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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have noticed over the years that there are a number of people who recognize that there are ethical problems with causing animals to suffer, but some of these people don't see any ethical problems with killing animals. So last winter, I wrote a short paper to try to briefly explain why I think there are ethical problems with killing innocent beings, even when there isn't suffering involved. You can find this paper by clicking on the "Ethics" button on the Animal Rights Outreach website (which you can find at the top of a google search for "Animal Rights Outreach") along with a paper that discusses my ideas for an animal rights ethics theory (the paper ethics theory paper may be a bit long, but at least it's a lot shorter than reading a great big book about ethics <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sunny.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":sunny:">).<br><br><br><br>
Here are the main parts to the paper that I wrote about the ethical problems with killing, which I hope will inspire some discussion about this issue:<br><br><br><br>
"Looking Beyond Suffering: Ethical Problems of Unnecessary Killing"<br><br><br><br>
Once people start to learn about the mental lives of various beings (like cats and dogs and pigs and chickens), they often quickly realize that we should try to not cause suffering in these kinds of beings. But sometimes it is less obvious for people to see the problems with just killing nonhuman animals without causing suffering or discomfort. But most of us do see that there are really big problems with killing a human, whether this killing involves any suffering or not, so the question is "why is it different with nonhuman animals?". To help figure out why there is something wrong about unnecessary killing, its useful to look at what it is that makes anything right or wrong. In other words its useful to understand some things about ethics and ethical reasoning.<br><br><br><br>
A good starting point in ethical thinking is realizing that we, as humans, have such a great ability to understand another beings situation and that we have strong emotions that make us want to see other beings live out good lives, so it is upsetting for us to see others suffering or being killed (since we can definitely say that a being who had to deal with lots of suffering or was killed at a young age did not live out a good life, or at least not as good as it could have been). If we use our imagination to understand the lives of others, then we end up having these emotional responses for any beings that care about their lives, like humans or cats or chickens.<br><br><br><br>
Some people think we should only be concerned about beings that can use a complicated language or understand complex logical problems but people who are willing to really listen to their emotions will realize that they would still would be bothered to see such beings getting killed or hurt (and there are some humans, like infants and some mentally handicapped people that are not capable of using a complex language or doing logic problems, but we still have concern for these humans). To help get an idea of how you feel about allowing other beings to be killed, with or without causing suffering, imagine if you were to see someone walk over to a dog and shoot a bullet through the dogs brain (killing the dog instantly), just for the hell of it. Would it not bother you to see this happen? But dogs are like pigs and chickens in that they all care about their own lives and want to live out good lives. Pigs are often better than dogs at understanding certain things and solving logical problems but this really isnt the important issue. The important issue is that all of these animals have emotions and desires and really care about their own lives.<br><br><br><br>
There are definitely some problems with using emotions as a starting points in ethics. One problem is that people often learn to not pay attention to their emotions, especially if they live in a society that encourages them to do this. For instance, in the US during the slavery period, many people were encouraged to not pay attention to their anger and sadness at seeing many innocent humans being used as slaves. These people likely still had these emotions buried within themselves but they became good at ignoring them. Similarily, people in our current society are encouraged to not pay attention to their anger and sadness at seeing certain nonhuman animals being imprisoned or killed. Most of us have these emotions buried within us but we often dont recognize this or try to ignore this. So, to make really good ethical decisions, we need to really listen to our emotions.<br><br><br><br>
Many people say that they dont think there could possibly be anything wrong with us killing nonhumans in order to eat them since, in the natural world, nonhumans regularly kill other nonhumans in order to eat each other. But it is very problematic to say that some particular act is ethically ok simply because this act happens in the natural world. For instance,.in nature, there are many animals that force themselves sexually upon other animals but this does not imply that it is morally ok for humans to rape humans.
 

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I like Tom Regan's way of arguing for the immorality of killing: killing is a form of deprivation, depriving a being of future experiences. And depriving can be wrong irrespective of whether the being has preferences about whatever it is that he/she is deprived of (depriving a child of freedom is wrong even if you do it by raising the child in the dark his whole life and telling him that there's no outside world).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sevenseas, I definitely agree that killing a being is a way of depriving a being of very important things but still I think people may want to think about the underlying reasons of why it is wrong to deprive beings of important things and why it's not just deprivations that humans experience that people should be concerned about. That's why I've tried to put delve into a bit of a discussion of what makes any act right or wrong and why a person should try to not cause life difficulties for humans or animals that want to live good lives.
 

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You may not be able to find any such underlying reasons. At some point in ethics, you have to take some things as a given. In Regan's argument, the immorality of killing is not taken as a given but is derived from the idea that deprivation is bad and a form of harm, but this latter idea may have to be taken as a given.<br><br><br><br>
I personally think that our emotions do not provide such underlying reasons either. One problem with arguing from emotions is that people also have emotions of homophobia, speciesism and racism. And those who "deep down" have an emotion that killing a non-human is to some extent wrong may also have an even stronger emotion about humans being much more important than other species, and many human interests overriding non-human ones. I think this is to be expected because I think emotions derive mainly from culture, and whereas our culture does value non-humans to a very limited extent, it is a fundamentally speciesist culture and so we can expect strong speciesist emotions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sevenseas, I think it's better to not just take things as a given because people may then simply disagree with the "given statements" and then what can you say to argue with that?<br><br><br><br>
So if you just say that "deprivation is bad" and you don't try to understand why this is so, then somebody can just say "well, I think that there is nothing wrong with deprivation" and then you're just stuck with different opposing views with not much left to say. Obviously, if someone did say that they don't think there's anything wrong with deprivation in general, then he or she would have to accept that it's ok to murder humans or kidnap humans as well as nonhumans, so it would be rare to find people who feel that this is true since most people in this current day and age simply accept that it's wrong to murder or kidnap people. But there are still some people who don't see anything wrong with murder, and they may not engage in murder themselves or be willing to admit that they see nothing wrong with murder (because this could cause problems for themselves), but they may still think this way and just think that we should do whatever works best for ourselves or for certain groups of people or whatever.<br><br><br><br>
Another non-debate that could arise with starting off with "given statements" is that some people could say that "it is never right to harm a being if the reason for doing this is to prevent other beings from being harmed" and others could disagree with this. Both of these positions could be regarded as "given statements" and then people are just stuck with opposing views (and I think this is quite a common opposition that people encounter when it comes to their ethical views, as opposed to the rare opposition of some people saying "it's not wrong to cause deprivations in general" and other's saying "it is wrong to cause deprivations in general").<br><br><br><br>
I think that understanding our emotions really is the only thing we have to come up with initial ideas about what is right and wrong and then we can use logic to figure out what statements follow from the initial ideas (and I think it is actually our emotions that push us to want to figure out non-contradictory ethical rules and this is why we should use logic to figure out things after using our emotions to come up with initial principles). I think the situation is not as bad as some people think regarding problems with using emotions to figure out some things about ethics. I think that in order to avoid some of the problems, we need to consider our emotions only if we have correct information about the world. For instance, if people have been misled to think that fish function like a robots and don't feel anything, then they likely won't be emotionally upset about a fish being slowly crushed to death or being injured in any other way. But if they learn about what goes on in the mind of a fish and realize that fish do feel pain then they would very likely be upset to see fish being slowly crushed to death and would want to not allow people to do this.<br><br><br><br>
So I think that when we learn truthful information about what goes on in the mind of other beings and we recognize that other beings really want certain things (like being allowed to be free) then it is our natural desire to want to let these beings have what they want and this desire comes from our emotions and not from some logical decision. If we didn't have emotions then we would be like robots and we wouldn't care about any of this, so our emotions must be the thing that make us care about the lives of other beings and care about other issues. I think these emotions exist within us naturally so if you took a young child and didn't try to force any views of our culture on him or her and then you sat down and started breaking the legs of a cat, then the child would get emotionally upset and would think you should stop doing that (and you likely wouldn't need to even teach the child that a cat feels pain just like humans do because humans can naturally understand body language and screams of certain animals and I think a human child would naturally be able understand when a cat is in extreme pain by hearing the howling meows, by seeing facial expressions showing pain and by watching the cat desparately try to escape the pain).<br><br><br><br>
So I think that our emotions that drive us to want other beings to have what they want and to view them as valuable creatures are not cultural things but they are naturally built into us. But it is culture that teaches people incorrect things (like teaching people that fish don't feel anything or that certain races don't care about having freedom) and encourages people to ignore their natural emotional responses to seeing certain people or animals harmed, so this is what we must overcome in order to come up with ethical principles that will really fit in with our natural desires about what we want the world to be like.<br><br><br><br>
I realize that using our emotions is not the simplest thing to do for building up an ethical theory and that this can lead to some disagreements but I think it's better than simply having "given statements" since I think doing that leads to disagreements that don't even leave room for discussion. Without any appeal to emotions or what makes us value certain things, I think it must be really difficult for people to find useful ways to tell people that they think one ethical idea or ethical theory is better than another, and I bet a lot of people would find it frustrating to even discuss things about ethics because of this problem.<br><br><br><br>
So what do you think about this Sevenseas (or anybody else)? I realize this reply is a bit long, but I think this is a rather tricky subject so that's why I've written quite a bit here. There's no color in my above paragraphs, so here's a little bit of color to end things off:<br><br><br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sunny.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":sunny:"><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/juggle.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":juggle:"><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sunny.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":sunny:">
 

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I agree that when you take some things as a given, you may end up with an irreconcilable disagreement. But having some things as given or as "axioms" is necessary for any system that is based on principles and their consequences and applications. When you try to logically form an ethical theory from your emotions, you end up with a system where some principles are starting points that your theory cannot explain. These are the "given" principles/values. Explaining those principles as manifesting some emotion shared by everyone (assuming for the sake of argument that such an emotion exists) doesn't change its status as something that doesn't have a further theoretical justification and which is thus taken as given: "X is wrong because everyone feels it's wrong".<br><br><br><br>
We are in agreement that we start from "initial ideas" and build from them, and disagree on whether those initial ideas manifest some universal emotions (or some universal tendencies to feel in some way that are silenced by cultural influences).<br><br><br><br>
Many of people's emotional reactions are certainly based on false information. And often people are trying to make rationalizations or take comfort in ignorance (about factory farm conditions, say) to avoid facing their true emotions. But I disagree that there's a "natural" emotion that would imply animal rights. In many cultures, children from an early age are directly faced with non-human (maybe even human) suffering and death - they may even participate in causing them - but do not feel they are doing anything wrong. You might say that this is because of what their parents have taught them, and that if those cultural influences had been absent, the children would feel differently - or that when they were infants, they would feel bad upon seeing suffering. But why would these hypotheticals about what they would have felt had this or that been the case matter for ethics?<br><br><br><br>
That is, take a hunter who has hunted almost his whole life and has always been faced with non-human death but doesn't feel remorse. He might also have correct information about non-human mental lives, or at least he would not stop hunting as a result of getting better information. How would you use his emotions to argue that he should stop hunting? If you claim that "deep down" he feels bad about hunting, he'll just disagree and say that even though he feels bad about suffering and death, he accepts it as a part of the "natural cycle". You can call (or at least I would) the notion of a "natural cycle" a rationalization intended to calm his conscience, but again he'll just disagree. You can say that when he was an infant, he would have cried upon seeing a wounded deer. He might agree and ask that since he isn't an infant anymore, what does it matter. Etc. My point is that I don't see any kind of relevant universal emotion in play that could solve any irreconcilable differences.<br><br><br><br>
Of course, if I tried to argue with him theoretically, that probably wouldn't make him stop hunting either. But I might be able to show that he is being inconsistent or arbitrary with his own views. I don't know if you can show someone is inconsistent with his own emotions. That requires a lot of speculating about what he "truly feels", which is something that only he can know best, if anyone can. His moral views, however, can more easily be stated and argued about.<br><br><br><br>
Apart from all this, however, a big problem with the emotional approach is that it might imply some form of animal welfare, but not animal rights. It might be conceivable that if everyone listened to all their emotions with as little rationalizations and with as much correct information and first-hand experience as possible, they might realize the unnecessity of meat-eating and support veg*nism. They might understand that animals don't belong in the circus and that rodeos are wrong. But would they also think that monkeys shouldn't be sacrificed to fight against Parkinson's disease? I don't think they would. If they looked at the suffering monkeys, they could feel a lot of compassion. But then they would look at someone suffering from Parkinson's and then they would think about all the number of humans saved vs. the number of monkeys sacrificed, and both their emotions and reason would be in favour of vivisection.<br><br><br><br>
I am of course opposed to such experiments, even if they did help against Parkinson's disease. And you can say that this is a non-issue since vivisection isn't scientifically reliable. I can't argue about that point, but I do think it's not a good idea to make the ethical acceptability of vivisection hinge on the scientific validity of it.
 

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Since I rambled a bit in my post above, to sum up where we agree and disagree: we both think that an ethical theory starts from "initial ideas", and that these initial ideas are verbal expressions of our ethical emotions (although I would have some reservations in talking about emotions in this context - I would use the term intuition), and that some of these initial ideas both have to and are shared by a lot of people.<br><br><br><br>
Where we disagree is that you (as I've interpreted) think there are some ethical emotions directly about non-humans that, at least when taken consistently, imply animal rights. For you, these emotions directly can be taken as the "initial ideas". I on the other hand am more sceptical about this and think that no such widely shared emotions exist. And so my ethical theory would not start from them, but it would start from emotions we have about <i>humans</i> and then, when applying the standards of consistency and non-arbitrariness, try to extend the views reflecting those emotions to other species, thus leading up to animal rights.
 

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I wish I could get this sort of discourse from more of my real-life friends and family... <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/rockon.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":rockon:"> , both of you!<br><br><br><br>
I have to wonder what philosophy a human would be likely to have if there were no social conditioning to consider animals as basically means to human ends. Like most people I know, I was taught to treat pets well, but generally, wild animals and food animals were pretty much a different story.<br><br><br><br>
I remember first having problems with hunting at a fairly young age (between 5 and 10); although my family fished, my immediate family did not hunt. However, some people tried to tell me basically that hunters were doing game animals a favor by culling their populations and preventing mass starvation. This line of reasoning disturbed me. <b>How can inflicting death upon an animal be in that being's interests?</b><br><br><br><br>
ETA: Sevenseas, your "rambling" is a hell of a lot more lucid than the rationalizations I often hear in defense of animal exploitation. In fact, when I try to think of how I would explain to someone why I include animals in my philosophy of right and wrong, I often can't put it into words. And it's not because I haven't tried to!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Tom</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
I wish I could get this sort of discourse from more of my real-life friends and family... , both of you!</div>
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Thanks Tom! I'm glad you're finding the discussion here interesting. I have found that it's difficult to find people who are willing to take some time to carefully consider ideas about what ethical obligations we have towards other people or towards nonhuman animals, so it is wonderful to find opportunities like this for discussing ethical issues with people who are really interested in this issue. I find that people usually really avoid thinking about ethical obligations towards nonhumans (often because they think the issue couldn't possibly be important) but they often claim that they are very concerned about ethical obligations towards humans but still are not willing to carefully consider ideas about what ethical obligations we have towards humans. But I still think there are quite a lot of people who could get interesting in thinking about these issues if the issues were presented to them in some way to really grab their attention (which, of course, is easier said than done).<br><br><br><br>
[I don't always do this, but for the rest of my posts in this topic, I have decided I will use the terms "nonhuman" or "nonhuman animal" instead of the word "animal" to refer to "all animals except humans". I sometimes just use the word "animal" to make communication easier, but I think it's better to use "nonhuman animal" (or "nonhuman" as an abbreviation) so I'll stick with that for the rest of my posts in this topic.]<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Tom</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
In fact, when I try to think of how I would explain to someone why I include animals in my philosophy of right and wrong, I often can't put it into words. And it's not because I haven't tried to!</div>
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I think it can be difficult to explain things like this when you're face to face with a person and you're on the spot to come up with explanations immediately instead of having time to carefully think up the right words to explain things. One thing you may want to try if you want to talk to someone about our ethical obligations towards nonhuman animals, is directing the person towards a booklet or paper that discusses ethical ideas relating to our obligations towards nonhumans and then asking them to talk with you about what they agree or disagree with in the booklet or paper. This way you have a starting point to deal with and you're not stuck trying to explain so many things on the spot. One paper which I think could be useful for this is the "Introduction to Animal Rights" paper I wrote which is on the Animal Rights Outreach website (but I think it's pretty clear that I have a bias towards recommending this paper since I did write the paper). You could also direct a person towards a book about ethics, but there are a lot of people aren't willing to put the time into reading a book about ethics so this may not be very useful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
Explaining those principles as manifesting some emotion shared by everyone (assuming for the sake of argument that such an emotion exists) doesn't change its status as something that doesn't have a further theoretical justification and which is thus taken as given</div>
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Yes, but at least explaining that the initial principles or axioms come from our emotions, tells us that there is something which can be used for determining these initial principles, instead of just saying "we just think it should be this way" (and then others can simply say "well, we just think it should be the opposite way"). An example of this kind of problem would be having some people who believe that a person should never be pulled into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, (which is common is rights-based theories) and having others who think this should be allowable (like utilitarians or people who follow certain other kinds of ethical theories). The rights-based followers who believe that animals should not be pulled into situations to be harmed in order to prevent others from being harmed can point out all sorts of consequences to the utilitarians which they think are bad consequences, but the utilitarians often just say there's nothing wrong with those consequences and then there's not much left to say to get one of these groups of people to change their views. But, getting people to think about their emotions in order to figure out initial principles, could get people to have more useful ways to at least talk about conflicts like this.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
We are in agreement that we start from "initial ideas" and build from them, and disagree on whether those initial ideas manifest some universal emotions (or some universal tendencies to feel in some way that are silenced by cultural influences).</div>
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Yes, I think you've described these agreement and disagreement areas well.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
In many cultures, children from an early age are directly faced with non-human (maybe even human) suffering and death - they may even participate in causing them - but do not feel they are doing anything wrong. You might say that this is because of what their parents have taught them, and that if those cultural influences had been absent, the children would feel differently - or that when they were infants, they would feel bad upon seeing suffering. But why would these hypotheticals about what they would have felt had this or that been the case matter for ethics?</div>
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I don't think that hypotheticals like that are things that matter. I think that children who do cause suffering and death without feeling bad about it actually have learned to ignore some of their natural emotions that cause people to be upset about having other beings suffering or being killed. I think that if you took these children and you took them away from all the misery and problems in their lives so that they could stop and listen to their emotions for a bit, and then you taught these children that cats feel pain just like humans do, and then you took a cat and started breaking the legs of the cat or started cutting off body parts from the cat that these children would likely get emotionally upset about this and would think that this should not be allowed.<br><br><br><br>
So I think even children like this recognize that we shouldn't normally do certain things (like cause suffering to humans or nonhumans) and that deep down these children don't want to live in a world where people are allowed to cause suffering to humans or nonhumans for any old reason. So if you can get people to recognize that deep down THEY actually WANT TO make it so that we should not allow people to cause suffering to humans and nonhumans, then this could lead to some actual changes in the world (instead of just telling them that there are certain "given ethical principles" that we have written up and that they must follow them, after which they might just decide to ignore you. And they might still ignore you if you tell them that they need to accept the "given principles" in order to have a logical ethical theory that protects humans, because they might just think that it doesn't matter to them to follow a logical ethical theory.)<br><br><br><br>
I also think that deep down most people want to not allow a lot of things to happen to humans and nonhumans and that they want to have some sort of useful rules to help figure out what things we should not allow (and to make these rules useful, they should not be contradictory) and that people get emotionally upset to live in an "unfair" world where there are not useful rules like this that people follow, so it's also possible to get people to realize that deep down THEY actually WANT TO live a world where people follow some useful rules of conduct, or in other words, where people choose actions that are in line with a well thought-out ethical theory. But if you don't discuss this with people, then people often trick themselves into thinking that they really don't care if most people follow aconsistent and carefully thought-out ethical theory, but I think people often will realize this if they think about it a bit.<br><br><br><br>
I should mention that there probably are some exceptions where people really are just quite emotionally numb and don't care about pretty much anything (except perhaps themselves) so they don't get emotionally upset when others are harmed. This happens with some people who torture and murder humans but really have such a warped way of thinking that they just simply are not bothered at all by seeing people tortured and murdered. For these people, I think it can be hopeless to get them to understand anything about ethics because they are a bit like robots in that their natural concern for other beings simply isn't there (but maybe it's buried really deep and could be recovered for some people). But I think most people don't get so mentally warped throughout their lives and they still have that concern for other beings that comes naturally to humans, but often this concern is buried a bit because people learn to ignore their emotional upsetness about seeing others harmed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
Of course, if I tried to argue with him theoretically, that probably wouldn't make him stop hunting either. But I might be able to show that he is being inconsistent or arbitrary with his own views.</div>
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I realize that it can be useful to try to get people to realize that they are being inconsistent in their ethical views or that they have arbitrary rules in their ethical rules. This is useful for people who think it's good to follow some sort of non-arbitrary ethical rules but not useful for people who don't think this is important. So if you encounter a person who thinks that we should just do whatever is best for ourselves or something, then this really doesn't help make changes with this kind of person. But I realize that in most circumstances it is going to be useful to work at pointing out that a person is being inconsistent or arbitrary in their way of ethical thinking. But this may not be helpful in figuring out whether certain founding principles (the "given principles") are worth keeping or not (like figuring out whether we should have a founding principle that tells us that we should never allow a person to be brought into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed)<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
Apart from all this, however, a big problem with the emotional approach is that it might imply some form of animal welfare, but not animal rights.</div>
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The term "animal welfare" is now often getting used when talking about what has been categorized as "animal welfare activism", which as far as I can tell is about trying to get animals that are treated like property to have better lives but still allowing them to be used as property. I think that using emotions to help figure out some initial things about ethics will not lead to people wanting to allow all nonhuman animals to be treated like property, so I don't think that using emotions will lead to people moving towards "animal welfare", in this sense of "animal welfare". But maybe when you said that it might imply some form of "animal welfare", you simply meant that it could just lead to some ethical theory that is not like most rights-based theories in that it doesn't claim that we should never pull an individual into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed. If you did mean this then I think it's better to not call this kind of theory an "animal welfare" theory since non rights-based theories often do not accept that we should have nonhuman animals treated like property.<br><br><br><br>
I do think that it is true that using emotions may lead to an ethical theory that is not like most rights-based theories in that it doesn't claim that we should never pull an individual into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, but I don't think this is a problem since I don't think there are any strong reasons that exist for why we should never allow this (from what I've read, it seems that most rights-based theories simply take it as a given that we should never pull an individual into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, but other people disagree with this even after carefully thinking about the consequences of this).<br><br><br><br>
Sevenseas, I am guessing that you disagree with me about my idea that there can be occasions when it is not wrong to pull an individual into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, since this is something very common in rights-based theories like Tom Regan's animal rights theory (I actually think there can be occasions when we are ethically required to do this). I used to not think this way and my ethical thinking was much closer to the thinking of people like Tom Regan, but I have now changed my mind about this after thinking about this a lot. Here is an example of a situation which I think illustrates quite clearly why I think we should allow individuals to be pulled into situation to be harmed when the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed:<br><br><br><br>
Suppose there is a big comet that is travelling towards the earth and that we know that it will kill about half the land-based animals in the world (including humans) and that it will cause the rest of the land-based animals to die over several years from extremely painful injuries caused by the comet crash. Now suppose by some strange chance there is a single person flying a spacecraft that is powered by some huge nuclear fuel systems and that if this spaceship were smashed into the side of the comet that it would push the comet onto a new course so that it wouldn't hit the earth (and suppose this is the only way this comet could be stopped from hitting the earth). Also, suppose that there are engineers who work on the earth who can take full control of the nuclear-powered spacecraft and can send it flying into the comet by moving it through remote control in order to explode the ship (and kill the one individual inside the ship) which will prevent the comet from hitting the earth. To make this example more useful, let's assume that this spacecraft operator could live on a different planet, like a habitable colony made on Mars, so that he could still lead a good life if he was allowed to live). The ethical question that is worth asking is "should the engineers force the spacecraft into the comet which will kill the person in the spacecraft in order to prevent billions of humans and nonhumans from being killed or being given extreme injuries that will kill them in a few years?".<br><br><br><br>
As far as I can see, people who adhere to the common rights-based theories that claim we should never pull an individual into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, should say that the engineers should not send the spacecraft into the comet since this would be a case of harming one individual in order to prevent other individuals from being harmed. So people like this would claim that we should allow a comet to wipe out billions of people and cause suffering for billions of people instead of sending a spacecraft into a comet which would kill just the one innocent person inside the spacecraft. But I think that if people are connected to their emotions and really think about how they would feel about allowing so many people to be killed or forced to suffer instead of making just one person die instantly, they would realize that it would be better to just have the one person die, even if the person was just a totally innocent person. So here is an example of how I think we can use our emotional responses along with our ability to think up example situations, to figure out some things about ethics.<br><br><br><br>
I should mention that just because we come to the conclusion that there can be SOME situations where it's ok to harm an individual in order to prevent others from being harmed, that this does not mean we should suddenly accept that it's ok to do things like experimenting on monkeys in order to prevent Parkinsons disease. What it does mean is that we need to try to figure out what are the kinds of situations where we should allow individuals to be harmed in order to prevent others from being harmed. I think this can get quite complicated to figure out, and I have written about this in the paper about animal rights that is on the Animal Rights Outreach website, and I could write some things about this here, but I won't for now since this is already getting to be a very long message. I will just mention that I think there are still some good reasons for why we shouldn't be allowing experiments on monkeys to prevent Parkinsons disease (which are related to the issue of how unlikely it is that we can actually learn anything from doing this and how much harm is caused in the process of doing this), but I won't get into this now.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
And so my ethical theory would not start from them [widely shared emotions], but it would start from emotions we have about humans and then, when applying the standards of consistency and non-arbitrariness, try to extend the views reflecting those emotions to other species, thus leading up to animal rights.</div>
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Yes, but you seem to recognize here that it is our emotions that make us want some things for humans so I am just arguing that we should recognize that our emotions also make us want some things for nonhumans. There is also the problem that some people think that it doesn't matter that we do all sorts of awful things to humans (like the children you mentioned who participate in causing suffering), so you can't say that everyone already feels that we should treat humans in certain ways (and then try to get them to change their views about nonhumans by pointing out that they have inconsistent views or have chosen arbitrary ethical rules). But you can usually work at getting people to connect with the emotions that people normally feel when seeing others harmed, and then get them to accept some ethical principles based on these emotions.<br><br><br><br>
Wow, what a long message! I don't think I've ever written such a long message on an internet message board. I know people often aren't interested in reading long messages on internet message boards, but hopefully a few people here will read through what I said (I'm pretty sure that at least Sevenseas will do this and perhaps a few more people too). It's often difficult to explain things about ethics in really short spaces, so hopefully people will be tolerant of this long message.
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Tom</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
ETA: Sevenseas, your "rambling" is a hell of a lot more lucid than the rationalizations I often hear in defense of animal exploitation. In fact, when I try to think of how I would explain to someone why I include animals in my philosophy of right and wrong, I often can't put it into words. And it's not because I haven't tried to!</div>
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Thanks <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/smiley.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":)"><br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Lumov</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
Yes, but at least explaining that the initial principles or axioms come from our emotions, tells us that there is something which can be used for determining these initial principles, instead of just saying "we just think it should be this way" (and then others can simply say "well, we just think it should be the opposite way"). An example of this kind of problem would be having some people who believe that a person should never be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, unless the person being harmed could be responsible for harming these other people (which is common is rights-based theories) and having others who think this should be allowable (like utilitarians or people who follow certain other kinds of ethical theories). The rights-based followers who believe that animals should not be pulled into situations to be harmed in order to prevent others from being harmed can point out all sorts of consequences to the utilitarians which they think are bad consequences, but the utilitarians often just say there's nothing wrong with those consequences and then there's not much left to say to get one of these groups of people to change their views. But, getting people to think about their emotions in order to figure out initial principles, could get people to have more useful ways to at least talk about conflicts like this.</div>
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Yeah well I should further clarify/reiterate that by talking about something being taken as a given I mean its theoretical status as an axiom, not that it would have no basis in people's ordinary moral intuitions/emotions/views. As I implied earlier, we agree that ethics should start from something that people share. I would just use reservation in calling them ethical "emotions": there's a big philosophical debate about whether our ethical statements express emotions/attitudes or beliefs or imperatives/prescriptions.<br><br><br><br>
As to the debate between utilitarians and rights advocates, I'm not sure if this debate can be helped by utilitarians really examining their emotions. They may think that these emotions are prejudiced in various ways (as Peter Singer argues) or in any case they would think that reason should rule over those emotions, and so that their rational belief in the utilitarian principle and in the fact that it requires the sacrifice of individuals for common good overrides any intuitive concerns they might have. As you might know, Peter Singer has recently expressed his approval of some particular instances of vivisection (approval which was always more or less implicit in his writings). Since he argues that intuitions shouldn't matter, I don't think you can go any way towards convincing him by asking him to study his emotions. (Nor could I by making theoretical arguments - I see it pretty much as a dead-end situation.)<br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
As to the child and "natural emotions", I won't deny that people feel bad to <i>some</i> extent about others being harmed. But that's not sufficient to make them lacto-ovo's - it's even less sufficient to make them vegans, and even less sufficient to make them believe in animal rights. People feel bad to some extent, but they balance those feelings with their own interests in making a living, eating meat or having products and medical treatments tested on animals.<br><br><br><br>
But to me there are really two distinct questions here which may have been confused, at least in my comments: a) what is the best ethical theory of animal rights b) how should people be convinced to adopt animal rights. One may think those are the same question - we need a theory to convince people, not for its own sake - but I don't think so. Theoretically convincing and otherwise convincing are not the same thing.<br><br><br><br>
I don't hold that conjuring up some elaborate ethical system will be the best way to convince an average omni to change his ways. Such change will most likely come from a combination of empirical information, photos, rhetoric and some minor, maybe unrelated, arguments about non-humans. A consistent ethical theory is more needed when writing an article or discussing with ethicists. I have been mainly commenting on the question of whether the ethical theory should start from people's emotions about non-humans.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">So if you encounter a person who thinks that we should just do whatever is best for ourselves or something, then this really doesn't help make changes with this kind of person.</div>
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If such a person truly thinks that way, he probably also truly feels that way, and then I don't see such a person having any kind of AR emotions to build from.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">But I realize that in most circumstances it is going to be useful to work at pointing out that a person is being inconsistent or arbitrary in their way of ethical thinking. But this may not be helpful in figuring out whether certain founding principles (the "given principles") are worth keeping or not (like figuring out whether we should have a founding principle that tells us that we should never allow a person to be brought into a situation to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed)</div>
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Since I argue that the given principles or founding statements are expressions of commonly shared ethical intuitions/emotions, figuring out whether certain principles are worth keeping is pretty much the same thing as whether certain emotions are worth feeling. I don't think there's an answer to that. In the end, our ethical emotions, and so the theoretical axioms, are arbitrary ways of looking at the world.<br><br><br><br>
But apparently your take on this would be to show that even though someone <i>now</i> doesn't feel like supporting a principle, he can be shown to "deep down" feel the correlated emotion. But I'm not sure how you show that - how do you show someone that they deep down feel something? Show them more videos, pictures etc.?
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Lumov</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
But maybe when you said that it might imply some form of "animal welfare", you simply meant that it could just lead to some ethical theory that is not like most rights-based theories in that it doesn't claim that we should never harm an individual if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed. If you did mean this then I think it's better to not call this kind of theory an "animal welfare" theory since non rights-based theories often do not accept that we should have nonhuman animals treated like property.</div>
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By 'animal welfare' I mean that animals can be used instrumentally and exploited for human goals - more specifically, that human interests, sometimes maybe even rather trivial ones, trump non-human interests, sometimes maybe even rather important ones. Animal welfare just includes a variety of views on a spectrum relating to how trivial human interests are allowed to trump how important non-human interests.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">As far as I can see, people who adhere to the common rights-based theories that claim we should never harm an individual if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, should say that the engineers should not send the spacecraft into the comet since this would be a case of harming one individual in order to prevent other individuals from being harmed. So people like this would claim that we should allow a comet to wipe out billions of people and cause suffering for billions of people instead of sending a spacecraft into a comet which would kill just the one innocent person inside the spacecraft. But I think that if people are connected to their emotions and really think about how they would feel about allowing so many people to be killed or forced to suffer instead of making just one person die instantly, they would realize that it would be better to just have the one person die, even if the person was just a totally innocent person. So here is an example of how I think we can use our emotional responses along with our ability to think up example situations, to figure out some things about ethics.<br><br><br><br>
I should mention that just because we come to the conclusion that there can be SOME situations where it's ok to harm an individual in order to prevent others from being harmed, that this does not mean we should suddenly accept that it's ok to do things like experimenting on monkeys in order to prevent Parkinsons disease. What it does mean is that we need to try to figure out what are the kinds of situations where we should allow individuals to be harmed in order to prevent others from being harmed. I think this can get quite complicated to figure out, and I have written about this in the paper about animal rights that is on the Animal Rights Outreach website, and I could write some things about this here, but I won't for now since this is already getting to be a very long message. I will just mention that I think there are still some good reasons for why we shouldn't be allowing experiments on monkeys to prevent Parkinson's disease (which are related to the issue of how unlikely it is that we can actually learn anything from doing this and how much harm is caused in the process of doing this), but I won't get into this now.</div>
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I don't want to subscribe to the categorical view that individuals never can be sacrificed so that others are not harmed. And actually, Regan doesn't argue this either. In fact, he goes to some lengths in <i>The Case for Animal Rights</i> to talk about hostage situations and lifeboat situations, in which we can sacrifice individuals to avoid (what he sees as) greater harms.<br><br><br><br>
But as you point out, this doesn't make one accept the instrumental view of animal welfare. My own take is that the comet example is an instance of hypotheticals that are simply so extreme that traditional ethical theories break down in the face of them. We can also make hypothetical examples about utilitarianism which are extremely counter-intuitive. For example, a million humans, each getting a small 1-sec feeling of pleasure of seeing one human tortured for some time. If you add all the pleasure together, add in some other factors into the situation and then balance it with the torture, you may conclude that according to utilitarianism the person should be tortured, whereas according to most people he should not be.<br><br><br><br>
Maybe we can also defend the divide between e.g. vivisection and your comet example by saying that vivisection manifests a particular, stark institutionalized kind of objectification and instrumental treatment that is absent from the comet case. It is torturous exploitation of the weak and marginalized in society, violation of bodily integirty, etc. - factors which are not present in a singular case of preventing a natural disaster.<br><br><br><br><br><br>
Most importantly, however: people do not only feel that causing harm to prevent greater harm is okay in extreme situations like the comet example. My claim is that people's emotions are that vivisecting on those monkeys is acceptable too. That's because the only people who have genuine AR emotions are AR activists.<br><br><br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">There is also the problem that some people think that it doesn't matter that we do almost anything to humans (like the children you mentioned who participate in causing suffering), so you can't say that everyone already feels that we should treat humans in certain ways (and then try to get them to change their views about nonhumans by pointing out that they have inconsistent views or have chosen arbitrary ethical rules). But you can usually work at getting people to connect with the emotions that people normally feel when seeing others harmed, and then get them to accept some ethical principles based on these emotions.</div>
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If there are humans that think harming humans is fine, they quite probably feel that way too. I'm not sure if you can very easily convince neo-Nazis to see the error of their ways, for example. Their world-view and feelings of hate may be too deep-seated and strong.<br><br><br><br>
You can give a link to the Outreach btw if you want, because I couldn't find it by Google.
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Tom</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
I wish I could get this sort of discourse from more of my real-life friends and family... <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/rockon.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":rockon:"> , both of you!</div>
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fo shizzle <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/tongue3.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":p"> even if I was as articulate as yous guys I'd probably get a response from my average omni friend/family member like "BUT IT TASTES SO GOOD OMG LOL!!!!11111!!!!!"
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">in nature, there are many animals that force themselves sexually upon other animals</div>
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A common misconception. Rape is not common among birds and mammals.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">So I think that our emotions that drive us to want other beings to have what they want and to view them as valuable creatures are not cultural things but they are naturally built into us.</div>
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Culture is "natural" to humans.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Lumov</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
in nature, there are many animals that force themselves sexually upon other animals</div>
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<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Ludi</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
A common misconception. Rape is not common among birds and mammals.</div>
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Ludi, I did not say that rape is common amongst all animals (or just all birds and mammals) since I suspect there are a lot more kinds of animals that don't engage in rape than ones that do engage in rape (but this would take a bit of research to verify). What I did say is that there are many animals that force themselves sexually upon other animals (through rape or genital touching or whatever) but this does not mean that the majority of animals do this or that it's extremely common for this to occur in the animal kingdom. I have said this simply to point out that this is something that does occur in nature, and that we don't have to accept this as morally right just because it does occur in nature (so I could have just written "in nature, there are some animals that force themselves sexually upon other animals" and this would still make my point).<br><br><br><br>
Here are a few websites that show that animals do in fact force themselves sexually upon other animals:<br><br><br><br>
Orangutangs:<br><br><a href="http://www.honoluluzoo.org/orangutan.htm" target="_blank">http://www.honoluluzoo.org/orangutan.htm</a><br><br>
"On Sumatra cooperative mating occurs over 50% of the time, whereas on Borneo 90% of the time it is forced mating by subadult males on lone females. Forced mating often results in vicious bites to the female."<br><br><br><br>
Guppies (a type of fish):<br><br><a href="http://www.bio.unipd.it/behavecol/pdfs/Harassment.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.bio.unipd.it/behavecol/pdfs/Harassment.pdf</a><br><br>
"Magurran & Nowak (1991) suggested that femal guppies face a trade-off between vigilance for predators and avoidance of forced copulations."<br><br><br><br>
Northern Elephant Seals:<br><br><a href="http://almapintada.puellula.org/Non-Western/index.html" target="_blank">http://almapintada.puellula.org/Non-Western/index.html</a><br><br>
Some male Northern Elephant Seals try to copulate with weaned pups - about half of all pups are subjected to such forced mating or rape attempts, which they usually violently resist. In some cases the pups are severely injured by the bulls with deep gashes and punctures from neck bites. Aggressive sexual behavior by bulls is the leading cuase of mortality amoung pups in the breeding ground, accounting for the death of 1 in 200 pups each year.<br><br><br><br>
Savanna baboons:<br><br><a href="http://almapintada.puellula.org/Non-Western/index.html" target="_blank">http://almapintada.puellula.org/Non-Western/index.html</a><br><br>
Adult male Savanna baboons sometimes rape younger females, often seriously injuring them.<br><br><br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Lumov</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
So I think that our emotions that drive us to want other beings to have what they want and to view them as valuable creatures are not cultural things but they are naturally built into us.</div>
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<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Ludi</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
Culture is "natural" to humans.</div>
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Yes I think it is natural for humans to build up some kind of culture since I think we are naturally social beings. But I'm just trying to point out that I think that some of our responses to things (like our response at getting emotionally upset about seeing someone tortured) occur simply because we are human and not because we have been taught something by our culture.
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
You can give a link to the Outreach btw if you want, because I couldn't find it by Google</div>
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I have now reached my minimum of 15 posts on Veggieboards so I can now post links to websites on Veggieboards, so here is the link to the Animal Rights Outreach website: <a href="http://www.ARoutreach.org" target="_blank">www.ARoutreach.org</a>. Sevenseas, it's strange that you couldn't find the website with Google since it shows up as the first result when I do a Google search for "Animal Rights Outreach". Maybe you just mistyped the name or maybe there's something unusual going with Google. In any case, you now have the website.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
I don't want to subscribe to the categorical view that individuals never can be sacrificed so that others are not harmed. And actually, Regan doesn't argue this either. In fact, he goes to some lengths in The Case for Animal Rights to talk about hostage situations and lifeboat situations, in which we can sacrifice individuals to avoid (what he sees as) greater harms.</div>
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The Case for Animal Rights was actually the first book about ethics that I ever read and I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about various ideas brought up in the book since I first discovered it many years ago. I realize that Tom Regan does not argue in The Case for Animal Rights that individuals can never be sacrificed so that others are not harmed, but I think his theory does imply that we cannot justify PULLING AN INDIVIDUAL INTO A SITUATION to be harmed if the reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed, since this would be a way of using this individual as a tool in the process of preventing harm. And according to The Case for Animal Rights, the harm done to one individual can never be compensated for by a greater sum of harm that is spared to others. Here is a quote from The Case for Animal Rights that discusses this compensation issue (on page 302, in the section titled "The Miniride and worse-off principles"):<br><br><br><br>
"To accept the minimize harm principle thus is to assume that moral agents or patients are mere receptacles after all, not of, say, pleasures and pains, but of harms and benefits, so that the harm done to any one individual can be more than compensated for by the greater sum of harm that is thereby spared others. The rights view refuses to regard moral agents and patients in this way. Individuals who have inherent values are not to be viewed as mere receptacles of anything"<br><br>
[Note for readers: "moral agents" are individuals who are capable of making moral decisions and "moral patients" are individuals who are incapable of making moral decisions, like young infants]<br><br><br><br>
This idea of inherent value which indicates that individuals are not to be viewed as receptacles of anything, comes from the "respect principle" which seems to be one of the "given principles" in Tom Regan's theory but I think this principle leads to problems like the problem I described in my example about the comet.<br><br><br><br>
I think that PULLING A PERSON INTO a situation to harm so that others will be prevented from being harmed must be an example of claiming that the harm done to this individual is compensated by the greater sum of harm that is spared to others, but I don't think that this is necessarily wrong to do in all situations (even though many rights-based theories claim it is). But I think it's a bit different in the situations that Tom Regan defends involving harming individuals to prevent others from harm.<br><br><br><br>
One of these situations that Tom Regan discusses in The Case for Animal Rights is a situation where an innocent individual is harmed IN THE PROCESS OF stopping someone who is about to cause harm to many people. This situation (described in the section about "innocent shields") involes a terrorist who has "taken possession of a tank and has commenced to kill, one by one, twenty-six innocent hostages he has bound to a wall" and all attempts to negotiate the release of the hostages have failed. In the example, the terrorist has strapped another innocent hostage to the tank (let's assume the inside of the tank) and there are people who capable of blowing up the tank which will kill the terrorist along with the one hostage strapped to the tank. In this example, Tom Regan argues that we should blow up the tank, but this not not an example of pulling some individual into a situation to harm the individual, but it is a matter of harming an individual who is unlucky in that he is stuck in a bad situation where he or she must get killed in the process of killing a killer.<br><br><br><br>
So this is not a situation of using this person as a tool in the process of preventing harm and it's not a situation where you need to claim that harming this person is being compensated by the greater sum of harm that is spared to others, but instead this is a matter of accepting that can be ok to harm an innocent bystander who must get harmed in the process of harming a killer that is about to kill many people. But this is different than, for example, someone taking control of a mini-train filled with explosives and which only has person on it (the train conductor), where the train is totally unconnected with this tank situation because it is supposed to be traveling on a track that does not come near the tank, and then forcing this train onto a new track so that it smashes into the the tank and blows up the tank (and the train) since doing that would be using the train conductor like a tool and purposely going out to harm him or her when the only reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed - which is wrong according to Tom Regan's theory as far as I can see. (To make this example useful, let's assume the train is travelling at super high speeds, so the train conductor could not jump out of the train without dying and could not stop the train before hiting the tank). But I still think it would be ok to divert this mini train into the tank, if that were the only way to blow up the tank before the terrorist killed the twenty six hostages and I think other people would agree with this (especially if they thought about how emotionally upset they would be to let 26 people die when they could have just caused one person to die).<br><br><br><br>
The way that Tom Regan defends the situation involving the terrorist in a tank is he says that blowing up the tank is a matter of protecting the rights of innocent people to not get harmed (which we have an obligation to defend) by harming an aggressor who cannot be stopped without harming one innocent individual who is an innocent bystander. But I think that in some circumstances we should also be able to take a person who is totally unconnected with a situation (like the mini-train conductor in the above situation) and harm this person when the only reason for doing this is to prevent others from being harmed and when this is the only way of preventing the harm from being done to the other people. But I think this requires that we reject the "respect principle" in Tom Regan's theory (or other similar principles in different rights-based theories) and work on creating some new principles (which I have worked a bit on in the paper about animal rights that is on the Animal Rights Outreach website).
 

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<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
My own take is that the comet example is an instance of hypotheticals that are simply so extreme that traditional ethical theories break down in the face of them.</div>
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Sevenseas, I know that the hypothetical example that I gave with the comet tumbling towards earth isn't something that is likely to happen in any real life circumstance, but it technically could happen at some distance point in the future and it still illustrates problem because it shows how following the ethical principles in a typical rights-based theories would lead people to do things that they think are really wrong. I think that we should consider all examples to think about whether an ethical principle is worth keeping or not, even if the examples are not likely to ever occur.<br><br><br><br>
One thing that I think that is really good about the comet example is that is shows how typical rights-based theories would lead people to do something that they think is EXTREMELY wrong. But it is possible to create scenarios that are much more likely to occur that also lead to a similar problem as the problem in the comet example, like the above scenario involving the mini-train, and you could come up with more and more examples that show similar problems if you felt like spending the time doing so.<br><br><br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Sevenseas</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><br>
I don't hold that conjuring up some elaborate ethical system will be the best way to convince an average omni to change his ways. Such change will most likely come from a combination of empirical information, photos, rhetoric and some minor, maybe unrelated, arguments about non-humans. A consistent ethical theory is more needed when writing an article or discussing with ethicists.</div>
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I think that you're right that many meat-eaters will be convinced to stop eating meat and also stop doing certain other things that involve animal exploitation simply by being introduced to some information and photos and a few simple arguments that relate to why we should try to not cause harm to nonhuman animals. So I don't think it's good to just give out a huge amount of ethical theory ideas to people and expect a lot of them to make changes from this, since many people just aren't willing to put the time into thinking about complex ethical issues.<br><br><br><br>
So I agree with you in that I think it really is useful to give out information and show some people some things with photos or videos but I think on some occasions, it can also be helpful to give out some more detailed ideas about ethics since I think that some people can be convinced of the importance of understanding things about ethics and some people can become more interested in making changes simply because they are able to hear about some ideas about ethics that really make sense to them. I also think that understanding a good ethical theory can help encourage people to get involved in activism and it can direct people towards spreading ideas that will really make sense to many people (instead of spreading hard-to-swallow ideas which could turn people away from making changes for nonhuman animals).
 

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(I'll write without the quotes because it's easier.)<br><br>
When I put "animal rights outreach" (inside quotation marks) to Google, the first page listed is <a href="http://www.peta.org/actioncenter/outreach-youth.asp" target="_blank">www.peta.org/actioncenter/outreach-youth.asp</a>, the 2nd <a href="http://www.animalsuffering.com/" target="_blank">www.animalsuffering.com/</a>, the 3rd <a href="http://www.animalsuffering.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4826" target="_blank">http://www.animalsuffering.com/forum...pic.php?t=4826</a>, the 4th <a href="http://www.veganhealth.org/colleges/BC" target="_blank">www.veganhealth.org/colleges/BC</a>, etc.<br><br><br><br>
I read the part on your Intro to AR text that dealt with your new principle (what I'll refer to as the "e-benefits" principle). To the main issues, then:<br><br><br><br>
You say that most people think using the train conductor in that way is justified, and that so we should make our ethical theory compatible with that intuition.<br><br><br><br>
But I claim that<br><br>
1) I'm not sure if my own <i>intuitive</i> response would be to favor the sacrifice of the train conductor. Note that I'm talking about the intuitive response, not a response required by consistency and my commitment to some rights principle. (However, I also have to admit that it might be hard for me to say what my "original" intuitions are, when I have been so heavily influenced by rights-ethical writings.)<br><br>
2) most importantly, whether people accept that particular solution in that particular situation (switching the tracks), in any case there are actions of putting innocents to be sacrificed in a situation which I think would be sanctioned by your "e-benefits" principle but which would be found counterintuitive by many people and also illegal (which in this case I think is reflective of moral intuitions).<br><br><br><br>
I'm not good at imagining detailed examples, but here's one which I think is even in the realm of practical possibility (at least to the same extent as your train or comet examples):<br><br><br><br>
A madman is holding 10 people hostage. He's defending himself very well - the police or FBI or whatever can neither rescue the hostages nor kill him. His demand is simple: he's a racist who particularly hates some Jewish politician and wants that person delivered to him so he can do with him as he pleases. If that won't happen, he'll do with the hostages what he pleases. Would it be justified if the police went to the politician's home while he was eating breakfast and watching TV with his children, and then forcibly took him away from his family (him still kicking and screaming of course since he isn't willing to sacrifice himself) and gave him to the madman?<br><br><br><br>
I would think your principle would say yes: the harms to the hostages are significant (they will be killed, maybe even slowly) and they are at least as significant (they may be even more significant) than the harm to the politician, and they cannot be prevented in any other way (the madman is unreachable - or maybe he isn't, but only some of the hostages can be saved if the FBI forces attack, the madman still having time to terminally injure some of the hostages and leave them slowly dying).<br><br><br><br>
I would think that it would be illegal to do that to the politician, and it's especially problematic since he would be chosen because of his ethnicity and the problem that the madman has with it because of racism. I would think many people would oppose using the politician in this way.<br><br><br><br>
But maybe the issue is not so clear: maybe many people would indeed favor taking the politician. In that case we can modify the situation so that his demand is not the killing of the politician, but some amount of money or a helicopter etc. and we just (knowing his hate for some person) make a trade by taking an innocent bystander that he hates and switching him/her for his current hostages. That way we can continue negotiations etc. but the risks of harm are smaller. For example, if we decide to rush in and he kills everyone around him, only one person (the innocent bystander that we took) will be harmed instead of many persons. Whether your principle would sanction this, though, depends on how it evaluates risks of harm instead of harms.<br><br><br><br>
But we can of course come up with other examples. Maybe we take a more imaginary example and say that we throw an innocent bystander as some kind of a "bait" for some terrorist so we can take a clear shot and kill the terrorist (after he has harmed the bystander, that is). If the terrorist would have caused a lot of harm and preventing this harm would have not been otherwise possible, I believe again your principle would sanction it, but - and this seems clearer to me than in the above cases - most people would find that very counterintuitive.<br><br><br><br>
We could find some other examples, but I hope these suffice for the present purposes. I probably should have left only the last example to spare you the reading, but maybe the original politician example is good to have precisely because it may be less clear. But basically, I probably could have made my point simply by talking about using innocent bystander humans as baits. Baits for terrorists or dangerous animals or monsters or whatever.<br><br><br><br>
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I think your way of framing this in terms of putting people in situations is particularly illuminative, however. And this is because it is, for me at least, indeed the aspect of taking someone who has nothing to do with the situation and putting him/her in harm's way that makes those proposed actions so counter-intuitive. If we blow something up and an innocent person gets blown up with it, at least we didn't purposefully drag someone from outside the situation into it. (How significant this difference is, may be contested though.)<br><br><br><br>
To intentionally exaggerate a bit, your proposed principle is basically an instrumental "ends justify the means" (in this case, means = sacrifice of innocents) principle with an "if we <i>really</i> need to do it and the ends are <i>really</i> important" clause added to it. And as such, I see it as much too utilitarianism-oriented. The condition that there is no other way to secure the benefits is a fairly non-controversial one and thus doesn't mark a significant change to earlier principles: defenders of vivisection for example at least claim to agree that if benefits can be secured with alternative methods, they should be so secured.<br><br><br><br>
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My biggest worry is the application of your principle to vivisection. Many situations might come up where the benefits to humans (each of them affected) very significantly affect their quality of life and their basic needs - and where, on the other hand, the procedures on non-humans (each of them) may not be the most painful imaginable.<br><br><br><br>
Then it comes down only to the necessity of the research. You may argue that this condition fails: if we currently do not have alternative methods, then at least with differently designed funding we could find alternative methods. But to me, this already is taking a wrong step: you're making the justification of a most paradigmatic form of institutionalized exploitation and objectification of animals depend on its scientific validity. This is not the kind of reasoning I want the AR movement to present. I much prefer e.g. the simple idea of Gary Francione that animals are not property (which can of course be defended with arguments).<br><br><br><br>
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What, then, would I suggest as the principle, if I both want to maintain intuitive answers to the comet example and other similar examples and also maintain a consistent rights view? What is my criticism worth if I cannot provide any consistent principles either?<br><br><br><br>
My initial comment about extreme situations may have been too hasty. Hostage situations and danger situations etc. do indeed come up in practice, and we need to be able to have ethical principles for them. But I do disagree with your apparent claim that we should consider <i>any</i> hypothetical situations. It is simply so that even though I oppose e.g. vivisection, at some hypothetical point where we would have billions of billions of years of suffering for billions of billions of beings, at the sacrifice of a couple of dogs, I would naturally accept the experiment. But I repeat that this is simply a point where traditional moral theories break down.<br><br><br><br>
I already hinted at a way to distinguish the comet example from other uses of sentient beings, though: we should not look only at how benefits and/or harms are distributed, but look at other features of the situation. This is where the concepts of objectification and exploitation come in. In my own ethical views, I've begun to put more emphasis in ethics on these kind of political aspects: mainly the attitudes towards a being that an action or an institution manifests.
 

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For what it's worth I'd like to add a couple comments. I'm not as versed in current AR ethics theory, so I apologize if what I say is not useful.<br><br><br><br>
It's not clear to me that the best way to proceed with an AR (animal rights) ethics theory, or any theory for that matter, is to rely on intuition or emotion for initial premises or axioms.<br><br><br><br>
Intuition and emotion can often lead people to incorrect actions or beliefs. Modern Physics is a good example of this, but that is a side note.<br><br><br><br>
My biggest problem with using emotion to support the axioms of the theory, is that one must first assume that there is some kind of universal emotional response for people. I believe Sevenseas already stated something to that effect.<br><br><br><br>
One could be lead into the very discussion you're trying to avoid Lumov. As an example take you and me. You tell me to appeal to my emotion on some given topic relating to AR. I come up with a response, which is different than your emotional response. You then tell me, "but deep down you know what I say is right." And you ask me to appeal to my emotion. Which again I do and I come up with the same response I did at first and I tell you we differ on our emotional responses and so I reject your AR ethics theory. Then you say I can't because we have the same emotional response. Which I disagree.<br><br><br><br>
So we've been led to the very thing which you said you wanted to avoid. I don't think there is any universal emotion or intuition, but you think there is one. So now, before we even got to your AR ethics theory, we disagree. Truly a premise or axiom should be self-evident, or perhaps just taking it as a given. It requires nothing to support it, because if it did, it wouldn't be a premise or axiom.<br><br><br><br>
As an example, take the comet case. I don't think it is right to kill the lone person on the spacecraft in order to save anyone on the planet. Why, because I believe a right is a trump, it can't just be taken away, also I don't think anyone has the ability to truly weigh the "good" and the "bad" to find what is the best course of action. Sure we can with limited ability, say over a short time, but not with certainty. But not to justify taking away rigths.<br><br><br><br>
As another example of this is when people have used the "Hitler dilemma". The question is something like "if you could have somehow killed Hitler as a child, knowing what you know now, would you?" If we appeal to our "emotion," probably many people would claim, yes we are justified for obvious reasons. I would not claim it to be justified.<br><br>
Here's why:<br><br>
What if I told you that if Hitler was killed as a child the resulting world would be a far darker place. Say things progressed (for whatever reason) into a world where animals (both human and nonhuman) all across the world are killed and tortured for no reason, or for little reason, and there is not much room to even speak of "rights". Then your opinion might change about killing Hitler, would it not? It seems that more suffering results from killing Hitler (not to mention his rights being violated) than if he had just lived. Perhaps though I took it even further and said out of all this suffering all of humanity became "enlightened" after several hundred years of suffering. So now they believe in rights for humans and nonhuman animals. Would you change your mind back again?<br><br><br><br>
What I'm driving at is the question, "How much is too much?" or "Where you do draw the line?" Applying this to your two examples, the comet and tank/train, I have the same problem.<br><br>
Take the comet case:<br><br>
Say instead of 1 person on the spacecraft, say there are two, is it still justified? Keep increasing that number until the population on the spacecraft is half the population total. So half the population is on the planet and half on the spacecraft. What then? Is it still justified, because perhaps the people will suffer on the planet if the comet hits it, but the people on the spacecraft will die instantly. It's not clear to me. There's a huge grey area, in the amount of people on the craft, for when it would be justifiable.<br><br>
The tank/train case:<br><br>
Same thing, where is the dividing line. What if the terrorist in the tank were only going to kill 2 people, but we had the option to run the train into the tank to kill the terrorist and the train conductor to save two lives. Is it still justified?<br><br><br><br>
So in each of these cases (the comet and tank), where is the dividing line between when it is okay and when it is not? I don't think appealling to emotion can resolve that, nor do I believe emotion can give a guide to determine how best to minimize the "bad." When we try to, we're always not taking into account something, like I discussed in the above Hitler example. If we could truly see the results of all of our actions, some of our actions, even the most "morally" correct ones will at some point result in more suffering than they initially avoided.<br><br><br><br>
One can justify ANY action by looking at the results over a finite period of time. For the reasons I stated above, by weighing the "bad" and "good" over a given interval of time, one can come up with more "bad" than "good", or you can extend that time and come up with more "good" than "bad", and so on. If one can justify any action appealling to emotion because these emotions are based on results for some finite time, the end result is no useful theory.<br><br><br><br>
In summary, one should not appeal to emotion for any theory (AR ethics or otherwise), because,<br><br>
1. They're not universal.<br><br>
2. They're misleading, since appealing to emotion means you must weigh the "good and the "bad" over a finite period of time. This can then be used to justify anything.<br><br>
3. Then emotions must be the premise or something must be used to justify the emotions, which means there is some axiom before the emotion, which is where one should then start, not at the emotion.
 
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