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Vegan Envy

May 11th, 2009 · 32 Comments

Max Fisher apparently shares my own occasional pangs of conscience about not being vegan. I’m a vegetarian of some 17 years now, but realized long ago that what really follows from my own commitments is that I should be fine with eating (most) fish but cut the dairy out of my diet—or at the very least, the factory-farmed stuff. My only excuse, which isn’t much of an excuse, is that keeping vegan is a much bigger pain in the ass, to oneself and others.  Fisher happily sheds his guilt by the end of his essay, though:

My mistake–and the mistake of anyone bothered by the diets of others–is placing an objective value judgment on what a person chooses to eat and not eat. [...] Diet, like any personal choice, is just that–personal, one of many facets through which we interact with the world, compromising as we always must between doing good for others and making life livable for ourselves. Whether we eat meat or dairy or neither, whether we take time to help needy in Guiana or just a needy friend, whether we sacrifice for animals or for strangers or simply for our own family, all choices are legitimate and all lives valid. Live and let live. Eat and let eat.

This is just lazy reasoning. There is, of course, a limit to the amount of good any of us can do, and each of us has to make tradeoffs and find the point at which we’re content to simply worry about our own good. I expect I’d do more for mankind on net by going to work for McKinsey, renting a studio, and giving the surplus to Muhammad Yunus. I’m not going to, and having struck that paticular balance, don’t plan on losing any sleep over the choice.  We may think there’s an important distinction between the obligations to help and to avoid inflicting harm, but even restricting ourselves to the latter category, I suspect few of us can be certain our consumption choices aren’t underwritng some kind of misery somewhere. We all do what we can. Fair enough.

But if these were really just “personal choices”—each  a precious, individually-tailored snowflake precisely as legitimate or valid as any other—we wouldn’t use words like “compromise.” Presumably at some point—dogfighting? snacking on great apes? dolphin sushi?—Fisher too is willing to simply say flat out: “No, that’s wrong, nobody ought to do it, and if someone does, the rest of us are obliged to try and make them feel badly enough about it to stop.”

Of course, there are tradeoffs with badgering other people too. I’m not an evangelist vegetarian; I don’t recall ever trying to press a carnivore of my acquaintance to give the stuff up. This isn’t because I think it’s a matter of pure pesonal aesthetics: In fact, I think they all ought to stop. But part of “making life livable for ourselves” means not turning into the sort of noodge who browbeats friends and acquaintances about their dietary choices—at least until they start ordering the Flipper Tempura Roll at Nobu.  But let’s not coat this in self-deluding horseshit about pluralism or tolerance or “live and let live.” That debases our ethical impulses by making concern for animal (or, indeed human) suffering one more matter of taste—like a preference for anchovies. Respecting other people’s right to make a different choice—at least within certain broad parameters—shouldn’t mean denying we can judge some choices better than others.

Instead, let’s simply admit that there are things it’s not worth becoming a scold about—not least because you’re more likely to alienate folks than make Tofu Americans of them. Let’s even say that, having drawn our personal lines in the sand, there’s not much point agonizing over the choice or self-flagellating about the next steps we’re failing to take. But let’s not kid ourselves that tradeoffs, once made, cease to be tradeoffs. Fisher thinks factory farming is cruel and, I’m inferring, wrong. Whether cruelty is bad is not a matter of personal taste.  Or at any rate, it shouldn’t be: I kept getting the sense, reading Fisher’s piece, that he sees ethics as a kind of self-esteem program, the point of which isn’t reducing the unnecessary suffering of others, but enabling you to feel good about yourself. Relativism is the consolation prize he accepts once it’s clear he’s not a gold contender in the Smuglympics. This, of course, makes no sense: If you didn’t think limiting your subjective pleasures (mmm, burger) served some “objective value,” what would you have to feel good about?

Few of us are saints; few of us are as good as our own moral commitments suggest that we should be. Vegans are, by my own lights, doing a better job of living up to my own commitments than I am. I’m not going to don a hair shirt over it, or start hectoring others. But to then conclude that we might as well muzzle that pesky conscience,  that any ideal we can’t quite live up to is just another lifestyle choice, is moral sour grapes and simple cowardice.

Tags: Moral Philosophy


       

 

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Doug // May 11, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I eat meat and scold my friends over typos in pursuit of sainthood.

    Should that be hair shirt?

  • 2 Julian Sanchez // May 11, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Mea maxima culpa!

  • 3 paradoctor // May 11, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Vegetarianism for health or economic reasons makes sense. Hyper-vegetarianism for moral-purity one-upsmanship does not make sense. Why value animal life over plant life? That’s just neuro-chauvanism.

  • 4 Julian Sanchez // May 11, 2009 at 11:26 am

    We all know how this works, right? The moral constraints I observe are “doing what’s right”; the constraints I don’t are “moral-purity one-upsmanship.” If I prefer indie rock to bubblegum pop, that’s just good taste; if the guy next door prefers Bach, he’s an affected snob. As for “neuro-chauvinism,” if you don’t want to think seriously about this stuff, that’s your privilege. But then shush while grownups are talking.

  • 5 Mack // May 11, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Your thoughts closely match mine. I’ve been veggy for 40+ years and have never counseled or encouraged anyone else to do likewise.

    If I ever considered going vegan it was quickly squelched by watching the experiences of vegan friends, who tend to wrap their lives and personalities around their choice. I suspect the inconveniences they suffer make them feel stronger, if not better. As a lifestyle it’s a major PITA.

    I, otoh, have friends of long duration who still don’t know I eschew meat .

  • 6 Chip Smith // May 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    This feels about right. I’ve been seafood-occasional vegetarian for over a decade now. It didn’t begin for conscious ethical reasons, but as I read more deeply in the literature on animal welfare and suffering, those issues became salient. I’ve never proselytized about it (except occasionally to my wife), and I doubt very much that it would do any good. I just wish that more people would consider the practical cost of their dietary choices — that widespread meat consumption necessitates the suffering of living creatures. Factory farming is an uncomfortable example of market efficiency that entails, to my mind, unconscionable externalities.

    On those occasions when I’m moved — or provoked — to discuss the matter at all, people generally end up agreeing that yeah, it’s pretty bad. The pigs in particular seem to get to people, perhaps because they have human-like skin and because they squeal. Pigs are also very smart animals. There is real horror in what is done to them and done constantly.

    One thing I hope is that when and if in-vitro meat becomes a viable and comparably succulent substitute for slaughtered livestock, that maybe this will prompt a re-consideration of the issue, and the case for moralizing a closely guarded choice won’t be so blithely dismissed.

  • 7 Julian Sanchez // May 11, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    While, as I say, I’m not a fan of browbeating folks, I do think there’s something to be said for being unobtrusively but openly vegetarian. At some point we hit a critical mass where people start noticing there’s rather a lot of us around, and maybe taking it on their own initiative to consider whether they ought to do something similar.

  • 8 Alex Knapp // May 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Julian,

    Because inquiring minds want to know, what led you to an ethical stance that is pro-vegetarianism in the first place? If you’ve already written this up somewhere, would you mind linking it?

    Thanks.

  • 9 Mack // May 11, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    @6 –

    The thing about vat-grown meat is that as soon as it’s practical, the market will produce ‘celebrity meats’ like Brad-wurst and breast of Britney.

    After all, if it’s not real meat, it isn’t really cannibalism…

  • 10 paradoctor // May 11, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    The trouble with Brad-wurst is that you come down with whatever colds Brad had. In general, the closer the food is related to you, genetically, the more likely its pathogens, prions, etc. match yours. Therefore the rule: if it resembles me, then I shouldn’t eat it.

    This eminently practical rule is often disguised as ethics and/or sentimentality.

  • 11 Patrick // May 11, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    “Presumably at some point—dogfighting? snacking on great apes? dolphin sushi?—Fisher too is willing to simply say flat out: ‘No, that’s wrong, nobody ought to do it, and if someone does, the rest of us are obliged to try and make them feel badly enough about it to stop.'”

    Why is this? Why is it more logical to say that ethics flows down, that if it’s wrong to say eating Dolphins then it is also wrong to eat Tuna (Or whatever).
    Why doesn’t it flow up? Why can’t we, for instance, claim that because there is no moral qualms of eating Tuna, that therefore there must not be anything wrong with eating Dolphins? That the guilt and strangeness we feel are artifacts of empathic overdrive. While you may ‘personally feel’ subjective in saying that you’re still uncomfortable with making that final logical leap, I won’t scorn you for not wanting to partake in Great Ape burger, despite the fact that there clearly is no moral problem here. After all, part of “making life livable for ourselves” means not turning into the sort of noodge who browbeats friends and acquaintances about their dietary choices.

  • 12 Julian Sanchez // May 12, 2009 at 2:34 am

    You’ve mistaken my argument. In fact, I think eating tuna is mostly fine and eating dolphin is probably wrong. I’m just pointing out that Fisher, given his apparent commitments, doesn’t *literally* think it’s just a matter of “personal choice” across the board. This is an internal point, quite separate from the broader question of what animals deserve to be treated in what way.

  • 13 Max // May 12, 2009 at 4:43 am

    A friend and I have been debating recently about the viability of defending meat eating where, on the whole, the animals being killed have benefitted from their life overall. It is obviously an empirical question to what extent this is ever true of animals, but we have been considering the situation where an animal faces a cruel and inhumane death, but in spite of that has still benefitted from existence. Personally, if I were to face an awful tortorous death today, I would prefer to have lived in spite of it. The question then arises: if killing an animal is outright wrong, are utilitarian calculations of the sort I’ve described irrelevant from a moral perspective?
    Does anyone know if there is any literature on this argument, in relation to animals?

  • 14 Mack // May 12, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Interesting questions, Max. Of course to credit that notion you have to assume that for a ‘dumb’ animal, existence has some intrinsic merit. It’s not clear to me how you’d demonstrate that an individual animal has benefited from its own life.

    Without anthropomorphizing, can we say that it’s possible for animals to ‘prefer’ to live? Yes, the instinct to survive is very strong, but is there an awareness of life and the possibility of death? I’d think that would be an essential component of such an argument.

  • 15 Julian Sanchez // May 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I haven’t seen much in the literature with respect to animals in particular, but for some of the quirks and difficulties of trying to compare utilities across scenarios with different numbers of sentients, see Derek Parfit’s “Reasons and Persons.”

    Without wading too deep into tricky territory, I think these kinds of considerations don’t, in fact, count. First, I think comparisons to nonexistence are apt to muck with our reasoning–a sort of moral divide-by-zero. It may be intelligible to talk about a life being better or worse than nothing, but I very much doubt we can give coherent meaning to questions like: “Would you prefer to never have existed?” Or at any rate, if that sounds too strong, I feel pretty confident that this isn’t a good way to evaluate the prospective question.

    Second, I think the most plausible versions of utilitarianism frame themselves as theories of how to treat people (or sentients) equally, and this conception is a big part of their intuitive appeal. Weighing utilities, in other words, is a way of taking everyone’s interests into account, with everyone’s interests counting the same. And we’ve clearly departed from that when we start considering future populations.

    Obviously this isn’t the place to fully defend the view, but I think we have to view ethics as being about what is good *for sentient beings*, and not in some kind of ultimate sense. I very much doubt it makes sense to say of a lifeless universe “it would be better if there were some people there.”

  • 16 Jadagul // May 12, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Julian–oddly enough, your last paragraph largely sums up my problem with all the pro-veggie arguments summarized here. I think we have th view ethics as being about what’s good for human beings (and, on days when I’m feeling particularly contrary, about what’s good for whoever’s doing the viewing at the time). I’ve simply never come up with any reason why people should give the interests of animals any consideration. This may be connected to my equal incomprehension of my friends’ desire to own pets.

  • 17 paradoctor // May 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    There are many practical arguments for vegetarianism; health, economics, ecology, etc. This extends to concern for animal suffering; for a miserable animal in a stressful filthy pen might have a depressed immune system, and therefore be more likely to host diseases that can infect humans. So vegetarianism makes a great deal of sense in selfish, anthropocentric terms.

    Animal empathy is all right as a personal choice, but as an argument it involves paradox; for many animals are not vegetarians themselves. Are we then to hold ourselves to a ‘higher’ standard than other animals? Are we in some sense ‘better’ than them, or not?

    If humans are better than other animals, then does that mean we are under an obligation not to eat them, so as not to descend to their bestial level? Or does it mean that we have every right to eat them, as superior beings? (Noblesse oblige vs. privilege.)

    On the other hand, if humans are _not_ better than the other animals, then does that mean that we are under an obligation not to eat them, our siblings? Or does it mean that we have every right to eat them, for we are as natural as them?

    Contradiction either way. I call it the PETA Paradox.

  • 18 Sour Grapes // May 13, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    [...] wanted to pull up a thought from the end of the Vegan Envy post below, because it strikes me that it’s of somewhat wider application.  As everyone [...]

  • 19 Julian Sanchez // May 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Accepting for the sake of argument your crude better/worse/higher/lower schema, what exactly is the paradox supposed to be? Why can’t we be “superior” and also obligated to treat “inferior” beings with some kind of basic regard? We often treat criminals with more regard than they show their victims; nobody thinks this is some kind of contradiction.

  • 20 Mack // May 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    “if humans are _not_ better than the other animals, then does that mean that we are under an obligation not to eat them, our siblings? Or does it mean that we have every right to eat them, for we are as natural as them?”

    If an obligation, then a self-imposed one. I guess I’m an ‘ethical vegetarian’, but if it came down to me starving if I couldn’t eat your dog, then so long Fido. And you might start to look pretty tasty too. (-:

    I have less problem with eating animals in a ‘state of nature’ vs a factory farm, (though I do neither) because I think a lot of the harm comes from the methods used and the resources consumed.

    But I wouldn’t care to live in a world where I didn’t get to make this choice, on either side.

  • 21 Veganik // May 14, 2009 at 2:08 am

    Jadagul, I found your comment strange – “I’ve simply never come up with any reason why people should give the interests of animals any consideration. ”

    Why shouldn’t we give animals’ interests any consideration? We don’t own the world any more than they do and we know that they suffer through our mistreatment. Doesn’t ethics also include ‘Do no harm’? No one should want to be the cause for another’s unnecessary suffering, be it human or animal.

  • 22 Jadagul // May 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Veganik, if you’re still reading: but that’s exactly it. It seems obvious to a lot of people that we should care about animals. But I honestly can’t come up with any reason to do so. I know why I care about people. I don’t have any reason to care about animals.

  • 23 philosoraptor // May 16, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    (Delurking)

    Okay, Jadagul, I’ll bite. Ugh, no pun intended.

    Anyway, please tell us why you care about people. (Do you mean the generic category “human being”, or do you have particular people in mind, or …?)

  • 24 Cheerful Iconoclast // May 16, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    It’s perfectly reasonable to refrain from eating meat for health reasons (although I think those are probably overstated) or economic reasons, or because you just don’t like the taste of meat. But ethical vegetarians and vegans are simply confused about the kind of animal we are.

    You have eyes that point forward, teeth capable of tearing flesh, a brain that evolved to need fat and protein for proper development. While a few human cultures embrace vegetarianism, no traditional human culture is vegan. And I wouldn’t be too surprised if the children of vegans turn out to have cognitive deficits of various sorts.

    We humans are omnivores. It’s the kind of animal we are, and those who reject that are at war with human nature.

    I will add that I do think you can make an argument against killing and eating great apes, because those animals may have the cognitive capacity to deserve some moral consideration. I suppose some marine mammals may also qualify, though I suspect there’s a lot of wishful thinking going on there. And I think we ought to refrain from eating dogs and perhaps horses, because we have an evolutionary deal with them: they’re our slaves and we treat them as companions.

    Pardon me; I have to go put my steak on.

  • 25 alsomike // May 16, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    “Instead, let’s simply admit that there are things it’s not worth becoming a scold about—not least because you’re more likely to alienate folks than make Tofu Americans of them.”

    Does that really get you off the hook though? You’ve staked out a moral position, and then avoided what naturally follows from doing so. The issue of “I don’t want to be a scold to my non-vegetarian friends” shouldn’t be the issue, it should be “Why are you friends with non-vegetarians at all?” Because otherwise it sounds like you are saying that the rights of animals are outweighed by your friends’ right to not be annoyed by you; though this seems to put meat-eating on the level of jaywalking.

    The problem is that most people’s vegetarianism is purported to be a moral position, yet it conveniently only covers actions that normally fall under lifestyle preferences. So isn’t vegetarianism really more like an aspiration, plus a symbolic renunciation of meat to convey just how sincere the aspiration is? And this is just a lifestyle choice.

    I can see the logic of a kind of agnostic vegetarianism. It would say “I can’t know that eating meat is immoral, but nonetheless I wonder if it might be, so I choose not to eat meat.” I think this is a respectable position that is both moral-ish, and doesn’t entail bothering people.

  • 26 Michael Feltes // May 16, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    “We humans are omnivores. It’s the kind of animal we are, and those who reject that are at war with human nature.”

    The project of civilization implies that human culture goes to war with human nature in order to modify our behavior. As an example, if I take the pure evolutionary psychology position seriously, straight, no chaser, then my nature as a heterosexual male dictates that I attempt to impregnate as many women as possible. If I take Dawkins’ theory seriously, that I am merely a container for my genes and that my genes’ flourishing is the point of my existence, then my imperative is to spread my seed as widely as possible. But, of course, I live in the context of thousands of years of human civilization and human culture dictates that I direct my energies toward building a stable household (monogamous, in this particular flavor of civilization, but polyandrous or polygamous in other flavors) from which to participate fully in the political economy and raise children that are well-integrated into my community.

    I am a vegetarian. That choice occurs within the cultural context of late 20th century and early 21st century America, where we have massive caloric and nutritional surpluses and a wide variety of world cuisine available to us. If I were living in contemporary Cuba or 19th century America, I would probably not be a vegetarian, as it would make little sense in those cultural contexts. But my position makes it possible for me to bring the suffering of animals into account and find it weighs more heavily than the minor inconveniences of being vegetarian. If giving up meat meant that I would have a very difficult time supplying my caloric and nutritional requirements, then the suffering of animals would probably not balance that out. Indeed, I still eat factory farmed dairy and eggs because I don’t have the money to regularly buy those foods from farmers who treat their animals properly and I am unwilling to go completely vegan. If and when my economic circumstances improve, then I would gladly buy only well-raised dairy and eggs. I can well imagine circumstances in which I would occasionally eat meat again if I could be assured that the animals I was eating had lived a good piggy or chickeny or goaty life instead of the hell they’re subjected to in factory farms. Vegetarianism, incidentally, is not just a luxury for us in the decadent West, as over 2500 years of Indian history demonstrate.

    Each of our moral calculuses plays out against a shifting backdrop of cultural inheritance and expectation, economic circumstances, and genetic urge. The argument from human nature should not be disregarded, as we are rooted in that genetic inheritance, but our cultural inheritance powerfully modifies those base drives.

  • 27 jeff // May 17, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Thanks, Julian. I’ve also been vegetarian for 17 years… probably a cumulative 2 months as a vegan. I agree with everything you wrote, with the possible exception of the fish thing (agnostic on that, though I assume my moral objections still hold, but I’m not eating it and don’t plan to because I never liked fish that wasn’t square and breaded). The Max Fisher piece bugged me as well, and I’m glad you spelled out your objections and thinking.

  • 28 Steve // May 17, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I am absolutely impressed by the honest ethical vegetarians in this group. You guys+gals stand apart from the rest….I think the same common sense you apply to ethical vegetarianism, must be applied to veganism, as you’ll never (that I can imagine) not harm an insect, or not have some milk or honey in a random piece of bread you eat one day etc…even after checking with the cook, even after reading the ingredient list…..what are “natural flavor’s” after all?

    The quick issue here, given all the great conversation should be:

    Going vegan is easy.

    Going vegan is convenient.

    Going vegan opens up new diet options and flavors.

    Going vegan is more than a diet. (abuse of animals is not limited to just what we eat)

    It’s heart breaking for us to discuss eating meat/animals products only if it is raised happily….or deemed by human’s to be “humane” or “local”. This kind of thought, is provokingly problematic, in that if animals are able to experience, and if we agree (or basically agree) on some level that this is the case, then the argument for their death/confinement for production of bodily secretions at our hands + for our purposes, consumption + taste makes a family farm a killing factory as is a factory farm.

    My thoughts lead me to think almost any use of animals for our consumption or fashion is going to result in the same end….which is death or dismemberment based on our assignment of monetary or other meaningless (to us and the animal) value.

    Remember, milk cow’s don’t live long and prosper. They are hamburgers, as soon as the farmenr wishes. They are 100% of the time kept artificially impregnated, (even on family farms), and their babies are used for veal, rennet, and calf skin shoes….even when raised as “happy meat”.

    For fun:

    Assume we’re not the only life in the universe, and assume our planet earth is inevitably inhabited in the future by beings who have a greater understanding of space, time, the universe, and communication etc…than humans do, perhaps even a greater understanding of ourselves than we can grasp….

    Would we deem it appropriate or admissible for these “aliens” to imprison us for their stomach’s desires? Even if it were in a “humane” (AS CURRENTLY DEFINED BY US) form of servitude?

    Would we say about our mothers and girlfriends who are imprisoned and continually artificially impregnated for their milk (albeit on in a “free range” neighborhood) – “Imprisonment is humane and acceptable given the greater sensibilities of our captors.”?

    Would we say the same about their eventual murder for food once their milk production ceased to meet the aliens acceptable levels of volume?

    …Apologies for the star trek example, and any “man centric” tendencies in this example, as, who’s to say we men wouldn’t be farmed for our prostates or something similarly disgusting….

    Violence on a farm is in no way limited “factory farms”. My neighbors chickens, an organic meat/milk farm, a “humane” fur farm and/or any other farm for profit/animal food for us all involve immeasurable forms of oppression for our non human animal co-inhabitants of this tiny planet in a BIG universe…

    Every farming situation today that I can think of or have seen or can imagine given our alien example would impose the same systems of violence for money/personal gain on it’s inhabitants as we impose on non human animals in ALL instances of “farming” today.
    Farm Sanctuary just released a great report report, it’s worth the read…., although their summary is:

    A critical look [at industrial, organic, free range, and "humane" farms as the subject of this study] shows that while some farm animals housed and handled under the tenets of a “certified” labeling scheme may suffer less than others, the degree to which their welfare has improved is still far from “humane.” And all animals exploited for meat, dairy or egg production – whether factory farmed or otherwise – meet the same cruel end at the slaughterhouse.

    http://www.farmsanctuary.org/issues/campaigns/truth_behind_labeling.html

    I think, somewhere out there, is a possible interaction with other animals that is beneficial to us both, and to our planet, but I don’t think it has ever been or ever will be located on a farm.

  • 29 Barbyrah // May 17, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    What a wonderful post, Julian.

    As for me – vegetarian for 22 years, then transitioning to the vegan thing for the last 12 years – I am inspired by the growing awareness of our interconnectedness, not as a food chain, but as Divine Beings. (And yes, I am now growing into the next phase: eating only those things that ripen above ground, picked from a tree, plant, or vine so that I am not involved in killing of any kind. A wonder-full journey.)

    As for the belief that we are born carnivores and as such should forever remain carnivores, or that, since some animals themselves are carnivores, we shouldn’t hold ourselves to a higher standard: one of my favorite quotes from the movie African Queen, as Kate Hepburn’s character responds to “nature” as the supposed guiding light for all eternity…

    “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

    Thanks again for the thoughtful post, Julian, and to those who have responded with the same degree of thoughtfulness.

    P.S. I rescued an abused pit bull nearly eight years ago, and she’s also… vegan! Happily so, I might add, based on the way she chows down her meals, including veggie burgers and the occasional protein shake.

  • 30 Jadagul // May 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Philosoraptor: I’ll see if I can explain sensibly; my overall approach to ethics might be a little weird. I hold very strongly to a sort of ethical egoism; I think the ideas of “good” or “right” imply good or right for something or somebody. And choose to ask about what’s good for me, largely again because I can’t come up with a coherent reason to do things that are bad for me.

    And there are a few different reasons why I think being good to other people is good for me. Most people create more value than they consume; having more, happier, and better people around makes the world a better place. Reputation-building. Iterated prisoner’s-dilemma type arguments.

    But really, the simplest, perhaps silliest, but most powerful is that I’m just wired that way. I like people, by and large; I like seeing them happy; and even when I don’t like someone, I generally like seeing him hurt even less. So I’m good to other people because it makes me happy. But I don’t seem to have the same sympathy for animals, and don’t really care if they’re hurt. You could tell me that this is bad, but then I’d ask you whom it’s bad for; I don’t think it’s bad for me.

  • 31 Kevin // Jun 4, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Jadagul,
    So your argument is that treating humans well is morally right because it helps you and makes you feel good.

    By extension, if John Doe receives great pleasure from torturing and killing other people, great material gain by taking their possessions afterward, and has no fear of punishment or other externalities, are his actions moral as well?

    On another note, why are the feeling of plants less important than those of animals? Have we proven they feel less pain than people or animals when they are killed, dismembered, or have their children eaten?

  • 32 JD // Jun 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Wait, am I hallucinating, or did I end up on another blog somehow? I could have sworn I just read on another post that nothing Dr. Tiller did (even aborting late-term healthy babies) was remotely wrong. That couldn’t have been the same guy who is so sensitive to the right to life that he thinks vegans are superior (apparently for not taking eggs away from the poor chickens, who don’t like it).

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