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Should ethics apply to other conscious animals?

 
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Mar, 2005 11:38 am
cjhsa wrote:
djbt wrote:
Do I sense the spector of the naturalistic fallacy here...?


WTF is that supposed to mean? Are you saying you are so well educated that nature doesn't apply to you any longer? GMAB.


Sorry, was half-joking...

By the naturalistic fallacy I mean an argument that suggests that because something is 'natural' it is also 'right' or 'good', and more generally the suggestion that 'is' implies 'ought'.

I don't know if this is relavant to your statement, but it sounded like you might have meant that hunting, fishing and farming are 'natural' (and so 'good'), whereas factory farming isn't natural (and so may be 'bad'). If this is not what you meant, sorry, I misunderstood.
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cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Mar, 2005 11:42 am
Well, yes, that's kind of what I meant. Co-existing as part of the natural ecosystem, which we are part of, seems to me much better than factory farming operations. You apparently have a problem with hunting and fishing?

It bothers me that the "environmentally friendly" food advocates in this country have not re-embraced hunting the same way they've promoted organic farming techniques. It makes no sense.
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Mar, 2005 05:34 pm
cjhsa wrote:
Well, yes, that's kind of what I meant. Co-existing as part of the natural ecosystem, which we are part of, seems to me much better than factory farming operations. You apparently have a problem with hunting and fishing?


I would agree that hunting and fishing are better, or rather less bad, than factory farming. I have personally never been hunted or fished, but I would imagine both are quite horrific experiences for the animals that suffer them. Recent studies have confirmed, for example, that fish do feel pain, and that being caught on a hook and dragged out of the water is a very painful and distressing experience for them. That hunting and fishing are less horrific than factory farming doesn't say much in their favour.

You do seem to be commit the naturalistic fallacy, which is a problem for your position, unless your position is that everything natural is good and everything un-natural is bad (although you'd then have the problem of setting criteria for 'natural-ness').

To be blunt; natural ecosystems often involve constant threat of being eaten, being eaten alive, disease, starvation, violent confrontations, rape, gang rape, territorialism and racism, infanticide, etc. If you say natural is good, you are saying all these things are good, since they are all natural.

We were part of a natural ecosystem, but we are no longer, although our behavior is still heavily influenced by the evolutionary time we spent in natural ecosystems. I would argue we should want to move away from many aspects of our nature.

Hunting and fishing seem to me to be rather like a tourist version of nature. A bit like going to Thailand on holiday and saying "it's so lovely and unspoilt" because you can then go home and not worry about the lack of clean water. The natural world is, for the most part, a world of blood and claws, which wouldn't seem very idealistic if you were on the receiving end of it. To advocate ‘going back to nature’ seems to me to be to sentimentalise nature.

cjhsa wrote:
It bothers me that the "environmentally friendly" food advocates in this country have not re-embraced hunting the same way they've promoted organic farming techniques. It makes no sense.


I don't know about your country, but I know in mine many who support environmentally conscious/organic methods because 'natural is good' without thinking about the repercussions of this point of view, and this bothers me too. There are far better reasons to support environmentally conscious/organic methods, to do with health, sustainability, etc., that have nothing to do with an assumption that natural is good.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 09:45 am
djbt wrote:
Sorry to be unclear. Using the word experience is liable to lead to confusion. For clarities sake, can I suggest that we use the following:

abcde= A thing that experiences.
vwxyz= The ability to experience.

Well, I'm not sure we need an entirely new nomenclature here and I'm not convinced that this distinction aids in clarifying things. Furthermore, this wasn't the distinction that you had made earlier, which was between the ability to experience and the act of experiencing.

djbt wrote:
So, if something has vwxyz, is it therefore an abcde. Abcdes are morally relevant. Experiences affect abcdes, and how they affect them determines whether they are neutral, positive, or negetive is that particular instance.

You're coming dangerously close to a boot-strapping argument here. You say that entities that experience are morally relevant, and then you conclude that experiences affect these experiencing entities, which makes experiences morally relevant too. But you still haven't made the connection between an experiencing entity (your abcde) as a morally relevant thing and experiences (qua experiences) as morally relevant things. The two things, after all, are not the same thing, so even if you were to establish that the ability to experience was morally relevant, you would still need to establish that an act of experiencing had some kind of moral significance.

djbt wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
The question is: what moral difference does it make whether I stab a non-experiencing person or a non-experiencing cactus?


None. Only the repercussions for abcdes are morally relevant, and as you say, either act, indeed any act, will have repercussions.

Which repercussions are we to consider relevant? If my act of stabbing a brain-dead person scares a cat in the vicinity, does that make my act wrong? If that cat would be just as scared if it witnessed me stabbing a cactus, does that make the two stabbings morally equivalent acts? And what if my stabbing of a brain-dead person is not witnessed by any sentient being? Is my act of stabbing in that case morally neutral?

djbt wrote:
I could phrase part of my initial position: "I have a duty to all abcdes". I have no other duties, none to non-experiencing people, none to non-experiencing cacti. The two stabbings are not of different moral qualities.

This contradicts your previous assertion that acts are judged by their effects on other experiencing entities. Which is it?

djbt wrote:
To clarify, I do not say that they enjoy different moral statuses. Both have no moral status. By the way, the choice of an acronym for my username was a heat of the moment error. Please call me David.

Again, you're contradicting yourself.

djbt wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
If I shine a light in your eyes, that affects your experience. Does that make it a morally relevant act?


The affect

And now we're back to the moral significance of acts on other experiencing entities.

djbt wrote:
"Upsetness", or emotional distress, is a negative affect on an abcde, as is physical pain. I understand that both affect the brain in the same way. It is certainly wrong as to the person experiencing it, and may well be wrong to the person causing it (if it upsets them to be upsetting someone), although they might enjoy causing suffering, in which case it would be a positive affect on them as an abcde (don't misunderstand though, it may well have negative affects coming up soonÂ… again getting into the balancing act here).

What if I upset someone purely by accident? Say, for instance, that I vacuum a carpet. There are two witnesses to my act of vacuuming: a cat and a person. I expect that the cat will be upset by my act of vacuuming, but I have no expectation that the person will be upset by my act. It turns out, however, that both become upset. Have I acted wrongly toward the cat? Toward the person?

djbt wrote:
We should deal first with more fundamental problems, the debate over weighing positives and negatives can only happen if we've temporarily agreed that a positive affect on an abcde is right or good, and a negative affect on an abcde is wrong or bad, and that nothing else is relevant. If you still have problems with that position, we should deal with them first.

Yes, I still have problems with that position.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 10:41 am
Quote, "We should deal first with more fundamental problems, the debate over weighing positives and negatives can only happen if we've temporarily agreed that a positive affect on an abcde is right or good, and a negative affect on an abcde is wrong or bad, and that nothing else is relevant. If you still have problems with that position, we should deal with them first." If you wish to deal with positives and negatives, you can't have a blanket wrong or bad because different cultures have different standards. If you can deal with "that," we may have something to discuss.
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Ray
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 11:05 am
The "cycle of life" is merely a pattern found by inductive observation. It does not dictate what is right or waht should be done.

I'm still grappling with this issue, but the conclusion I am at is that humans are rational, sentient creatures that possesses a cognitive meaningful existence; whereas animals are questionalbe (I guess it depends on which animals you're talking about).
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 11:47 am
Ray, All animals including humans has a "meaningful existence" according to nature.
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cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 11:47 am
Sorry. Fish are food, not friends.

Kill it and grill it.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 11:49 am
cjh, Fresh is good. Wink
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Ray
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 05:06 pm
CI,

According to nature? Please elaborate?

Perhaps I should clarify what I meant. A sponge is a creature that is composed of cells, that do not have any cognitive existence. Thus, it does not have much significance. We, humans are able to conceive meaning, to know, and we are also aware that we do exist.

Ok, I'm kinda vague here...
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 05:47 pm
Humans create values which are not consistent throughout all cultures. We create meaning primarily as a consequence of our genes and environment. A sponge may not have cognition, but it does have life. It's all part of nature or natural. Remember the recent tsunami? It killed thousands of people; a natural disaster no matter what values we attach to it.
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Ray
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 05:53 pm
True CI, but a sponge is not aware of anything.

I think that there is an underlying universal value in all cultures. That's up for debate though.

You mentioned that in nature all animals have a meaningful existence according to nature. I think you're anthroprotizing(spelling?) nature here.

I'm up for an argument, it is a philosophical debate forum. :wink:
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 07:01 pm
In the scheme of evolution, I'm not sure where the sponge fits, but they have survived; that's nature.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 07:04 pm
An article on sponges. http://www.athro.com/evo/sponge.html
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Mar, 2005 07:06 pm
Ray, "Awareness" is a matter of interpretation. A sponge is aware of their environment, and uses it to their advantage as does other sea life.
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Mar, 2005 06:36 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Well, I'm not sure we need an entirely new nomenclature here and I'm not convinced that this distinction aids in clarifying things. Furthermore, this wasn't the distinction that you had made earlier, which was between the ability to experience and the act of experiencing.


Feel free to suggest alternative terminology. You'll note, however, that in my previous post I was continuing to use the verb 'to experience' for the act of experiencing, and was using the other terms to separate this from 'the ability to experience' (that which makes something the subject of morality, vwxyz) and 'a thing that can experience' (a subject of morality, an abcde). I'll continue to do this, unless you have an alternative.

joefromchicago wrote:
You're coming dangerously close to a boot-strapping argument here. You say that entities that experience are morally relevant, and then you conclude that experiences affect these experiencing entities, which makes experiences morally relevant too. But you still haven't made the connection between an experiencing entity (your abcde) as a morally relevant thing and experiences (qua experiences) as morally relevant things. The two things, after all, are not the same thing, so even if you were to establish that the ability to experience was morally relevant, you would still need to establish that an act of experiencing had some kind of moral significance.


I'll try explaining again. I think you'll find that any contradictions you think you have seen are the result of my poor explanation, not any contradictions in the position I am trying to explain to you.

I'll try to label what the various statements I'm making are, so you can see how they might be attacked. We can then look at the points individually, or you can specify a move between two points that you are unsure about:

Step 1:

(1) I have vwxyz. I am an abcde (statement of fact)
(2) It is important to me (through no choice of my own, it is unavoidably important) that I experience positive feelings (pleasure/happiness/satisfaction/anything-better-than-no-feeling) and that I do not experience negative feelings (pain/unhappiness/dissatisfaction/anything-worse-than-no-feeling) (statement of fact).
(3) All other things that seem important to me are in fact only important because they affect the positive-ness/negative-ness of my feelings (statement of fact).
(4) My having positive rather than negative feelings (from now on I'll use the word 'happiness' to mean this) is the only thing that is important to me; it is 100% important (from (2) and (3)).

Step 2:

(5) Things other than myself have vwxyz. There are other abcdes (statement of fact).
(6) Points (2), (3) and therefore (4) are also true of them.
(7) For all abcdes, happiness (as defined above) is 100% important (from (6))
(8) Happiness is important, and equally important (in all cases 100% important) for all abcdes - (from (7))
(9) Nothing but the happiness of abcdes is important (from (2), (3) and (7)).

Step 3:

(10) I would be more likely to be happy if abcdes other than myself acted as if my happiness were important (statement of fact).
(11) All abcdes would be more likely to be happy if all entities acted as if all other abcdes' happiness were equally important (statement of fact).
(12) Acting as if all other abcdes' happiness is equally important is important to all abcdes (from (10), (11) and (8))
(13) I ought to act as if all other abcdes' happiness is of equal importance to my own, that is, of absolute importance (moral premise, leaping to an ought).
(14) All abcdes ought to act as if all other abcdes' happiness of equal importance to their own, that is, of absolute importance (moral premise, again leaping to an ought).

Step 4:

(15) The subjects of the moral premises (13) and (14) are abcdes (we could say: "we have a duty to promote the happiness of abcdes"/"abcdes have moral status"/"abcdes are morally relevant", I'm sure you can think of other ways of phrasing this statement, but I hope the meaning is now clear).
(16) Experiences have an effect on the happiness of abcdes (statement of fact).
(17) Actions of one abcde are likely to cause experiences for other abcdes (statement of fact).
(18) Actions and experiences are relevant to the moral premises (from (13), (14), (16) and (17)).

I'm sure aspects of this may require better wording, or further explanation, but hopefully the position is now clear to you, and we can move on to analysing/attacking/refining it.

joefromchicago wrote:
Which repercussions are we to consider relevant? If my act of stabbing a brain-dead person scares a cat in the vicinity, does that make my act wrong?
joefromchicago wrote:
If that cat would be just as scared if it witnessed me stabbing a cactus, does that make the two stabbings morally equivalent acts?


Yes, but again only if there were no other consequences.

joefromchicago wrote:
And what if my stabbing of a brain-dead person is not witnessed by any sentient being? Is my act of stabbing in that case morally neutral?
joefromchicago wrote:
What if I upset someone purely by accident? Say, for instance, that I vacuum a carpet. There are two witnesses to my act of vacuuming: a cat and a person. I expect that the cat will be upset by my act of vacuuming, but I have no expectation that the person will be upset by my act. It turns out, however, that both become upset. Have I acted wrongly toward the cat? Toward the person?
0 Replies
 
djbt
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Mar, 2005 06:45 am
cjhsa wrote:
Sorry. Fish are food, not friends.

Kill it and grill it.


That's definitely an example of the is/ought fallacy. To rephrase: It is the case that fish are used as food, therefore it ought to be the case that fish are used as food.

Consider an example from our past: Non-whites are slaves, not citizens. Rephrased: It is the case that non-whites are used as slaves, therefore it ought to be the case that non-whites are used as slaves.

See the fallacy?
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Mar, 2005 06:57 am
cicerone imposter wrote:
If you wish to deal with positives and negatives, you can't have a blanket wrong or bad because different cultures have different standards. If you can deal with "that," we may have something to discuss.


I agree that different cultures have different standards of right and wrong. I don't agree that we cannot study these standards to see what underlies them, whether they contain contridictions, what they assume, etc. Myself and Joe are currently doing just this for the position I have outlined. Please feel free to outline an alternative position from a different culture, and I will happily do the same for this position, and I think that Joe will too.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Mar, 2005 09:34 am
djbt wrote:
Feel free to suggest alternative terminology. You'll note, however, that in my previous post I was continuing to use the verb 'to experience' for the act of experiencing, and was using the other terms to separate this from 'the ability to experience' (that which makes something the subject of morality, vwxyz) and 'a thing that can experience' (a subject of morality, an abcde). I'll continue to do this, unless you have an alternative.

I'm not sure there's much point in distinguising between things that experience and the ability to experience, since, by definition, the latter is an attribute of the former.

djbt wrote:
I'll try explaining again. I think you'll find that any contradictions you think you have seen are the result of my poor explanation, not any contradictions in the position I am trying to explain to you.

I'll try to label what the various statements I'm making are, so you can see how they might be attacked. We can then look at the points individually, or you can specify a move between two points that you are unsure about:

Step 1:

(1) I have vwxyz. I am an abcde (statement of fact)
(2) It is important to me (through no choice of my own, it is unavoidably important) that I experience positive feelings (pleasure/happiness/satisfaction/anything-better-than-no-feeling) and that I do not experience negative feelings (pain/unhappiness/dissatisfaction/anything-worse-than-no-feeling) (statement of fact)....

There's little reason to go beyond this point. You've laid out a fairly typical utilitarian position. The only difference that I can discern is your emphasis on experience rather than on happiness. Using Ockham's Razor, however, we can simply pare away the whole experience aspect of your position, since we can reasonably assume that an entity that is capable of happiness is, perforce, capable of experience (happiness, after all, is nothing but an experience).

I'd be happy to engage in a discussion with you regarding utilitarianism, but I'm afraid that would stray too far from the topic of this thread. I am, however, curious as to why you've so far ignored Bentham's rationale for treating animals humanely, i.e. not whether they can reason or talk, but whether they can suffer
0 Replies
 
cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Mar, 2005 10:22 am
djbt wrote:
cjhsa wrote:
Sorry. Fish are food, not friends.

Kill it and grill it.


That's definitely an example of the is/ought fallacy. To rephrase: It is the case that fish are used as food, therefore it ought to be the case that fish are used as food.

Consider an example from our past: Non-whites are slaves, not citizens. Rephrased: It is the case that non-whites are used as slaves, therefore it ought to be the case that non-whites are used as slaves.

See the fallacy?


I'll tell you a real truth. You are spending way, way too much time thinking about this.
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