Defending killing and eating animals is morally wrong

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Leviathen249
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 11:20 am
@richrf,
I agree with you both. I do think that killing animals for the sake of nutrition is not wrong, just the ways people go about it.
Animals kill other animals so are they wrong even if they don't comprehend it?
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 01:23 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;80940 wrote:
No problem. The quote button is the one that looks like a text bubble, next to the mountain (insert image) icon.


Thanks....but am still figuring out???? Justin helped me by a video demonstration. Very thoughtful and impressive too. Hope this time I am able to do it correctly.


New Mysterianism;80940 wrote:
Conversely, the statement "killing cats is wrong," is a normative/ethical claim, because it goes beyond the facts, as all moral judgments necessarily do. In moral discourse we provide reasons for accepting a particular premise, not empirical support. Of course, when some people observe cats being tortured, they express moral outrage.


Therefore, my friend, morality is subjective. I agree with you to the extent that in the matter of morality empirical support is not a necessity. You may use a feeling, you can use altruistic notions of 'rights', 'freedom' etc. You can use your ancestors wisdom too. The premise therefore, according to me is not sufficient to come to an objective value or even a moral value. A moral value should be universally acceptable. It can only be accepted faster and effectively if there is an objective reality resulting out of that moral.

I accept that morality is nothing to do with reality. It is a matter of standard and if i may put it rather crudely a matter of fashion.

But now lets get to the issue of subjective morality.
When one starts with a subjective proposition, one ends up in a subjective conclusion. This is the reason, i believe, there is not enough consensus or agreement to your conclusion. Because prima facie they do not beilive in your conclusion as a truth statement. Please do not misunderstand. Your argument is very respectful and a forceful argument. But the question is whether it is sustainable in reality or in real terms.

Admittedly, it should not be held that your logical progression is wrong. Logically you are correct. Morally you are correct. If thats what you want you have it. However the irony is that it cannot be a law. A Moral law needs an objective reason. And thats what I am arguing for.

For example. Citizens of the State shall not kill fellow citizens.
Here, there is a Moral law (source bible: 'Thou shall not kill') with an objective reason. It is plain, simple and understandable. The reason, of course being that citizens killing each other makes an anarchic self destructive state.

In the conclusion you draw, there is no objective reason. The reason you accept as premise No 1 is that it causes harm. As i note from your example of a mother pricking a child, you have demonstrated that harm is subject to interpretations and therfore is subjective. When 'harm' as a term in the premise is subjective, the conclusion is also likewise. It cannot be a definitive statement. And therefore in its content, quality and descriptive meaning, it is contentious.


New Mysterianism;80940 wrote:
I think there's some confusion here. The "prima facie" clause in premise (1) is a provision set aside for conditions under which the wrongness of causing harm to sentient beings may be overidden. That's it. Furthermore, the premise does not assume that all harms are wrong. A mother may subject her child to the painful prick of the innoculation syringe, but the resulting immunization from disease is morally compensatory. ........

..........Harming others is bad because it's harmful, and what's harmful is bad. This is a circular statement, to be sure; but the reason is precisely that it is meant to convey a self-evident truth, not an argument.

.........I'm not sure what you're talking about. This is the updated argument:

P1: Causing harm is prima facie morally wrong.
P2: Killing sentient nonhuman animals causes them harm.
C.: Therefore, killing sentient nonhuman animals is prima facie morally wrong.

According to elementary logic, this is a valid argument. The conclusion follows logically from the premise:

1. A is B,
2. C is A,
3. Therefore, A is B.

So if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. The dispute here isn't over the form of the moral argument, but its content.


Truth is subjective and, if i may, a very evasive field of thought. I concede 1,2 and 3 are valid arguments. But that does not mean it is the truth. You have already stated that a moral statement is 'accepted' as true on the basis of a moral judgement, and which you may choose to use as a premise. Well, its the quality of the content that is in dispute here.

I may grant you the benefit of a moral argument. But it is far from the truth. Let me elaborate.

A} Wo/men Soliciting themselves openly in the street is prima facie a morally wrong act
B) By soliciting for sex they are harming the Society
c) Therefore Soliciting wo/men is prima facie harmful to the society.

If the above is a valid argument, logically and morally, than the conclusion you draw is very much conditional and subjective. The objective reality does not reflect the truthness or wrongness of the Conclusion C.

How can one argue that a soliciting wo/men have actually and factually harmed the society. Is there an objective evidence to support this surmise. Therfore a moral value is theoretically and conceptually useful, but not necessarily true. And therfore your conclusion is not a true statement that reflects the reality. This is my main point, i am stressing upon.


[QUOTE=New Mysterianism;80940]Incorrect. You may be working under the misconception that all moral principles must be "absolute" and must never admit of exceptions in order to avoid being "faulty." [/quote][QUOTE=New Mysterianism;80940]
[/QUOTE]

You are almost right, I did thought that moral principles in most cases should work under "universal principles" if not absolutes. By the way, i do not agree in the concept called absolutes. For example, an UP may be :" Thou shall not kill"; "Thou shall not steal"; "Thou shall help others especially your neighbours, poor and destitutes"; "Thou shall not rape".

Purely on a dialectical argument, your principle is not sustainable universally. It can only gain sufficient acceptability under a paradigm you choose to be comfortable with.

If morals are not universal in application than what use is morals for. It then becomes more a question and matter of culture.
 
Grimlock
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 02:39 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;80940 wrote:
In other words, why should anyone care about the suffering of sentient beings? Well, the reason is that pain and suffering hurt and violate basic welfare interests; they are "aversive stimuli" or experiences that have a negative impact, are disvalued by us, and that we seek to avoid if at all possible.
You are quite clearly using the reasoning of consequentialism (also known as utilitarianism) in setting up this argument.

[quote]No other reason can be offered: we care about our own pain and suffering because we don't like it and it adversely affects our well-being. Okay, but then why should we care about other people's pain and suffering, especially if we don't even know them? Again, the answer is: "Because it hurts, they don't like it, and it harms their well-being."[/quote]You want to use consequentialist logic to reach consequentialist conclusions (which is exactly what you have reached), but you don't want to get caught in the trap of "moral absolutes" (universal Platonic rules and such) into which the poor consequentialist inevitably falls, and so instead you offer this:

[quote]To this, the response may be: "So what?" But if someone says, "So what?" then there's nothing else we can offer by way of persuasion. Harming others is bad because it's harmful, and what's harmful is bad. This is a circular statement, to be sure; but the reason is precisely that it is meant to convey a self-evident truth, not an argument.[/quote]This is very far from a self-evident truth. If it were self-evident that harming others is bad, why would humankind engage in so very much of it? Has it not occured to you that perhaps we have conflicting instincts working within us? Is the value of selfishness not also, perhaps, self-evident? My god, we could have a whole universe of "self-evident" value judgments, many of which are conflicted or mutually exclusive! Hmmm...that sounds a lot more like human life than your antiseptic descriptions. That man is a multifaceted, morally ambiguous and confused creature is far more self-evident than any axiom you have put forward here.

[quote]Anyone who does not accept that we should not harm others simply because they don't like to be harmed, is unlikely to be persuaded by a different sort of appeal, or indeed by any appeal at all. By the way, we often call people like this "amoral" or "sociopaths" or "psychopaths." [/quote]
Quote:
But the point here is not to engage in name-calling or laying on guilt-trips. Rather, it's to realize that nonhuman animals can be hurt, that it matters to them, and therefore, should matter to us.

Very nice.

To paraphrase the above: "If you disagree we me, you are a monster, but there's no reason to dwell on how terrible you are because there's still a chance for you to learn the error of your ways."

Your whole argument seems to be a garden-variety consequentialist position which won't even admit to being so. Instead of trying to establish some rational foundation for "the good" and working outwards from there, as the consequentialists do, you simply label the crucial piece of the entire argument as self-evident. As philosophy goes, it is an unbelievably cavalier handling of potential objections. You have essentially made your logic bulletproof by making it entirely empty.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 03:13 pm
@Jackofalltrades phil,
Grimlock:

My argument appeals to those people who already hold to the conviction that being morally compassionate is a laudable activity; and I am trying to persuade those same people to extend the scope of their moral concerns to the interests of other sentient species. What I am not attempting to do is convince moral skeptics why they ought to be morally compassionate in the first place. That kind of meta-ethical discussion is appropriate for another thread.

Quote:
To paraphrase the above: "If you disagree we me, you are a monster, but there's no reason to dwell on how terrible you are because there's still a chance for you to learn the error of your ways."


That's exactly right. I believe that a person who intentionally causes unnecessary harm to an innocent, unconsenting, and uninformed sentient recipient by violating its basic welfare interests, regardless of its race, rank, or species, is committing a serious moral wrong. They should engage in some deep ethical reflection to correct their unjust behavior, be it rape, torture, murder, genocide, etc. If someone is still prepared to deny that "causing harm is prima facie morally wrong" is acceptable as fundamental ethical principle, then there's nothing else that can be offered by way of persuasion.
 
Grimlock
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 10:06 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;80982 wrote:
My argument appeals to those people who already hold to the conviction that being morally compassionate is a laudable activity; and I am trying to persuade those same people to extend the scope of their moral concerns to the interests of other sentient species. What I am not attempting to do is convince moral skeptics why they ought to be morally compassionate in the first place. That kind of meta-ethical discussion is appropriate for another thread.
Just because it doesn't begin from your narrow set of "self-evident" truths doesn't make it "meta-ethics". Why not take up the more difficult position? You are preaching to the choir of an empty church.
 
Leonard
 
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 09:05 pm
@New Mysterianism,
You don't have to kill an animal to eat one. You can eat a dead animal. A dead animal cannot feel pain, and since you did not kill it, you caused no pain. I don't know why an animal that died naturally can not be consumed.
 
Shadow Dragon
 
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 09:12 pm
@New Mysterianism,
The way I see it, we humans mainly eat herbivores; which means that that animal will likely be killed and eaten no matter what we do. At least we can give it a quick, painless death before consuming it. Plus, we humans are omnivores, and there are good nutrients in meat that are hard to get from just plants. So infact, we are simply following the natural order by eating them.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Tue 11 Aug, 2009 10:03 pm
@Leonard,
Leonard;82681 wrote:
You don't have to kill an animal to eat one. You can eat a dead animal. A dead animal cannot feel pain, and since you did not kill it, you caused no pain. I don't know why an animal that died naturally can not be consumed.


Who said you couldn't eat an animal who died from natural causes? The OP says the opposite.
 
Leonard
 
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 07:33 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;82683 wrote:
Who said you couldn't eat an animal who died from natural causes? The OP says the opposite.


If you can eat an already-dead animal, then you should. Also, is killing pests such as mosquitoes wrong? Honestly, they spread disease and annoy people. The only thing they do is feed bats, and there are plenty of other things for bats to eat.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Wed 12 Aug, 2009 08:26 pm
@Leonard,
Leonard;82888 wrote:
If you can eat an already-dead animal, then you should.


From the OP:

New Mysterianism;60919 wrote:
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.


I just wanted to clarify that there is no disagreement here. I think you'll find that reading (or re-reading) the OP will answer most of your concerns.

Leonard;82888 wrote:
Also, is killing pests such as mosquitoes wrong? Honestly, they spread disease and annoy people. The only thing they do is feed bats, and there are plenty of other things for bats to eat.


From the OP:

New Mysterianism;60919 wrote:
Secondly, by "prima facie" is meant that the principle [premise 1] can be overriden in certain cases (e.g., self-defense).


In other words, the prima facie clause allows for the possibility of conditions under which the wrongness of causing harm can be overidden. So protecting oneself from insects with diseases harmful to humans is as good a candidate as any for the self-defense rule. If the relocation of the insects in question is practically feasible, then we ought to pursue this non-violent option in preference to elimination. However, if relocation isn't feasible (for whatever reason), then, given the self-defense rule, it is permissible to eliminate the insects.

Here's another example: you own a farm, and one day you discover that your granary stores have been infested with rats. You have roughly three options: humane trapping and relocation, non-lethal repellents, or elimination. Again, if it's practically feasible, you ought to exhaust the non-violent alternatives first. However, given your right to self-defense (i.e., since the infestation threatens your livelihood), elimination is permissible.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 08:05 pm
@New Mysterianism,
I do not think that there is any logical justification for my (or any) sense of compassion nor the extent of such compassion. The root is clearly entirely emotive (as you have said, it is beyond empirical facts and it certainly is not a tautology). Why should the emotive root have a logical extension? I think that my aversion to killing humans is simply emotive and thus neurological. I think that it is reasonable for humans not to kill each other assuming we can reach a social contract (which we can and have) and that the social contract holds until violated by a party (in which case the protection of the contract is forfeit; e.g. killing in self defense), but that is entirely distinct from my compassion.

My compassion extends to animals (and of course humans) only insofar as I have projected my self on to them (and in the case of humans we can change each other and bring each other to become more similar through interaction), without such projection I act in accordance with a mutually understood social contract (and I have no desire to kill I general, I would probably not be happy with the results legally or emotionally).
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 10:51 am
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;83129 wrote:
I think that it is reasonable for humans not to kill each other assuming we can reach a social contract (which we can and have) and that the social contract holds until violated by a party (in which case the protection of the contract is forfeit; e.g. killing in self defense), but that is entirely distinct from my compassion.


Contractarianism is based on the idea that rationality is the characteristic deemed necessary for inclusion in the moral sphere and that only humans are capable of rationality. Only those beings capable of moral agency are able to enter into the contract, and as rationality is required for moral agency, it follows that only humans are bound by the contract. Fair enough?

This view is mistaken and inconsistent for two reasons. Let's take them in turn.

(1) Appeals to differences between "them" and "us," like rationality or moral agency (as justification for animal suffering), will just not do. Obviously there are many humans whom we would not consider rational or moral agents, such as fetuses, newborns, young children, and mentally impaired adults. However, I think it goes without saying that it would be wrong if we did not give such humans moral consideration and mistreated them in any way we liked. How can we eat or experiment on animals because they have a lesser degree of rationality than (most) humans when we would see eating or experimenting on newborns as morally wrong? In other words, if rationality is the criterion for moral standing, how can we say that babies, or the mentally impaired, are to be given the same moral consideration as healthy, adult humans? Given such problems, why insist on using these characteristics as the criteria that make it justified to cause, or not to cause, suffering?

(2) Also, how is one to judge what level of rationality entitles a being to be an object of moral concern? There are problems concerning the quantification of rationality, and whether the level of rationality has to be high or low for moral entitlement, there will always be at least some animals who qualify.

By restricting members of the contract to rational humans capable of moral agency it would seem that contractarianism denies moral consideration to nonrational humans who lack moral agency. Here's a possible response: "humans who are not capable of moral agency or rationality can be accounted for in the contract by humans that are capable and who care about them; therefore, we should respect their wishes." But this leaves contractarianism open to the question of why animals should be excluded from the contract--many people also care about animals, and they are upset by animal suffering, so we should, therefore, not treat them in any way we please.

Appeals to characteristics cannot be used as a means for the justification of animal suffering. The possession of particular capacities, such as rationality or moral agency, is not what gives a being standing in the moral sphere. It is a being's interests that make that being an object of moral concern. And animals clearly do have interests--no one is prepared to deny that. Like humans, they have an interest in 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, and so on and so forth. They, therefore, do qualify as candidates for our moral concern. And the fact that they do have interests means that there are moral questions that should be asked about our mistreatment of them in modern day practices.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 11:29 am
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;83264 wrote:
Contractarianism is based on the idea that rationality is the characteristic deemed necessary for inclusion in the moral sphere and that only humans are capable of rationality. Only those beings capable of moral agency are able to enter into the contract, and as rationality is required for moral agency, it follows that only humans are bound by the contract. Fair enough?


No, the line is defined over time through social convention. I draw the line a humans, subjectively. I state the social contract in terms of its practice, not the theory behind it. In the United State, I would be very unsatisfied with the results of breaking the established social contract.

New Mysterianism;83264 wrote:
This view is mistaken and inconsistent for two reasons. Let's take them in turn.

(1) Appeals to differences between "them" and "us," like rationality or moral agency (as justification for animal suffering), will just not do. Obviously there are many humans whom we would not consider rational or moral agents, such as fetuses, newborns, young children, and mentally impaired adults. However, I think it goes without saying that it would be wrong if we did not give such humans moral consideration and mistreated them in any way we liked. How can we eat or experiment on animals because they have a lesser degree of rationality than (most) humans when we would see eating or experimenting on newborns as morally wrong? In other words, if rationality is the criterion for moral standing, how can we say that babies, or the mentally impaired, are to be given the same moral consideration as healthy, adult humans? Given such problems, why insist on using these characteristics as the criteria that make it justified to cause, or not to cause, suffering?


Because thus far I see very few practical reasons not to eat meat. I draw the line with genetics until it comes to pass that a highly advanced alien race comes to visit us. I do add this; I think that it is wrong to hunt apes and most monkeys. I think that it is generally wrong to domesticate animal species that have not yet been domesticated. I think that it is perfectly fine to continue to use cows and chickens for meat, I think that it is wrong to torture them. I think that pigs are good for eating as well.

New Mysterianism;83264 wrote:
(2) Also, how is one to judge what level of rationality entitles a being to be an object of moral concern? There are problems concerning the quantification of rationality, and whether the level of rationality has to be high or low for moral entitlement, there will always be at least some animals who qualify.

By restricting members of the contract to rational humans capable of moral agency it would seem that contractarianism denies moral consideration to nonrational humans who lack moral agency. Here's a possible response: "humans who are not capable of moral agency or rationality can be accounted for in the contract by humans that are capable and who care about them; therefore, we should respect their wishes." But this leaves contractarianism open to the question of why animals should be excluded from the contract--many people also care about animals, and they are upset by animal suffering, so we should, therefore, not treat them in any way we please.

Appeals to characteristics cannot be used as a means for the justification of animal suffering. The possession of particular capacities, such as rationality or moral agency, is not what gives a being standing in the moral sphere. It is a being's interests that make that being an object of moral concern. And animals clearly do have interests--no one is prepared to deny that. Like humans, they have an interest in 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, and so on and so forth. They, therefore, do qualify as candidates for our moral concern. And the fact that they do have interests means that there are moral questions that should be asked about our mistreatment of them in modern day practices.


I think that amoebae might have it in their best interest that we not filter them from our water and dispose of them. Yeast's best interest is to grow, yet we bake it nonetheless. As you point out, the line is difficult to draw, is it to be a crime that I step on a cockroach? If you cannot draw the line at the top of the spectrum, you cannot very easily draw it at the bottom(or can you).

The thing is; I think that morality is indivisible from emotionality one is an aspect of the other. Moral outrage is simply normal outrage directed at a type of action. A moral argument requires one to find a subjectively held premise and exploit it to further one's own agenda or beliefs in others. I think that trying to extend rationality to the subjective premises, however, is fallacious. Acts are illegal due to a vast majority of the populous having some degree of outrage or disgust with said acts.
 
Leonard
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 01:49 pm
@New Mysterianism,
Alright, just as I thought. What defines self-defense then? Self defense may mean protecting your life, safety, or something necessary for your well-being. I also question how relocation of small insects is possible; I suppose you could place insect food in a tank and collect the insects, but that may not prove easy.
 
New Mysterianism
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 02:02 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235;83275 wrote:
No, the line is defined over time through social convention. I draw the line a humans, subjectively. I state the social contract in terms of its practice, not the theory behind it.


So you're not actually making an argument but reporting the status quo? I doubt anyone is mistaken about the de facto moral status of nonhumans in current social practice, but thanks for informing us. However, you do realize that the current moral status of nonhumans is exactly what is in dispute here? In other words, simply reporting current social practice or legality does not absolve you from making a genuine moral argument (in a serious philosophy forum) about which entities should be entitled to moral consideration. Human slavery was once current practice, but no one really thinks that slavery is morally justifiable in modern society just because it was once socially accepted. That's an odd form of begging the question. We're interested in the moral question of nonhuman moral status--not the legal question. The same goes for virtually any debate. For example, when philosophers discuss the moral question of abortion, they don't attempt to validate their claims by appealing to whatever the current legality, social practice, or consensus happens to be.

Quote:
In the United State, I would be very unsatisfied with the results of breaking the established social contract.


Besides, this position of yours, if taken to its logical conclusion, actually commands your attention. Why? Almost everyone agrees that it is morally wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on nonhuman animals. Indeed, this moral rule is so uncontroversial that it is currently embodied in established anticruelty laws and other laws that regulate our treatment of nonhumans. According to the social contract, we are bound by these established laws. However, current social practices violate them everyday. Therefore, you do have reason to be "unsatisifed" about animal suffering. That said, no serious arguer in moral debates justifies his position on the basis of whether its propositions are reflected in the current legality/social practice.

Quote:
Because thus far I see very few practical reasons not to eat meat.


It is also practical and rational for someone to violate the law when it suits their interests, provided that the threat of getting caught is minimal. Not much moral foundation for a social contract here. If you base the social contract on practicality instead of social justice, you get moral freeloaders. But look, in the next sentence you say it's genetics, not practicality. Which is it, Zetetic? Let's have some consistency from you for a change.

Quote:
I draw the line with genetics...


Okay, so now you want to arbitrarily draw the line at genetic humanity for inclusion in the moral sphere. This is speciesism, pure and simple. It is both morally and logically indistinguishable from the kind of justification that sought to prolong human slavery on the perceived basis that Africans were less intelligent than whites, or "subhuman." At least with characteristics like rationality and moral agency you have a prima facie defensible position. But it's not really about genetics, is it? Even you can detect the weakness in that. No, it's about intelligence level now. Deny it? Your words say it all. Let's see...

Quote:
...until it comes to pass that a highly advanced alien race comes to visit us.


So you have inserted yet another criterion into your quasi-argument: intelligence level (this is evident because you'll clearly make an exception for highly intelligent aliens who share no genetic relatedness with humans). Let's review this conceptual rollercoaster: you've denied that rationality or moral agency are relevant in social contracts because, apparently, reporting current practice is sufficient to make a convincing moral argument. So then you appeal to practicality as a moral compass, which is untenable, but wait, we're not done. In the following sentence you make the philosophically unmotivated case for genetic humanity (speciescism) as the morally relevant criterion. Perhaps "made the case for" is too generous here, you merely asserted it. Finally, you surreptitiously reinsert yet another criterion--intelligence level--for inclusion in the moral sphere. So which is it: rationality, moral agency, status quo, practicality, genetics, intelligence level? This is called the "moving target" fallacy. Here's a useful analogy:

"Computers might be able to understand Chinese and think about numbers but cannot do the crucially human things, such as...." - and then follows his favorite human specialty - falling in love, having a sense of humor, etc. But as soon as an artificial intelligence simulation succeeds, a new "crucial" element is selected (the target is moved). Thus the perpetrators of this fallacy will never have to admit to the existence of artificial intelligence.The proponents keep changing their definition, presenting you always with a moving target of criteria that you can never get hold of. It's like trying to grasp the fog.

The moving target (i.e., moving criteria) fallacy is a fantastic way to shield your position from rational inquiry. Either way, my earlier objections still apply. If we set up intelligence level as the new criterion, we exclude many humans. Who judges what degree of intelligence is sufficient for moral consideration? Indeed, some nonhumans have greater intelligence levels than humans, such as newborns and mentally impaired adults. The speciesist strategy is an attempt to forestall further discussion--it isn't based on substantive reasoning, but bias. As you'll see below, I give reasons for why sentience and interests are the morally relevant criteria for ethical consideration. I don't just air my moral opinions as assertions and leave it at that. You seem to be posting responses without serious thought beforehand. As we've seen, your position is largely inconsistent, is incoherent in places, and is poorly argued.

Lastly, suppose those aliens wanted to enslave you. What kind of appeal would you make in your defense? You'd state that your interests make you an object of moral concern, not your genes or intelligence level. After all, the aliens are far more intelligent than you, and you don't share their genetic code. You could be their lunch.

Quote:
...I think that it is perfectly fine to continue to use cows and chickens for meat, I think that it is wrong to torture them. I think that pigs are good for eating as well.


Merely reporting your dietary preferences does not an argument make.

Quote:
...is it to be a crime that I step on a cockroach?


No, of course not. It is certainly true that if we as a society ever really accorded moral significance to animal interests and recognized our obligation to abolish and not merely regulate animal exploitation, we would very probably incorporate such a view in criminal laws that formally prohibit and punish the treatment of animals as resources. But that would not mean that we must punish the killing of an animal by a human in exactly the same way that we punish the killing of a human by another human. For example, our recognizing that animals have moral value does not require that we prosecute for manslaughter someone who, while driving recklessly, hits a raccoon. The prosecution of humans who kill other humans serves many purposes that are not relevant to animals. For example, criminal prosecutions allow the families of crime victims to experience some form of closure, and although there is ethological evidence that many nonhuman animals experience grief at the loss of family or pack members, a criminal trial would not be meaningful to them.

Quote:
If you cannot draw the line at the top of the spectrum, you cannot very easily draw it at the bottom(or can you).


I draw the line at sentience because, as I have argued, sentient beings have interests and the possession of interests is the necessary and sufficient condition for membership in the moral community. Are insects sentient? Are they conscious beings with minds that experience pain and pleasure? I do not know. Neither do you. But the fact that we do not know exactly where to draw the line, or perhaps find drawing the line difficult (morality is never easy), does not preclude us from the obligation to draw the line somewhere or allow us to use animals as we 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. Indeed, it is widely accepted that fish are sentient. So the fact that I do not know on what side of the line to place a particular species does not preclude me of my moral obligation to the animals whom I do know are sentient.

Consider this example: there is great deal of disagreement about the scope and extent of human rights. Some people argue that health care and education are fundamental rights that a civilized government should provide to everyone; some people argue that these are commodities like any other, not the subject of rights, and that people ought to pay for them. But we would, I suspect, all agree that whatever our disagreements about human rights--however unsure we are of where to draw the line--we most certainly agree, for instance, that genocide is morally wrong. We do not say that it is morally acceptable to kill off entire populations because we may disagree over whether humans are entitled to health care, or whether morality is "emotive". Similarly, our uncertainty or disagreement regarding the sentience of insects is no license to ignore the interests of chimpanzees, cows, pigs, chickens, and other species whom we do know are sentient.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 03:54 pm
@New Mysterianism,
New Mysterianism;83297 wrote:
In other words, simply reporting current social practice or legality does not absolve you from making a genuine moral argument (in a serious philosophy forum) about which entities should be entitled to moral consideration.

My position on moral statements is that they amount to declarations of emotional whim as a rule.

New Mysterianism;83297 wrote:
Human slavery was once current practice, but no one really thinks that slavery is morally justifiable in modern society just because it was once socially accepted. That's an odd form of begging the question. We're interested in the moral question of nonhuman moral status--not the legal question. The same goes for virtually any debate. For example, when philosophers discuss the moral question of abortion, they don't attempt to validate their claims by appealing to whatever the current legality, social practice, or consensus happens to be.


Human slavery in the United States was in gross violation of contradiction of beliefs among other things. Certain justifications that appeared acceptable entailed very problematic results when brought to their logical conclusion. That certain mores existed creating such glaring contradiction with the practice of human slavery is a symptom of certain aspects of human neurology. I happen to share the sentiment that slavery is dastardly, but that position boils down to pure opinion partnered with my own subjectively adopted moral standards(emotionally charged judgments).




New Mysterianism;83297 wrote:
Besides, this position of yours, if taken to its logical conclusion, actually commands your attention. Why? Almost everyone agrees that it is morally wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on nonhuman animals. Indeed, this moral rule is so uncontroversial that it is currently embodied in established anticruelty laws and other laws that regulate our treatment of nonhumans. According to the social contract, we are bound by these established laws. However, current social practices violate them everyday. Therefore, you do have reason to be "unsatisifed" about animal suffering. That said, no serious arguer in moral debates justifies his position on the basis of whether its propositions are reflected in the current legality/social practice.


My moral positions are (as are yours) entirely emotive in their base. I make no appeal to social justification, only personal justification. What I did make appeal to is the fact that it would be unwise of me to violate the legally ratified social contract in the United States (and I think that it should be more difficult for those with power to do so), which I still hold as true. I may hold the personal view that X is wrong even though it is legal, or that X is right even though it is not. I may secretly violate X at my own risk. I may speak out against X as well. I make no appeal to the philosophy behind the contract, only the existence of the contract. I am still unsatisfied with animal suffering.




New Mysterianism;83297 wrote:
It is also practical and rational for someone to violate the law when it suits their interests, provided that the threat of getting caught is minimal. Not much moral foundation for a social contract here. If you base the social contract on practicality instead of social justice, you get moral freeloaders. But look, in the next sentence you say it's genetics, not practicality. Which is it, Zetetic? Let's have some consistency from you for a change.


I never asserted that I agree with the pilosophy behind social contracts, so I fail to see my inconsistency. On the other hand, you seem to think that you have found this agreement in my language. Laws and morality have very little to do with each other. If person X disagrees with law Y and violates it, then that is fine. Persumably there is some person or agent J that will seek to punish them for violation of Y. I may agree that they should be punished or disagree depening on my opinion of the law.

I would also like to point out that genetics and practicality have little to do with eachother, adopting genetics is somewhat arbitrary but practical.





New Mysterianism;83297 wrote:
Okay, so now you want to arbitrarily draw the line at genetic humanity for inclusion in the moral sphere. This is speciesism, pure and simple. It is both morally and logically indistinguishable from the kind of justification that sought to prolong human slavery on the perceived basis that Africans were less intelligent than whites, or "subhuman." At least with characteristics like rationality and moral agency you have a prima facie defensible position. But it's not really about genetics, is it? Even you can detect the weakness in that. No, it's about intelligence level now. Deny it? Your words say it all. Let's see...


In reality, it is not genetics, you are right. I make my distinction entierly subjectively with no appeal to justification. This is because justification can only serve to show consistency between already held ideals and proposed ones, it does nothing in and of itself to instill new ones. You seemed not to be responsive to that so I picked genetics arbitrarily for the discussion. Your analysis would be correct if I truely believed it.





New Mysterianism;83297 wrote:
So you have inserted yet another criterion into your quasi-argument: intelligence level (this is evident because you'll clearly make an exception for highly intelligent aliens who share no genetic relatedness with humans). Let's review this conceptual rollercoaster: you've denied that rationality or moral agency are relevant in social contracts because, apparently, reporting current practice is sufficient to make a convincing moral argument. So then you appeal to practicality as a moral compass, which is untenable, but wait, we're not done. In the following sentence you make the philosophically unmotivated case for genetic humanity (speciescism) as the morally relevant criterion. Perhaps "made the case for" is too generous here, you merely asserted it. Finally, you surreptitiously reinsert yet another criterion--intelligence level--for inclusion in the moral sphere. So which is it: rationality, moral agency, status quo, practicality, genetics, intelligence level? This is called the "moving target" fallacy. Here's a useful analogy:

"Computers might be able to understand Chinese and think about numbers but cannot do the crucially human things, such as...." - and then follows his favorite human specialty - falling in love, having a sense of humor, etc. But as soon as an artificial intelligence simulation succeeds, a new "crucial" element is selected (the target is moved). Thus the perpetrators of this fallacy will never have to admit to the existence of artificial intelligence.The proponents keep changing their definition, presenting you always with a moving target of criteria that you can never get hold of. It's like trying to grasp the fog.

The moving target (i.e., moving criteria) fallacy is a fantastic way to shield your position from rational inquiry. Either way, my earlier objections still apply. If we set up intelligence level as the new criterion, we exclude many humans. Who judges what degree of intelligence is sufficient for moral consideration? Indeed, some nonhumans have greater intelligence levels than humans, such as newborns and mentally impaired adults. The speciesist strategy is an attempt to forestall further discussion--it isn't based on substantive reasoning, but bias. As you'll see below, I give reasons for why sentience and interests are the morally relevant criteria for ethical consideration. I don't just air my moral opinions as assertions and leave it at that. You seem to be posting responses without serious thought beforehand. As we've seen, your position is largely inconsistent, is incoherent in places, and is poorly argued.

Lastly, suppose those aliens wanted to enslave you. What kind of appeal would you make in your defense? You'd state that your interests make you an object of moral concern, not your genes or intelligence level. After all, the aliens are far more intelligent than you, and you don't share their genetic code. You could be their lunch.


I would certianly not assume that my interests make me an object of their concern. I would hope that some aspect of their morality is incompatible with slavery and then try to exploit it. My moral compass in and of itself is entierly emotive. It may be the case that X is inconsistent with my feelings towards a type of action, as X is an action of the type that I disagree with, in which case I will adopt the position that X is not something that I can stand for.

I have to say, in actuality food can largely be synthesized, so ideally this should be done. In practice, it would be totally unaffordable for the average person to have a healthy diet without animal protien. It would decrease the average quality of life of most people substantially. This is a point that I would like to see you debate, it seems interesting.

Although you have misinterpreted my expressed views on several points, I think that overall your analysis was entertaining and informative. I will see if I can't find new points of view for you to critique in the future. In the meantime, if you want to get into meta-ethics, metaphysics or philosophy of mathematics or logic let me know. I'm sure you'll let me know what you think of what I have said in this post.
 
CosmicHolist
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 06:12 pm
@Zetetic11235,
NewMysterianism:

I've read through the entire thread and would like to say that I think you argue your points extremely well, especially against a number of rather odd objections. I've been an ethical vegan for two years now and find that our basic guiding principles on this issue are much in agreement. Have you read Francione on the abolitionist approach and his criticism of welfarism and regulation?

Edit: Oops. I didn't realize that NM is banned? Sorry. Er, this is awkward. At any rate, I'm very interested in continuing with this discussion. Should I start a new thread or give my basic argument in contrast to NM's?
 
Yogi DMT
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 06:45 pm
@New Mysterianism,
Please excuse the text block Razz, i'm not good at breaking up my thoughts nor do i like to so please try and read as is, thanks.

I do not like harm to any living thing as much as the rest of you but to answer this question, i must first state that this is a world in which pain is a natural occurrence. In addition, we must first establish whether the animal is being killed painlessly or painfully. If that case is painlessly, then i do not see any moral conflict involved. If situation is one in which pain is caused to the animal, which is the direction i assume this arguments leans more towards, then i still stand for my belief of it not being morally wrong. The basics of biology establish the idea of the food chain, energy is passed from one organism to the other starting with our sun. The conflict seems to stem from the fact that some organism (animals) can feel pain while others such as the figurative opposite (plants) don't feel pain. Killing an animal absolutely painlessly is the exact same thing as eating plants because both bypass any sort of reaction or feeling from a nervous system. And in our world, we must consume to survive so choosing not to eat anything living is absurd. Now back to the question of whether killing and eating animals is wrong or right. On earth, it is natural to kill and consume. We humans have the intelligence to realize this is hurtful to the animals and therefore feel it goes against a moral obligation. But you have to remember animals consume other animals which makes them no more innocent than we are. Since the beginning of time, animals have eaten other animals to gain the proper nutrition needed to survive. A counter-argument might possibly state that you may get the proper nutrition from various plants, while plants may contain some of what we need, they in truth, do not suffice nutritional needs of humans. Animals, which have the correct nutrition, being chemically composed of similar if not the exact same component we must consume to survive. Therefore, we probably couldn't survive living off plants which do not satisfy our survival needs. Now a days we could possibly gain all the nutrition we need through artificial means such as supplements and pills. If you would prefer to live in this unnatural way, then i guess you could say we sacrifice for those that do what we opted not do to, which is to kill and eat. To conclude, our world, our species depends on consuming other living organisms. It's not a morally wrong thing and because humans have the awareness to realize killing is painful to the animals, we feel the need to sympathize with the concept of pain. Pain is a survival instinct for animals and nothing more. Humans are the only being who can think or feel past and above the sole concept of survival. This world is a kill and eat to survive world. It is how our biological system has been set up and will not change anytime soon.
 
CosmicHolist
 
Reply Sat 10 Oct, 2009 11:09 pm
@Yogi DMT,
Yogi DMT;95678 wrote:
...we must first establish whether the animal is being killed painlessly or painfully. If that case is painlessly, then i do not see any moral conflict involved.


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).

Yogi DMT;95678 wrote:
If situation is one in which pain is caused to the animal, which is the direction i assume this arguments leans more towards, then i still stand for my belief of it not being morally wrong.


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.

Yogi DMT;95678 wrote:
The basics of biology establish the idea of the food chain, energy is passed from one organism to the other starting with our sun. The conflict seems to stem from the fact that some organism (animals) can feel pain while others such as the figurative opposite (plants) don't feel pain. Killing an animal absolutely painlessly is the exact same thing as eating plants because both bypass any sort of reaction or feeling from a nervous system. And in our world, we must consume to survive so choosing not to eat anything living is absurd.


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.

Yogi DMT;95678 wrote:
Now back to the question of whether killing and eating animals is wrong or right. On earth, it is natural to kill and consume. We humans have the intelligence to realize this is hurtful to the animals and therefore feel it goes against a moral obligation. But you have to remember animals consume other animals which makes them no more innocent than we are.


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.

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.

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).

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.

Yogi DMT;95678 wrote:
A counter-argument might possibly state that you may get the proper nutrition from various plants, while plants may contain some of what we need, they in truth, do not suffice nutritional needs of humans.


You assert a nutritional claim as factual without providing any substantive support. NM gave an excellent overview of the issue, and cited the largest study ever undertaken on the question of vegetarian nutrition, which you can find in this thread, on this page, in the first post: http://www.philosophyforum.com/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/ethics/4322-defending-killing-eating-animals-morally-wrong-16.html
 
Kroni
 
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2009 04:09 pm
@New Mysterianism,
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. We have therefore formed a kind of natural contract with the animals, forming a symbiotic relationship with them. We need them and they need us. In exchange for the meat and dairy they provide to us, we make it possible for them to exist. Of course they have to die after a few years but the idea is that some life is better than no life and if it is preferrable for the animal to live at all then our relationship should be considered beneficial to them.
 
 

 
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