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Old 11-29-2010, 02:24 PM   #107 (permalink)

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Originally Posted by 'trane View Post
i am being selfish, and extending that selfishness to other humans. i hold it as important (along with many other important things) to decrease overall suffering, but my desire to eat roast beef and foie gras trumps whether or not i care about cows and ducks. it's as simple as that. i actually don't think i need to have a logical proof to have that opinion. i don't think humans are better from any objective or even subjective standpoint, but what i do know is that we have the power to do so, an i have no problem with making that choice.

and ultimately, i don't think most humans have fully rounded moral landscapes that have an internal logic or even a cohesive worldview. this is precisely why i switched from moral philosophy to political theory as my academic field, back when i had one. i know that it is very rare to find people that have thought through it as much as you have, and given the randomness of moral opinion, i am much more interested in praxis. that is to say, i am much more interested in how we turn those fragmented moral landscapes into political reality.

human children are underdeveloped intellectually and definitely don't have the ability to make fully reasoned moral choices. at an early age they don't even have the capacity to make partially reasoned moral choices. as they develop they become more and more capable, but they are certainly not born with a moral compass of any kind, and many barely develop it at all. but their potential as adults who can/will make moral choices separates them from animals.

and yes, i am willing to extend compassion towards primates and some other animals, but i am quite fine with using them, under complex regulations and with some intent to ultimately reduce human suffering, in some scientific testing. we are more important. that is my opinion and i don't think it needs proof, since i don't claim it to be objectively true.

i would eat pretty much anything as long as it won't make me sick.
For maybe a year or so, I held a somewhat similar opinion. I felt that non-human animals were not taking my needs into consideration, and I liked the taste of meat (bacon in particular), so I felt I could just keep eating it. After a while, the cognitive dissonance got too strong and the sight of a steak on my plate would make me nauseous. Knowing that I have good reason to give non-human animals moral consideration, I simply couldn't stomach (pun intended) eating meat.

I will agree with you that there is no moral system that is infallible. The first thing any moral philosopher worth his salt should admit is that their system will likely break down if you find the right moral conundrum. I'm a rule consequentialist, for the most part, but I know that there are areas where intuition juts up against what the moral system might prescribe. With that said, there are still more and less logical ways to develop a moral system given certain premises, and I think the question of "Who is worthy of moral consideration?" precedes, and is much more easily resolved than, "What is the best course of moral action or best moral system?"

I would argue that the only thing consistent in your criteria for determining your circle of moral sentiments that I have seen is that it shouldn't include non-human animals, by which I mean the criteria change to produce the end result you desire. You have now suggested "potential to perform moral calculus" as criteria, which, for me, is intriguing but, I think, ultimately flawed.

The most important question it raises is this: what does it mean to have "potential to perform moral calculus?" Suppose, for example, that we discovered that a cow that lives to 30 years is capable of performing some level of moral calculus; cows younger than 30 are, in this example, incapable of doing so, and they also represent the vast majority. By your criteria, we would give 99% of the cows moral consideration due to the behaviour of 1% of the cows.

Suppose also that a human is born with a mental disability that prevents them from performing moral calculus, a disability so intense that they could never, in principle, make moral judgements. Does that human deserve moral consideration? Or are they piggy-backing off of the potential that other human agents have?

Lastly, a point about humans being "more important." If it is your opinion and you don't think it is objectively true, then the statement "We are more important" is misleading; it is a statement of fact. The caveat afterwards is fine but should be included in the initial proposition. It also raises the question of how important it is for our beliefs to fit the typical epistemological model of "True Justified Belief."

I should mention, in case these comments are misleading, that ethics, moral philosophy, etc. is not my specialty; my academic expertise is in the history and philosophy of science.

Originally Posted by Cory View Post
I never read through all the pages here, so I'm assuming at least one of you must have pointed this out to the boy, but just in case:

There's nothing wrong with dissecting a human. Your biology teacher told you that? Tell her the bronze age called, they want their myopic cloddish reasoning back.

Obviously it's wrong to kill people, and it's generally offensive to dissect human bodies without some sort of consent, but clearly our understanding of human anatomy would be next to nil without the freedom to perform dissections of human bodies.

I've actually donated my body to a university so they can study it, or use my organs for smthng.
And since this is relevant to my area of expertise, the moral permissibility of human dissection has been a constant battle between religion and science. The Greeks dissected human bodies to learn more. Roman law outlawed dissecting human cadavers. The Islamic world started dissecting cadavers in the 11th century, and there was a constant legal-illegal cycle in Christianity. Vesalius did some key work in the 16th century, and Britain, in particular, began to slowly relax their prohibitions starting at about that time. Still, by the 18th century, only a small group of physicians were allowed to do dissections and it was not without religious controversy, until the Anatomy Act of 1832 was passed. An attempt to pass the same act in 1829 was prevented by the Archbishop of Canterbury William Howley voicing his dissent. The Anatomy Act of 1832 allowed dissection on more than just murdered bodies and opened it up to a wider range of professionals. Oddly enough, the primary drive for the act passing was public concern about body snatching, because the supply of murdered corpses was much lower than the demand for bodies to dissect.

Last edited by Ligeia; 11-29-2010 at 03:23 PM.
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