aside matter, it is worth noting that being sentient most likely necessarily entails having a rudimentary form of self-awareness, even if we cannot know its precise nature.

For example, if animals are conscious of anything, the animal's own body and its own actions must fall within the scope of its perceptual consciousness. When an animal consciously perceives the running, climbing, or moth-chasing of another animal, it must also be aware of who is doing these things. And if the animal is perceptually conscious of its own body, it is difficult to rule out similar recognition that it, itself, is not doing the running, climbing, or chasing.

Thus, because sentient animals are capable of perceptual awareness, denying them a rudimentary level of self-awareness would seem to be an arbitrary and unjustified restriction. At any rate, I think we can agree that sentience, together with rudimentary self-awareness, which is necessarily entailed by sentience, is morally relevant.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Wed 9 Dec, 2009 08:18 pm
@Oikeiosis,
I think the forum was down for some time today.

***

I still don't find the jump from mentally impaired humans to animals persuasive. I could formulate an argument like this:

1) All humans have equal consideration rights
2) Nonhuman animals have equal consideration rights only if they might a certain standard of self awareness
3) Using non self aware (by a certain standard) animals as resources is not unethical.

This sets up humans as a distinct class, regardless of mental capabilities. And I think you would agree to a distinction--i.e. if given the choice between saving a cow and mentally impaired human (impaired to the point of having less cognitive capability than the cow) I think you would save the human. We discussed a similar scenario before with the lion and the human, this is also a situation of genuine conflict, but my point is that you would put the human in a distinct class based on more than just mental capabilities. There are other examples one could use.


So I would argue that the fact that we treat mentally impaired humans in a certain way is not sufficient to conclude that we should extend that treatment to animals (saying this does not argue that there isn't a good reason to extend it).

Quote:
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.
I would define rights and interests like this. If I loan you money, it is not always in your interest to pay me back. But I have the right to be paid back. Rights supersede interests. It's my impression at least that we are mostly discussing interests and whether humans have a moral responsibility to respect those interests (i.e. you are saying our interests do not supersede theirs, only our rights).

I think "being exploited, used as a resource" is a human concept. An animal raised in comfort and used to pull a plow is being exploited and used as a resource. To do so to humans would be immoral, but to the animal, it is a more pleasant existence than living in the wild.

Now what are an animals interests? I would say 1) survive (eat, not die) 2) procreate (for most animals) 3) avoid unpleasant sensation, seek pleasant sensation (for your sentient animals).

I put them in this order, because most animals will endure pain in order to survive, and endure pain in order to procreate. So why is sentience to you the dividing point? You are picking a lesser interest.

Quote:
Thus, because sentient animals are capable of perceptual awareness, denying them a rudimentary level of self-awareness would seem to be an arbitrary and unjustified restriction. At any rate, I think we can agree that sentience, together with rudimentary self-awareness, which is necessarily entailed by sentience, is morally relevant.


I'm sorry, I wasn't clear what I was getting at with the self-awareness, because that is the part I'm unsure about. I'm not particularly concerned with "aware of it's own body". That level of awareness is practically subconscious for us. I was thinking more about the horse pulling the plow example, where the difference between a man being forced to pull it and a horse is the ideas of self and...I don't know what you call it. Concepts of justice maybe.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Thu 10 Dec, 2009 06:49 pm
@Jebediah,
I hope you don't mind, but I've rearranged the order of your previous post for clarity.

Jebediah;109692 wrote:

1) All humans have equal consideration rights
2) Nonhuman animals have equal consideration rights only if they might a certain standard of self awareness
3) Using non self aware (by a certain standard) animals as resources is not unethical.


What I have argued is that sentience (the capacity to consciously experience pleasure and pain) is a necessary and sufficient condition for (i) equal consideration rights, and (ii) the right not to be regarded as property or treated as a resource, irrespective of race, rank, or species.

Furthermore, I have argued that sentience, by definition, necessarily entails some form of self-awareness, even if we cannot know its precise nature. That said:

(1) is incorrect. More precisely, I do not object to using irreversibly insentient humans or insentient nonhumans as resources, because having an interest in not being used as a resource (or having any interest, for that matter) necessarily requires sentience. To understand this point, consider rocks. Rocks are insentient matter that lack experiential welfares. Rocks have no subjective awareness and cannot experience pleasure or pain. Thus, rocks cannot have interests. Irreversibly insentient humans and insentient nonhumans, therefore, have the same moral status as rocks, which, needless to say, is none.

(2) and (3) are correct if you replace self-awareness with sentience (or insentience, where applicable). As I have argued before, sentience (as perceptual consciousness) necessarily entails some form of self-awareness.

Quote:
I would define rights and interests like this. If I loan you money, it is not always in your interest to pay me back. But I have the right to be paid back. Rights supersede interests. It's my impression at least that we are mostly discussing interests and whether humans have a moral responsibility to respect those interests (i.e. you are saying our interests do not supersede theirs, only our rights).


According to my position (I have not mentioned this yet), a right is the protection of an interest. This makes sense from a moral and legal standpoint, since one cannot coherently talk about having some right unless it is actually protecting some interest.

To understand this point, consider the following example: because sentient beings have an interest in avoiding unnecessary suffering, it makes sense to talk about sentient beings as having rights-claims that impose on others the duty not to inflict unnecessary suffering on them. Conversely, irreversibly insentient beings (brain-dead humans), or insentient matter (rocks), absolutely lack experiential welfares, so it makes no sense to say that they have an interest in avoiding suffering. Furthermore, because neither has an interest in avoiding suffering, it follows that neither can have a corresponding right (since there are no interests for that right to protect).

Not all interests guarantee corresponding rights. For example, some argue that our interest in maintaining good health requires that the government recognize our right to free healthcare, while others argue that healthcare is commodity like any other that should be paid for, regardless of the interest we have in maintaining good health.

But whatever our disagreement might be on such matters, we generally agree that, at minimum, our interest in avoiding unnecessary suffering should be protected by a corresponding right that protects that interest.

Quote:
if given the choice between saving a cow and mentally impaired human (impaired to the point of having less cognitive capability than the cow) I think you would save the human. We discussed a similar scenario before with the lion and the human, this is also a situation of genuine conflict, but my point is that you would put the human in a distinct class based on more than just mental capabilities. There are other examples one could use.


The response I gave to this was that 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.

To understand this point, consider the following example. Suppose the situation was different and we had to choose between saving either a man or a woman who are both stuck in a burning building. Both the man and the woman are sentient, so both have satisifed the cognitive requirement for having interests that entitle them to equal consideration rights. Thus, the choice we make will ultimately depend on morally irrelevant and arbitrary considerations. This is so because special cases are what moral philosophers call moral tragedies. A moral tragedy occurs when, no matter what one does, something morally bad must result.

But here's the important point to grasp. Let's say we choose the man. What moral conclusions can we draw from such special cases? None whatsoever. In choosing the man, it does not follow logically or morally that women should be disvalued in ordinary cases, or that women can be used as mens' resources. Similarly, if both a human and a dog are stuck in a burning building, and we choose the human, it does not follow logically or morally that nonhumans can be used as our resources in ordinary cases.
 
Locke phil
 
Reply Thu 10 Dec, 2009 08:39 pm
@New Mysterianism,
Killing and eating animals is, yes, morally wrong. However, it is not naturally wrong.

If you look at nature, animals kill and eat each other all the time. Animals will kill and eat their prey, but the only time they will kill something without wanting to eat it, is if whatever they kill threatened their family, pack, herd, etc.

The only form of killing that is normally both naturally and morally wrong is game hunting. However, because most hunters usually keep whatever they kill as food for later on, it is naturally justified.

Another thing that has to be considered is the population of other species. In the biological sense of things, killing animals with a more numerous population keeps their population moderated so that they do not grow too large for their resources, and do not suffer from a lack of those resources.

But at the same time, killing animals of a less numerous population causes them to become endangered.

I believe it is all a matter of one's opinion. If you believe that it is wrong, then don't eat animals. If you believe that it isn't wrong, then go ahead and kill/eat them.

The only thing that needs to be known is that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and can think whatever they want.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Thu 10 Dec, 2009 09:41 pm
@Locke phil,
Locke;109998 wrote:
I believe it is all a matter of one's opinion. If you believe that it is wrong, then don't eat animals. If you believe that it isn't wrong, then go ahead and kill/eat them.


Animal rights is no more a matter of opinion than is any other moral matter. Dismissing the morality of animal rights as a matter of opinion is logically and morally indistinguishable from dismissing the morality of human slavery as a matter of opinion. We have decided that slavery is morally reprehensible not as a matter of mere opinion, but because slavery treats humans exclusively as the resources of others and degrades humans to the status of things, thus depriving them of moral significance.

The notion that animal rights is a matter of mere opinion is directly related to the status of animals as human property; this question, like most others examined here, assumes the legitimacy of regarding animals as resources that exist solely as means to human ends. Because we regard animals as our property, we believe that we have the right to value animals in the ways that we think appropriate. If, however, we are not morally justified in treating animals as our property, then whether we ought to eat meat is no more a matter of mere opinion than is the moral status of human slavery.

But your quoted comment, which endorses people eating animals, provided that they believe it's okay, begs the question. It merely assumes, without argument, that we are morally justified in treating animals as our property.
It's clear you've made this presumption, because I doubt you'd say in the case of humans that:

"If you believe it's wrong, then don't rape people, but if you believe it isn't wrong, then go ahead and rape people."

This endorsement, when applied to other morally odious actions, such as slavery or murder, would be considered equally absurd by anyone who engages in serious ethical reflection.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 02:07 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;110024 wrote:
Animal rights is no more a matter of opinion than is any other moral matter. Dismissing the morality of animal rights as a matter of opinion is logically and morally indistinguishable from dismissing the morality of human slavery as a matter of opinion. We have decided that slavery is morally reprehensible not as a matter of mere opinion, but because slavery treats humans exclusively as the resources of others and degrades humans to the status of things, thus depriving them of moral significance.


Actually, from the radical empiricist perspective, it is not even an opinion; it is an expression of your qualitative reaction to the consideration of a type of action. Saying "X is morally wrong" = saying "I am sickened/put off/angred/etc. by X" and nothing more. The reason slavery is illegal is not due to any abstract objective truth, no such thing exists. It is because, and only because, that ideology has come to permeate the human psyche en mass. I do not think slavery is right, and this probably has roots in common human psychology, hence it is widely regarded as 'wrong'. Actions taken against it are permissible because common human attitude views it negatively."because slavery treats humans exclusively as the resources of others and degrades humans to the status of things, thus depriving them of moral significance." is not a fact. Concatenating opinions to derive a fact makes no sense, yet that is what you have done. They may seem to be very reasonable opinions, held by most people, but it is really just an appeal to populism. You redirect popular opinion by showing that an action that they engage in is 'virtually' equivalent to one that they abhor. The devil, however, is in the details. 'virtual' equivalence is not necessarily strong enough to accurately reason from. The equivalence is established only through argumentation and thus can be full of holes and often boils down to rhetorical tactics.

Oikeiosis;110024 wrote:
The notion that animal rights is a matter of mere opinion is directly related to the status of animals as human property; this question, like most others examined here, assumes the legitimacy of regarding animals as resources that exist solely as means to human ends. Because we regard animals as our property, we believe that we have the right to value animals in the ways that we think appropriate. If, however, we are not morally justified in treating animals as our property, then whether we ought to eat meat is no more a matter of mere opinion than is the moral status of human slavery.

But your quoted comment, which endorses people eating animals, provided that they believe it's okay, begs the question. It merely assumes, without argument, that we are morally justified in treating animals as our property.
It's clear you've made this presumption, because I doubt you'd say in the case of humans that:

"If you believe it's wrong, then don't rape people, but if you believe it isn't wrong, then go ahead and rape people."

This endorsement, when applied to other morally odious actions, such as slavery or murder, would be considered equally absurd by anyone who engages in serious ethical reflection.


I agree with your argument that his statement begs the question, and I think a more representative position should be considered. The statement "If you believe it's wrong, then don't rape people, but if you believe it isn't wrong, then go ahead and rape people, but we(collectively) reserve the right to stop or punish you if we see fit," seems more in line with the reality of law and public attitude. I would highly doubt that someone who does not believe rape is wrong would not engage in rape if they thought they could get away with it.

On another not; 'Wrong' is a misleading term. It has no absolute method of application. There is no objective truth to any claim made about the rightness or wrongness of an action without taking, as axioms, the rightness or wrongness of other actions. Ultimately it is a psychology play. Where in the average human psychology, are there 'facts' about 'morality' that can be manipulated to bring the average person to your position? Answer this and you have made a successful ethical argument. You have effectively made a subjective truth into an 'objective' one. People will take it as a given and further argumentation can be made. Therefore, the important part of the process is going back and scouring assumptions to weed out fallacies and inconsistencies. It is very messy and very subjective whether it seems like it or not.
 
Kroni
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 11:12 am
@New Mysterianism,
If man were not meant to eat meat, why is meat such an essential part of our diet? I was a vegetarian once, for over ten years. I always felt fatigue and eventually relied on caffeine to get through the day. When I started eating meat again, that all went away. I feel much more energetic than before. The fact of the matter is that soy and beans are not complete proteins. There are specific proteins from meat and dairy that your body requires to function normally. Just as a tiger would die if it decided to be a vegetarian, a human being would lose strength and energy. The fact of the matter is that we need to eat life in order to preserve life. There is nothing wrong with this because it is expected of every life consuming creature.
Another point is, what makes killing a plant any different from killing an animal? Sure the plant is not mentally conscious of itself and cannot feel pain, but life is life, and surely it must have some form of feeling.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Tue 15 Dec, 2009 03:57 pm
@Kroni,
Kroni;111530 wrote:
If man were not meant to eat meat, why is meat such an essential part of our diet? I was a vegetarian once, for over ten years. I always felt fatigue and eventually relied on caffeine to get through the day. When I started eating meat again, that all went away. I feel much more energetic than before. The fact of the matter is that soy and beans are not complete proteins. There are specific proteins from meat and dairy that your body requires to function normally. Just as a tiger would die if it decided to be a vegetarian, a human being would lose strength and energy. The fact of the matter is that we need to eat life in order to preserve life. There is nothing wrong with this because it is expected of every life consuming creature.
Another point is, what makes killing a plant any different from killing an animal? Sure the plant is not mentally conscious of itself and cannot feel pain, but life is life, and surely it must have some form of feeling.


Well, you have to have enough nutritional knowledge to be able to live as a vegetarian. You can create complete protein by mixing the right grains with the right legumes and the vegan/vegetarian diet is totally legitimate if it is carefully planned out and it is probably better for you. You could even get protein from partially synthetic sources.

I'm not trying to bash the vegetarian lifestyle as a decision; I'm just very skeptical of an ethical philosophy that seems claim (erroneously) to take an objectively correct stance. I am also skeptical of someone like NewMysterianism who comes in claiming that he has developed an 'objective' basis for ethical philosophy, which would make him one of the greatest philosophers of all time (of course, big surprise, all he really did was refute garbage pop philosophy and avoid adressing the more substantive positions). I'm seeing a somewhat disturbing trend of vegan philosophy that looks more like neoplatonism/utilitarianism than anything else and it does not sit well with me.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 08:57 pm
@New Mysterianism,
Is it not fascinating that an old old killer like man even considers vegetarianism? I tried it myself for awhile. It's true. Humans are cruel to animals. We are also sometimes kind. Vegetarianism is a Pro Life movement for animals. As long as the termination of human pregnancy is allowed for "selfish" reasons (as all reasons are), I strongly doubt that meat will be outlawed. I also strongly doubt that the consumption of meat will be discontinued. We sympathize with animals, yes, but we also like the way they taste. It's a fair question. Why is vegetarianism a minority movement? Are they born morally superior, or do all forms of moral idealism stem from a common energy? Does the same righteous revolutionary fervor power environmentalism, the pro life movement, pacifism, socialism, gun control, the war on drugs, the war on religion, the war on secularism,etc. etc.?

Is it the righteous war we love, more than the Cause?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 03:37 am
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;110024 wrote:

The notion that animal rights is a matter of mere opinion is directly related to the status of animals as human property; this question, like most others examined here, assumes the legitimacy of regarding animals as resources that exist solely as means to human ends.


Well, our discussion dead ended because you stuck to your claim that animals shouldn't be exploited as resources because they were sentient, which was an assumption on your part. So I don't see why you are criticizing him. Doesn't morality come down to an assumption at some point?

I explained why I considered it to be nonsensical--projecting human ideas on to animals. Cats, dogs, horses and cows have all been domesticated and used as resources. Pets are resources. One of the reasons they are domesticated is that it's a mutually beneficial relationship.

And since you made the dividing line pain rather than life (so that you don't have to include ants), you are left unable to argue against raising an animal in comfort, killing it painlessly, and eating it (unless you can argue against the resource thing). An animal that is raised on a farm doesn't exist solely as a means to our end, most of its own ends are being met as well, possibly all. Probably more than would be met without our interference.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 04:00 am
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;110024 wrote:
Animal rights is no more a matter of opinion than is any other moral matter.


In economics, other social sciences and philosophy, analysis based on opinion is referred to as normative analysis (what ought to be), as opposed to positive analysis, which is based on scientific observation (what materially is or is experimentally demonstrable).
Historically, the distinction of demonstrated knowledge and opinion was articulated by Ancient Greek philosophers. Plato's analogy of the divided line is a well-known illustration of the distinction between knowledge and opinion. Opinions can be persuasive, but only the assertions they are based on can be said to be true or false.


Opinion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 05:26 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;112034 wrote:
And since you made the dividing line pain rather than life (so that you don't have to include ants), you are left unable to argue against raising an animal in comfort, killing it painlessly, and eating it (unless you can argue against the resource thing)


"Painless deaths" are still harmful to sentient beings, both human and nonhuman.

To be sentient means to have an experiential welfare that can fare ill or well. In this sense, all sentient beings have an interest in avoiding suffering. By virtue of having an interest in avoiding suffering and in experiencing pleasure, they have an interest in remaining alive.

Sentience is not an end-in-itself; it is the means to the end of staying alive. Sentient beings use sensations of pain and suffering to escape situations that threaten their lives and sensations of pleasure to pursue situations that enhance their lives. Just as humans will often endure excruciating pain in order to remain alive, animals will often not only endure but inflict pain in order to remain alive. For example, animals caught in traps have been known to gnaw off a limb to escape. Sentience is what evolution has produced in order to ensure the survival of certain complex organisms. To deny that a sentient being who has evolved to develop a consciousness of pain and pleasure has no interest in remaining alive is to say that conscious beings have no interest in remaining conscious.

Quote:
An animal that is raised on a farm doesn't exist solely as a means to our end, most of its own ends are being met as well, possibly all. Probably more than would be met without our interference.


There is a fundamental moral difference between using someone as a means to our ends and using someone exclusively as a means to our ends. For example, I might use a janitor to fix my toilet in exchange for monetary compensation. Similarly, I am granted a certain amount of discretion as to how I treat my child. But in either case, there are clear limits: I cannot treat them as other people currently treat animals. I cannot enslave them, sell them into prostitution, or sell their organs. I cannot kill and eat them.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 05:53 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Okeiosis:You have yet to establish that your position is worth considering as you have yet to establish why we should accept your assumptions and arbitrary value system centered around the idea of sentience.

You seem to hold a very objective view of morality. You need to argue for that if you want your plea to amount to anything other than rhetoric designed to make us believe as you do. Copying basic ideas from Peter Singer without going into much depth doesn't cut it.

If you are here to find people that agree with your premises to convert you are in the wrong place. So far I have every reason to think that this is the case. This is not helped by your very selective responses.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:06 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;112232 wrote:
This is not helped by your very selective responses.


Well said. A person who refuses to address objections might as well be standing outside of an abortion clinic, screaming with a sign in their hand. It's intellectual cowardice to ignore difficult questions, especially when one hopes to impose one's morality on others.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:14 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;112232 wrote:
Okeiosis:You have yet to establish that your position is worth considering as you have yet to establish why we should accept your assumptions and arbitrary value system centered around the idea of sentience...If you are here to find people that agree with your premises to convert you are in the wrong place. So far I have every reason to think that this is the case. This is not helped by your very selective responses.


The only assumption I have made is that causing unnecessary harm to innocent, uninformed, unconsenting sentient recipients, regardless of race, rank, or species, is morally wrong. If someone does not accept the basic assumption that causing unnecessary harm is morally wrong, then there is nothing else I can offer by way of persuasion. If you're unwilling to accept that basic assumption, then it is you who are in the wrong thread. My approach is no different from someone who creates a thread topic on the moral question of human slavery and who works with the basic assumption that using humans exclusively as means to our ends is morally wrong. If you cannot bring yourself to accept such assumptions, then you're not obligated to participate.

Animal rights is much more cogently argued when it is argued from the standpoint of your opponent's morality, rather than some mythical, hard-to-define objective morality, as you would no doubt agree. An example of this method is to leverage a person's morality by asking him why he has compassion for human beings. Almost always he will agree that his compassion does not stem from the fact that: 1) humans use language, 2) humans compose symphonies, 3) humans do math, or 4) humans are moral agents. Instead, he will most likely agree that it stems from the fact that humans can suffer, feel pain, be harmed, etc. (It is worth noting that not all humans can do 1-4, anyway).

I understand you take your emotivist position very seriously. That said, you stand to be very disappointed in an ethics forum, since most moral arguments begin with axiomatic assumptions: for example, that causing unnecessary harm is morally wrong. If this assumption bothers you because it cannot be vindicated by reference to empirical evidence, or because it lacks an objective metaethical foundation, then you should probably move on.

Quote:
Copying basic ideas from Peter Singer without going into much depth doesn't cut it.


Peter Singer's utilitarian view differs significantly from my own. Singer does not object to animal use (e.g., meat-eating) per se, provided that pain and suffering have been minimized.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:25 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;112224 wrote:
"Painless deaths" are still harmful to sentient beings, both human and nonhuman.

To be sentient means to have an experiential welfare that can fare ill or well. In this sense, all sentient beings have an interest in avoiding suffering. By virtue of having an interest in avoiding suffering and in experiencing pleasure, they have an interest in remaining alive.

Sentience is not an end-in-itself; it is the means to the end of staying alive. Sentient beings use sensations of pain and suffering to escape situations that threaten their lives and sensations of pleasure to pursue situations that enhance their lives. Just as humans will often endure excruciating pain in order to remain alive, animals will often not only endure but inflict pain in order to remain alive. For example, animals caught in traps have been known to gnaw off a limb to escape. Sentience is what evolution has produced in order to ensure the survival of certain complex organisms. To deny that a sentient being who has evolved to develop a consciousness of pain and pleasure has no interest in remaining alive is to say that conscious beings have no interest in remaining conscious.


Ants have an interest in remaining alive as well. If you put them in your microwave (an odd example but I remember it from the straight dope) they will avoid the heat rays. If you've ever tried to kill a spider you'll have noticed that they run like heck. They most definitely have an interest in remaining alive.

Quote:
There is a fundamental moral difference between using someone as a means to our ends and using someone exclusively as a means to our ends. For example, I might use a janitor to fix my toilet in exchange for monetary compensation. Similarly, I am granted a certain amount of discretion as to how I treat my child. But in either case, there are clear limits: I cannot treat them as other people currently treat animals. I cannot enslave them, sell them into prostitution, or sell their organs. I cannot kill and eat them.
I'm disputing that animals qualify as "someone" remember? And besides, I said that animals weren't being used exclusively as a means to an end.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:35 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;112243 wrote:
Ants have an interest in remaining alive as well. If you put them in your microwave (an odd example but I remember it from the straight dope) they will avoid the heat rays. If you've ever tried to kill a spider you'll have noticed that they run like heck. They most definitely have an interest in remaining alive.


Are insects conscious beings with minds that experience pain and pleasure? I do not know. But the fact that I do not know exactly where to draw the line, or perhaps find drawing the line difficult, does not relieve me of the obligation to draw the line somewhere or allow me to use animals as I please. Although I may not know whether insects are sentient, I do know that cows, pigs, chickens, chimpanzees, horses, deer, dogs, cats, and mice are sentient.

As a general matter, what your line of reasoning seeks to demonstrate is that if we do not know where to draw the line in a matter of morality, or if line drawing is difficult, then we ought not to draw the line anywhere. This form of reasoning is invalid. Our uncertainty or disagreement regarding the sentience of insects is no license to ignore the interests of chimpanzees, cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals whom we do know are sentient.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:41 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Oikeiosis;112248 wrote:
Are insects conscious beings with minds that experience pain and pleasure? I do not know. But the fact that I do not know exactly where to draw the line, or perhaps find drawing the line difficult, does not relieve me of the obligation to draw the line somewhere or allow me to use animals as I please. Although I may not know whether insects are sentient, I do know that cows, pigs, chickens, chimpanzees, horses, deer, dogs, cats, and mice are sentient.

As a general matter, what your line of reasoning seeks to demonstrate is that if we do not know where to draw the line in a matter of morality, or if line drawing is difficult, then we ought not to draw the line anywhere. This form of reasoning is invalid. Our uncertainty or disagreement regarding the sentience of insects is no license to ignore the interests of chimpanzees, cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals whom we do know are sentient.


I drew a line way back earlier. I drew it at creatures who are capable of thinking something close to "this is me, I want this because I remember such and such, my plan for the future is this". Ants don't do that, they just react. I claimed higher level thinking as the drawing line.

And I'm not certain that is the place to draw the line, it may be that my inclusion of the great apes is faulty. But it isn't inconsistent with my views the way yours is.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:41 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Alright, now that you are responding to me:

Oikeiosis;112238 wrote:
The only assumption I have made is that causing unnecessary harm to innocent, uninformed, unconsenting sentient recipients, regardless of race, rank, or species, is morally wrong.


I assume you take as your definition of sentience the ability to feel pleasure or pain, though you seem to include the presence of interests. I don't think you fully elaborated on your conception of interest.


Oikeiosis;112238 wrote:
Animal rights is much more cogently argued when it is argued from the standpoint of your opponent's morality, rather than some mythical, hard-to-define objective morality, as you would no doubt agree. An example of this method is to leverage a person's morality by asking him why he has compassion for human beings. Almost always he will agree that his compassion does not stem from the fact that: 1) humans use language, 2) humans compose symphonies, 3) humans do math, or 4) humans are moral agents. Instead, he will most likely agree that it stems from the fact that humans can suffer, feel pain, be harmed, etc. (It is worth noting that not all humans can do 1-4, anyway).


Do you have data to back up that claim? Why would it not simply be the case that it is because they are human and he is human and thus he has a self interest in not allowing humans to be harmed? I would suspect that whether or not they are aware of it, this is certainly the case. Hence the lack of consideration for animal welfare among the majority. The most sensible basis for compassion I can think of from an evolutionary standpoint is a selfish one.



Oikeiosis;112238 wrote:
Peter Singer's utilitarian view differs significantly from my own. Singer does not object to animal use (e.g., meat-eating) per se, provided that pain and suffering have been minimized.

I understand that you take the much broader position of minimizing 'harm'. What are the bounds of your definition of harm? You seem to indicate that interference with the most basic interests, such as survival, would qualify as harm. What are your bounds on interests? i.e. When should we oblige them?

You have made the point that self preservation can override consumption and killing of animals. I think we have a good idea of where the line is for you as far as humans causing physical harm to animals.

To give you an idea of where I stand on the issue: I would certainly concur that it is wrong to cause unnecessary pain and suffering and I am all for the efforts to make conditions for animals to be slaughtered as good as possible. Where you lose me is with the term 'harm'.
 
 

 
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