A debate between Gary Francione and Jan Narveson - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 04-01-2009, 07:57 AM
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http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/...28_44_1kHz.mp3



It's rather short, but reveals Narveson's position quite well I guess. At some point, Narveson discounts the "argument from marginal cases" by saying that children don't have full rights but will get them when they become rational adults etc. I think this misses the point, since although children don't have all the same rights as adult rational agents, they do have the kind of fundamental rights that Francione and others are advocating for non-humans.



If we support a rather simple/strict idea of a social contract, it remains unclear why children should have the moral status they have, except for the reason that we as rational agents care about their interests. But this reason really makes children's moral status an indirect one and dependent on our whims.



On the other hand, we might argue along Rawlsian lines of an original position, but then there is room left even for the moral status of non-humans by putting species behind the veil of ignorance.

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#2 Old 04-01-2009, 10:48 AM
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I can't listen to the debate at this time. Does Narveson think animals can ever be directly wronged?
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#3 Old 04-01-2009, 11:21 AM
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Does Narveson think animals can ever be directly wronged?

No. The only moral status for animals in his view is the indirect one that torturing animals can lead to cruelty towards humans, or that it's wrong to harm animals when they're someone else's property. I think his view is not in line with the moral intuitions of an average omnivore.

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#4 Old 04-01-2009, 12:29 PM
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Seven, what do you think of Narveson's objection to Regan's appeal to people's common intuition that animals should not be tortured? Narveson observes that most people have just as strong of an intuition that humans are worth far more than animals, so that even extremely painful experiments on chimps is acceptable if the objective is to cure lethal human diseases.



Narveson also comments that most people have an intuition that even demented and feeble-minded people are still somehow "above" even the most intelligent animals.



It seems Narveson is reminding Regan of other ordinary intuitions such as animals are qualitatively different than even "marginal case" humans. As such, Regan's appeal to our moral intuitions doesn't really produce the results Regan wants them to.



I guess it's obvious that some intuitions held by the same person can greatly conflict, but then that person may not ever recognize the conflict as a need for change, since it's always open for him to say that animal use is a necessary evil in the type of world we inhabit.



I'm not sure if any of this is brought up in the Francione debate, but I just read some of Narveson's thoughts in the Animal Rights chapter of the book Moral Matters.
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#5 Old 04-01-2009, 12:54 PM
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Well, if I remember correctly:



in The Case for Animal Rights, Regan discusses the role of intuitions in ethical argumentation at some length. What he proposes is a rather complex system of reasoning where we refine (or when necessary, abandon) our ethical intuitions in order to arrive at what he calls (again, IIRC) considered ethical judgments. Ethical intuitions have to be assessed in light of facts and logic (such as the criterion of consistency). I think he refers to Rawls's idea of a "reflective equilibrium" between theory and intuitions.



So if Narveson is presupposing or implying that Regan's argument is a simple inference from a popular moral intuition into a norm in an ethical theory, he's misrepresenting Regan quite a bit. And I don't really see how Regan's theory (at least in The Case for AR) really relies on people's intuition against torture of animals.



The intuition that the "marginal" human cases are qualitatively different from non-humans does certainly exist, statistically speaking, but it cannot logically coexist with a theory that places "intelligence" -- or potential partaking in the kind of social contract that I assume is important for Narveson -- as the requirement for moral rights.





To me personally, the role of appeals to intuition is to make an ad hominem argument in the old sense of the expression. That is, the point is to argue "if you hold A and B, then you can't at the same time maintain that B". In a sense, the norms arrived at by appeals to intuition are conditional statements: "if Y, then Z". I don't consider myself a moral realist/objectivist/whatever, so I don't believe ethical theory can produce any other kind of norms.

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#6 Old 04-01-2009, 04:08 PM
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It's weird how he thinks that we should treat others morally, because they have to potential to treat others morally. It seems sort of circular.



It's also weird how he thinks that babies have rights because they have the potential for moral agency (if I understand correctly). If we are going to base morality on potential, then it should be morally acceptable to torture babies because they have the potential to become psychopathic serial killers.
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#7 Old 04-01-2009, 04:13 PM
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I'm unable to tell if Narveson is referencing Regan's The Case for Animal Rights, or something more recently written by Regan, since the Google preview doesn't allow me to view the Notes section.



Looking back on this section of the book... it seems Narveson is claiming that though Regan's argument is much more subtle (he writes that Regan is appealing to our deeper levels of moral consciousnesses) than simply appealing to a deeply held intuition against the torture of animals, his argument is, at bottom, an appeal to his own intuition of the moral equality of all organisms (or at least down to mollusks ? maybe this indicates a more recent Regan view then). And this intuition is not at all ordinary, since most people emphatically do not believe that a monkey and a human are morally equal.



But from what I can tell, it doesn't seem that Narveson adds much more to his objection, other than his point that most animals don't have the capacity to make any social contract with us, and nor would we as humans want or need to make one with them since humans already have the upper hand.



I think Narveson underestimates the mental lives of many animals, as do people generally. But even if all non-human animals are vastly mentally inferior than a fully rational human adult, why would it be fair to deny them direct moral consideration, since they presumably are aware enough to care about the state of their lives? If we as rational humans can perceive that their lives probably matter to them, why are we not bound to consider them as more than mere tools?
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#8 Old 04-01-2009, 04:20 PM
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His idea of morality seems a little bit twisted. It seems to me like he thinks morality is what we do so that we can directly benefit from interacting with others. Animals don't need to be treated morally because we would gain nothing in return. I don't think many people share this idea of morality, and I certainly don't....
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#9 Old 04-01-2009, 05:19 PM
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If you like meat, then you are justified in eating meat.

That says it all.

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#10 Old 04-02-2009, 12:19 AM
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I listened to the debate last night and my computer crashed right before I could post the not saved summary of his statements, but I recall him saying such things as:



If he saw someone blowtorch a dog (hypothetical scenario brought up by Francione to inquire about Narvesons statement that torturing animals was weird but morally permissive), he would not try to stop them, but perhaps call the police if the dog was somebodys property, but not for a stray dog. (I very much wanted to stop listening at this point).



Also, that what humans do to enslave and torture (N.: in Garys terms) animals to get them into the frying pan (Narvesons terms) was justified, because human taste were more important than animals. I actually thought he was very much in line with many omnis there, though perhaps not about the torture.

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It's also weird how he thinks that babies have rights because they have the potential for moral agency (if I understand correctly)

Yeah, he sort of said that children deserve moral consideration because they grow up to have rights, and that they are important to us for that kind of reason. I replayed that several times as I thought I must have misunderstood (he sounded a bit as if he forgot to put in his dentures).



Maybe this is because I never listened to such a debate before (btw, 16+ minutes of this was anything but rather short), but somehow I would have expected more from a professor of Philosophy
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#11 Old 04-02-2009, 01:37 AM
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Looking back on this section of the book... it seems Narveson is claiming that though Regan's argument is much more subtle (he writes that Regan is appealing to our deeper levels of moral consciousnesses) than simply appealing to a deeply held intuition against the torture of animals, his argument is, at bottom, an appeal to his own intuition of the moral equality of all organisms (or at least down to mollusks ? maybe this indicates a more recent Regan view then). And this intuition is not at all ordinary, since most people emphatically do not believe that a monkey and a human are morally equal.

Well either Regan has changed his argumentation a lot since he wrote The Case for AR, or then Narveson is talking out of his ass. Or maybe he's making the redundant statement that Regan is appealing to his intuitions in some trivial sense in which every single writer in normative ethics is appealing to his/her intuitions.



Quote:
But even if all non-human animals are vastly mentally inferior than a fully rational human adult, why would it be fair to deny them direct moral consideration, since they presumably are aware enough to care about the state of their lives? If we as rational humans can perceive that their lives probably matter to them, why are we not bound to consider them as more than mere tools?

It isn't fair, but for a "contractarian" like Narveson, that doesn't matter, because morality is all about "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" and conversely, "if you don't scratch my back, I'm going to rape you". What should matter though, is the fact that I just don't see how the "marginal" cases are going to get direct moral status in his view.

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#12 Old 04-02-2009, 01:40 AM
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(btw, 16+ minutes of this was anything but rather short)

Well, they didn't get into any real debate, IMO. For example, they should have addressed kids and other "marginal cases" a bit more than with a couple of cursory remarks. The "what would it make for the other person to convince you" questions took up valuable time too.

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#13 Old 04-02-2009, 08:47 AM
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but somehow I would have expected more from a professor of Philosophy

I find it frightening that a professor of philosophy advocates that "if you like X, you are justified in doing X". Highly disturbing.

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#14 Old 04-02-2009, 08:59 AM
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I find it frightening that a professor of philosophy advocates that "if you like X, you are justified in doing X". Highly disturbing.

It seems Professor Narveson is far too enamored with so-called rational beings. He seems to overlook what I see as obvious: if nonhuman animals can't help what they do, can't be said to possess enough moral agency to be free agents, yet they are aware of the world, it is not their fault that they lack something that humans generally possess, and because they (may) lack they should be owed even more respect, kindness.
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#15 Old 04-02-2009, 11:51 AM
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#16 Old 04-02-2009, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by RoboMonkey View Post

His idea of morality seems a little bit twisted. It seems to me like he thinks morality is what we do so that we can directly benefit from interacting with others. Animals don't need to be treated morally because we would gain nothing in return. I don't think many people share this idea of morality, and I certainly don't....



It's a realist view of the world, and is logical through that lens. Being a realist gets the world nowhere though.
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#17 Old 04-02-2009, 04:22 PM
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It's a realist view of the world, and is logical through that lens. Being a realist gets the world nowhere though.

In general, applying the word 'realist' to ethical norms is a misunderstanding of language. (Except when one is talking about the theory called moral realism.)

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#18 Old 04-02-2009, 06:29 PM
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I would like to mention two additional problems with the social contract theory (the theory that all morality is based on contracts, and that these contracts are made out of self interest -- I won't steal from you if you don't steal from me, etc.).



The first problem is the consequences of this theory. One consequence, for example, is the there is no reason a society should not enslave an ethnic group which only makes up a small minority of the total population. All the slave owners could have made "contracts" to act "morally" towards each other because it is in their self interest to do so. Under this thinking, however, they have no reason to make a similar contract with their slaves if the slaves are in a position where they can not fight back.



But second, there is a more serious problem with this type of thinking. If all morality is based on self interest, why is it that people should not violate the "contracts" they have made in the past. A person can agree to not steal from others if others do not steal from him. But after he makes this agreement, why is it that he should refrain from stealing when he is in a position where he will not get caught? It does not appear that this can be answered within this type of thinking.



There are some people who believe that a society can survive if everyone behaves in their own self interest. I do not believe that it can. People who attempt to base an economic theory based on self interest, for example, assume that consumers and companies will behave according to self interest. However, these same people, without realizing it, then also assume that lawmakers, judges, and police officers will act benevolently.



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#19 Old 04-02-2009, 07:31 PM
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In general, applying the word 'realist' to ethical norms is a misunderstanding of language. (Except when one is talking about the theory called moral realism.)



I was using it as defined by political realism. Political realism encourages nationalism, racism, speciesm, etc.
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#20 Old 04-02-2009, 08:53 PM
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... I don't consider myself a moral realist/objectivist/whatever, so I don't believe ethical theory can produce any other kind of norms.

You mind if I ask you what type of moral anti-realism you consider most?
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