Re: Problems That Get Easier If You Aren't A Libertarian

1

I'd like to hear an intellectual historian explain how we wound up in this ghetto where everything is framed in terms of "rights." It's a really limiting way of thinking about organizing a society. Which is to say, I agree with you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:41 AM
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See Lynn Hunt's book, "Inventing Human Rights." It's not bad.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:43 AM
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I said "hear," not "read."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:45 AM
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There was an interesting debate within the critical legal studies movement about reframing from "rights" to "needs."


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:45 AM
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Poorly-informed guess as to 1, entirely US-centric: the Federal government is largely defined this way, and through various centralizing processes we've come to identify with and understand government in the form of the Feds rather than the States, and so any understanding we had that States have broader, non-rights-based powers, has diminished.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:45 AM
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An interesting point that came up in Yglesias' post + comments on this is that the importance of preventing cruelty to animals has mostly to do with its effect on people. I quite agree with this, and don't see it mentioned very often when people discuss this kind of thing.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:46 AM
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Alternatively, I think that if you're skeptical about "natural" or "authentic" personality, you're likely to be more comfortable regulating (that is, manipulating) the same. So I can say that a society that a not-good (harming animals for fun) society will produce not-good people. And then we get to fight about causes and effects, and what risks we're willing to bear.

Slightly OT: Vick is a bad, bad man who deserves to go to jail, but the obscenely moralizing sports writers are pushing me towards sympathy for him.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:47 AM
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I don't have a sense of the history of it, but discussing things in those terms gives you a very anti-government ideology that doesn't actually give you a lot more freedom of action for the individual. A society with universal health care, and people therefore can move from job to job without worrying about whether they'll still be able to get health insurance, looks less 'free' under this kind of analysis than one where people are terrified of changing jobs for fear of losing insurance, and so will take all sorts of abuse from their employers, because the first society has more government regulation, and the freedom from coercion in employment doesn't show up anywhere.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:49 AM
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1:Locke countering Hobbes?

I also have problems with "wrong" & "rights", preferring "preferences" but understand at least abstractly that philosophers think they have come up with moral groundings of the same force as Yahweh's dictates without the Yahweh stuff. And if people find it more compelling to use the language of ethics rather than aesthetics I can understand that too.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:52 AM
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5: To say nothing of the "incorporation" of the bill of rights into the 14th amendment, technically each time deliberately but as an obvious general trend, so that the scheme of innumerated rights was held to penetrate that world of state law not understood as derived solely from such things before.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:52 AM
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obscenely moralizing sports writers are pushing me towards sympathy for him

Sports writers are stupid and write about the easiest and most obvious issues in the easiest and most obvious ways. No sense blaming them for that, unless you're also willing to blame retarded people for what they do.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 10:54 AM
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In the heyday of what we now call libertarianism, mid-19c England, those leading the ultimately successful social counterattack, like Matthew Arnold, made statements (I'm approximating from memory) like: "The more I think on it, the less I think I have rights at all, only duties."

That pairing, that opposing of rights with duties—such a dreadful word to us, Calibans that we are—was developed into the beginnings of an analytical system by the early twentieth century American legal philosopher Hohfeld. He thought a right only existed when there was a corresponding duty in someone else, even if only to forbear.

Somebody else will have to pick up what Rawls, et al. do with that.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:00 AM
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unless you're also willing to blame retarded people for what they do.

"...Phillies reliever Brett Myers, who expresses regret over calling Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Sam Carchidi 'a retard' during a terse exchange Saturday."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:02 AM
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3: Hey, I can lead you to water, but you won't let me touch you, so I can't make you drink.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:03 AM
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Olbermann on TV defended Vick, sort of. It was incoherent.

Olberman is fun to watch on news and politics because he says the obvious thing in a vigorous way. Much better than saying obviously wrong things in a vigorous way. He does way too much Britney stuff, though. Cost of doing business, I guess.

I've always had a low opinion of sportswriters/ sportscasters, of which Olbermann is one, but apparently by now the best sportswriters are better than all but the best TV newspersons. My feeling is that the sportswriters are the same as the ever were, but that TV news has declined below them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:04 AM
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unless you're also willing to blame retarded people for what they do.

Did I back you on the "no slow kids in the basketball game" issue? Maybe "blame" isn't the right word, and suggests the wrong frame here.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:06 AM
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OT: Looks like a good article on Katrina.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:09 AM
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3: I said "hear," not "read."

So get the book on tape.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:24 AM
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LB, to make this work I think you need a more robust theory of "civil rights", or what constitutes those things "such that it would be wrong to make regulations that infringe on them unless necessary to keep me from infringing on someone else's rights" (which your post makes clear aren't just determined by "society, through the democratic process").


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:36 AM
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I absolutely hate theories about rights, but even if they were right, I'd have to be convinced of the coherence of any theory that attempted to apply it to animals.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:37 AM
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19: Do you mean a better, more exhaustive list? Or a theory of where they come from? I'm haven't got much satisfying about where they come from, but give me some thoughts about what exactly you think is missing. (Really I'm hoping Cala, Labs, and the other philosophers will run with this.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:41 AM
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I'm I


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:43 AM
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John @ 15:
> sportswriters are the same as the ever were, but that TV news has declined below them.

Amen. I have considerable respect for Olberman's courage and ability, but he just can't fill Eric Sevareid's shoes. They've gone empty for a very long time now, so hardly anyone seems to notice.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:47 AM
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Presumably this is all about my lack of background in philosophy, but I really don't see what's so difficult about the concept that living things are, as the man says, endowed by their creator with rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even if you don't believe in god, it doesn't seem that hard to me to feel somewhat in awe of life as such and to think that at the very least living things have a right to be left alone--a right that obviously conflicts into the rights of other living things to survive (and thus to kill) or simply practical necessity (you can't avoid stepping on the occasional bug or what have you), but that ought otherwise to be respected.

I don't know if it *needs* to be articulated as a "right," but I don't entirely see what's difficult about doing so. Is it that, say, my cat doesn't herself recognize the rights of mice to be left alone if she's not hungry? Because I don't think that matters--surely the fact that a three-year-old doesn't recognize the right of a parent not to be hit doesn't mean that the three-year-old doesn't have that right (or any rights).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:49 AM
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you know there's no such thing as "rights"


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:49 AM
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12: Wasn't Hohfeld a legal, rather than moral, philosopher?

Around Arnold's time period, Jeremy Bentham did not, of course, believe in rights.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:49 AM
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I liked the Sausagely post mentioned in 6 too, but I always thought that the weird thing about that argument was that (it seems to me) it seems to imply that it's important to prevent cruelty to sufficiently-lifelike-robots, too.

Which seems like a whole 'nother bag of worms.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:51 AM
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I think the real lesson is that it takes a special person to try to commit to doctrinaire libertarianism once the airlock opens even a tiny bit and you have to leave the lab.


Posted by: benton | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:52 AM
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Jeremy Bentham was friends with Aaron Burr. This isn't strictly relevant to anything in this thread, but it's so bizarre that I figured I'd mention it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:53 AM
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25 -- then you might as well point out that there's no such thing as 'laws' either. Right?


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:53 AM
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31

I don't care what society or the democratic process says. Mayonnaise is wrong.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:53 AM
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McArdle seems to do just fine justifying torture of humans in support of the White House administration that Ayn Rand would have been able to correctly identify as "looters", so I'm sure she'll find some way to resolve this.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:53 AM
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Don't animals, indeed, have rights in respect to the amount of humanity we confer on them? It seems wrong to torture mammals to death, but especially dogs and cats. It seems less wrong to torture birds, and merely regrettable to torture fish. People even identify with trees that have been senselessly wounded, but a weed in your backyard? Die! Die! Die!

The degree to which we confer humanity on animals is culturally-based, for sure, which makes those rights sound kind of arbitrary. It's easier when you're a libervegetarian.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:56 AM
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21: I wasn't trying to be difficult. Just to pick an example: say, anti-miscegenation laws. Presumably you don't think it's okay for "society, through the democractic process" to judge miscegenation "wrong", and legislate against it. This is a basic civil right, which means it's "off-limits" as a societal judgment, so to speak. Why? Because one of our "civil rights" should be to marry whomever we choose? Why? Where do this and other "rights" come from? You can be a pure positivist about it and fall back on "the constitution," but that removes right and wrong from the picture entirely.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 11:57 AM
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33: The problem is that it doesn't 'seem' wrong to most people to debeak chickens and keep them locked in shoebox sized containers. We confer humanity on animals in a manner that's tightly related to how tasty and how personally appealing to people they are (Dolphins v. Manatees. Which are people going to grant more rights to? Is there a good reason for that beyond the attractive streamlining and the cocky grin?), and that seems to me to be a hell of a way to organize a moral/legal system.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:00 PM
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Are you saying there is an absolute animal hierarchy, LB? Surely you don't believe that chickens should have all the same privileges of bodily safety that dogs do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:02 PM
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34: Yeah, I haven't got much there. What I've got is mostly 'societal agreement' as influenced by 'the sort of society I like living in'. Talking about the Constitution as a source of rights, in any sense other than the specifically legal, seems silly to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:02 PM
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The problem is that it doesn't 'seem' wrong to most people to debeak chickens and keep them locked in shoebox sized containers.

I strongly disagree, as do many opinion-polls, I believe. Most people just don't think about the issue too much.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:02 PM
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24: That's not bad as a rough gloss of it. We could define right as an entitlement to do or refrain from doing a certain action (right to free speech) or to have others do or refrain from doing something (right to a fair trial.)
And usually packed in there is the idea that were you to violate one of my rights, I'd have the right to seek punishment for you. And somewhere in there maybe is the idea that to be something capable of asserting a right, you have to be the sort of thing capable of recognizing rights. And if you don't think 'right' is always the same thing as 'good', then you'll probably need the idea that sometimes exerting rights mean less good over all.

So some of the questions that come up, aside from questioning absolutely everything I just wrote: what sorts of things are capable of having rights? What are their characteristics? What grounds something's having rights? (Consciousness? Ability to feel pain? Ability to be part of a community? Reason? Endowed by God? What?)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:03 PM
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36: I'm saying that our intuitions about such a hierarchy of moral worth are driven more by esthetic judgments than anything valid. I would guess that many people would be more disturbed by cruelty to a hummingbird than to a pig, for example.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:03 PM
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But Brock, seriously, do you have the same reaction to hearing that a chicken had its beak cut off that you would to hearing a nose had its nose cut off? I think it's awful and I support the end of factory farming, but I doubt any of us will ever take a chicken's pain as seriously as a dog's.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:05 PM
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38: Yeah, but they don't have any trouble forgetting about it instantly when people tell them about it.

Okay, for more on how screwy our intuitions about moral worth are, look at anti-fur activism. That gets much, much more leverage than anti-meateating activism, and I'd say that the big difference is perceived moral worth of the animals based on their attractiveness. Cows, who gives a damn. Foxes must be protected, as must chinchillas.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:06 PM
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43

mmmm fried chicken sounds good.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:06 PM
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44

"If Michael Vick wants to tour the country giving speeches about how great it is to torture dogs, I think that's wrong, but I think he has a right to do it, and so it would be wrong to stop him by force of law unless his speeches were somehow infringing on someone else's rights, which I can't see how they would be. "

Really? Is this not essentially incitement to violence?

"Don't animals, indeed, have rights in respect to the amount of humanity we confer on them? "

Kind of, although I disagree with your specific examples - I see no difference in torturing any of the animals (for sport), but I agree we would have a differential response to equivalently inhumane industrial farming of them.

Douglas Hofstadter talks about our moral intuitions towards animals in his latest book, I Am A Strange Loop. He argues that we accord more moral status (and thus protection) to things to which we (perhaps unconsciously, and partly for cultural reasons) assign more of a sense of self. In his jargon, the bigger a thing's "soul" (not in a Christian sense), the wronger it feels to do it harm. I find it pretty convincing, although this brief paraphrase really doesn't do it justice.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:06 PM
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The first thing you really need is a hierarchy of moral status. I think the biggest barrier to any discussion of animal rights and animal welfare is the idea that rights are a one-size-fits-all package, so that to have rights at all, you must have the exact same rights as everyone else. You don't feel ok giving animals rights, because it would outlaw carnivory and perhaps even animal predation, but that is only true if the animal's rights are exactly like human rights.

In practice, everyone, from Peter Singer to his nemesis, Carl Cohen, treats animals as if they have a middling level of moral status. Singer talks an egalitarian line, but in the end has a justification for why he would save a drowning human before a dog. Cohen says animals have no rights, but then invents a new category of what are essentially quasi rights in order to outlaw cruelty.

If we can all just admit that animals are not people, but they aren't rocks either, we will go a long way to reforming our animal practices.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:06 PM
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46

This is an interesting defense of animal rights from a non-metaphysical perspective that roughly correlates to the post referenced in 6.

Also, I don't think it makes much sense to think of humans as having rights -- does a person have a right not to be made the subject of a tug-of-war between a pride of lionesses and a crocodile? What good would it do it if it had?


Posted by: NotATurtle | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:07 PM
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47

Why can't I say that they don't have rights at all, but it's still wrong to hurt them?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:07 PM
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48

Wait, now 37 baffles me. Am I understanding the comment correctly as saying that you don't think there's anything actually morally wrong with anti-miscegenation laws, we just by "societal agreement" don't have them (anymore)--they're "wrong" only because they're unpopular (and thank goodness for that)?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:08 PM
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49

Reading the thread, I see am pwned.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:08 PM
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48: A society that is in my opinion a good society will agree on rights including those to mutually agree to marry whoever you want. I don't think that necessarily implies that the right to marry whoever you want preexists the societal agreement on it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:10 PM
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47: If the animal has a legitimate claim to restrict your actions, why not call this a right? The proliferation of properties that aren't called "rights" but do everything rights do seems to me both unnecessarily complicated and basically deceptive.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:12 PM
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And somewhere in there maybe is the idea that to be something capable of asserting a right, you have to be the sort of thing capable of recognizing rights.

I think that's pretty clearly dismissable (not that people don't invoke it, but): take the three-year old example, or the example of the retarded person, or the comatose person.

Why isn't being alive enough of a grounds for rights? The fact that people are (or are not) bothered by something isn't evidence of whether or not it has rights (assuming you're willing to grant the idea that rights are something innate)--it's only evidence of whether we recognize those rights. E.g. the civil rights movement, feminism.

Even with people we agree that there are certain situations where rights are suspended or limited for a larger good; hence yes, bacteria have a right to life but we have the right to kill them if they endanger us, etc. What it boils down to with eating meat or gardening is whether we want to assert that a chicken's or a weed's right to life is something we want to legislate, or at least say trumps other concerns like convenience, desire, etc. *I'm* okay with saying that yes, a chicken has a right not to be killed, but otoh inasmuch as chickens as a species are bred in order to be eaten, and inasmuch as we are omnivores, that right is one we are going to regularly violate, just as cats regularly violate the rights of mice. I think the relevant issue there is that if you *are* going to limit or suspend the rights of someone or something else, that you do it humanely--whether that person is a prisoner or a chicken.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:12 PM
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Further to 48: I run into a problem in that as an atheist, and not one with much of a philosophical background, I haven't got much of a knack for explaining on what basis I distinguish right from wrong other than my own moral sense. I'm not committed to a position that right and wrong don't exist out there in the world outside my head, but I don't have a good way to express what it is I'm pointing to when I appeal to an objective standard for right and wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:13 PM
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That gets much, much more leverage than anti-meateating activism, and I'd say that the big difference is perceived moral worth of the animals based on their attractiveness.

In part, maybe, but not that much. Baby chickens are also very cute. I think the difference is more closely related to the perceived friviolity of wearing fur. Cf. protests against veal and foie gras.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:13 PM
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The substitution in 46 makes perfect sense to me as a demonstration of the gap between rights which we recognize and reality, which we also recognize.

I think it's less about acknowledging that animals aren't human than it is about acknowledging that humans are animals--and that while we can therefore understand the concept of "rights," we are also inevitably going to violate them. The law comes in in situations where we agree that it's a social good to restrict or punish our doing so.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:16 PM
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51: Because the sorts of things you want to give animals don't appear to behave in a manner that closely resembles 'rights'. Concepts like the ability to grant consent to what would otherwise be a violation of rights don't work at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:16 PM
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Why can't I say that they don't have rights at all, but it's still wrong to hurt them?

That's pretty much the answer I'd argue, though I haven't thought about it much. Animals don't have rights because they're not the sorts of things capable of having rights. I think it would be wrong to torture a dog or to hurt one of PK's mice (my cat, however, probably deserves it), but I think why they were wrong could be taken care of with a general prohibition towards cruelty on the grounds of the sort of people allowing casual cruelty to animals is likely to cause isn't the best sort of people.

Plus, LB's totally right that few care about the rights of things that aren't cute and furry or feathery. Lizards are hosed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:16 PM
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I guess I've been annoyed with the countless op-eds and HuffPo columns in the past few weeks by my fellow vegetarians shouting on about how outraged everyone is by Michael Vick, but you had a Burger King chicken sandwich today! Thou-art-the-man!-style accusations of hypocrisy.

It's a failure to recognize that we make arbitrary distinctions about what animals' pain matters. And there is a problem when trying to make nationwide laws about things like which animals to protect, when we live in a country made up of so many different cultures, in which different animals are food, sport, pests, friends, or family members.

Nothing inspires as much outrage in my dad as watching Cesar Milan's dog-training show where he never lets the dogs enjoy love and affection. Does my dad give a shit about debeaked chickens? Hell, no.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:17 PM
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54, etc.

In establishing a hierarchy of moral status, you don't need to rely on random intuitions. You can use real cognitive science to determine what the animal is capable of feeling and whether its conditions constitute suffering. Furthermore, you can determine that some creatures (bacteria, plants, maybe even insects) are completely insensate, and thus can't have a right not to suffer.

(I ate a garlic-fried scorpion in China, and did not consider it violating any vegetarian scruples.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:17 PM
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A society that is in my opinion a good society will agree on rights including those to mutually agree to marry whoever you want. I don't think that necessarily implies that the right to marry whoever you want preexists the societal agreement on it.

No, it doesn't necessarily imply the right to marry whoever you want preexists the societal agreement on it, but it does imply that the standards for a "good society" preexist the society itself (unless you are conceptualizing your "opinion" as purely that, a subjective preference, and not as somehow relating to right and wrong, in which case why should I care?).

53 responds to this somewhat.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:19 PM
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Concepts like the ability to grant consent to what would otherwise be a violation of rights don't work at all.

This seems obviously untrue; surely the problem isn't the *ability* to grant consent but *our* ability to understand such granting, if it were made. It seems clear that domestic animals "consent" to certain restrictions on their rights; they hang around, after all, and come back if you let them out (mostly).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:20 PM
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56: But not all rights are waivable. At least, it would require an argument to say they are. Consensual murder, of the sort that cropped up in Germany for instance, is generally not sanctioned. Nor is dueling.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:21 PM
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If how I feel about the relative rights of, say, chickens and dogs is the primary or only guide to whether or not chickens and dogs have rights, then what's the argument for women having rights equal to men, if someone feels or thinks that killing a man is more heinous than killing a woman?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:21 PM
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61: I was going to go that way, Bitch, but down that path lies consensual bestiality.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:22 PM
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Yeah, 53 expresses ignorance on my part, but I have the sense that a reasonable amount of moral philosophy has been done over the last couple of millennia on how to ground a moral code not dependent on the supernatural. My ignorant sense of that work is that none of it is particularly applicable to determining what that moral code should be on any basis other than one's own moral intuition, which leaves me mostly where I started.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:22 PM
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64: I was thinking about bringing up bestiality, but I'm glad someone else did it first.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:23 PM
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I must get actual work done. Sorry I can't chat more.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:24 PM
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I agree with Cala for once, definitely about animal rights, and to a degree about human rights. Rights are a conventional foundation of our system, and rights might be somewhat extendable, but most of the attempts to ground rights or make them absolute seem mistaken to me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:25 PM
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It seems to me that ways should be found to establish consent for dumb animals. It seems unfair to deny them sexual ecstasy for petty legalistic reasons. Also, they lead guys on.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:28 PM
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If how I feel about the relative rights of, say, chickens and dogs is the primary or only guide to whether or not chickens and dogs have rights, then what's the argument for women having rights equal to men, if someone feels or thinks that killing a man is more heinous than killing a woman?

This is like saying, "If God doesn't exist, how can we decide if one moral code is better than another? Therefore God exists."


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:28 PM
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65, 68: I remember that Berube had a really good argument about a non-god-based concept of rights that didn't depend on popular consensus, but I don't remember the details of it any more.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:29 PM
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70 was me. And I think I was thinking of it as a question "Isn't this like saying..." rather than a statement.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:29 PM
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62: But is dueling prohibited because it violates the dueler's right to live, or just for reasons of public safety generally? I'd think most people would agree that someone voluntarily participating in a duel was not having their rights violated by being shot.

Generally, what we talk about as a 'right' seems to me an area where one's will is allowed to express itself without restriction. If one has a right to free speech, one may speak as one wills. If one has a right to bodily security (or however you describe the right on which common-law battery, a prohibition on any unwanted touching, is founded) one has a right to will which people may or may not touch one and under what circumstances. Something that says "X shall or shall not happen to you" regardless of your will, doesn't seem to me to be talking about your rights. (There are problems with temporarily or permanently will-less people; infants, the injured and so on. I think those are generally soluble through looking at their general will as expressed at different time periods.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:30 PM
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70: No, it isn't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:30 PM
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Yes it is.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:32 PM
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Duelling is prohibited primarily because Richard Steele convinced folks that it was cowardly. Also, I think, as part of an emerging middle-class standard of behavior that defined itself partly as opposed to aristocratic conceptions of honor; basically (I think) the idea is that duelling is wasteful and therefore bad.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:33 PM
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I didn't finish 73.

When you're talking about animals, talking about their wills really doesn't seem to enter into it. Even people who treat animals well seem to me to do very little in the way of respecting their freedom to make their own choices, and I honestly don't think there's any reason that they should. And of course, depending on the animal, determining what the animal's will is can be difficult or impossible.

People who treat animals well and humanely seem to do so on a basis of substituting their own judgment for the animal's -- deciding what's in the animal's best interests. I have a very difficult time interpreting this as a matter of respecting the animal's rights.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:34 PM
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63: If how I feel about the relative rights of, say, chickens and dogs is the primary or only guide to whether or not chickens and dogs have rights, then what's the argument for women having rights equal to men, if someone feels or thinks that killing a man is more heinous than killing a woman?

This sort of slippery question has been bothering me. It seems clear to me that there's no external source of rights, or of morality, outside of society. Rights aren't situated in the people (or animals) who have them, but in the society that grants them. (Cf. 46; a crocodile doesn't give a damn what rights we agree a person should have.)

But it also seems clear to me that there is a proper notion of right and wrong, which, roughly speaking, is that we should be as inclusive as possible in extending rights to people. It's clearly morally right for women to have rights equal to men, even though this doesn't come from an external source. It's a bit frustrating not to be able to put this on a more solid foundation, but we can generally agree on this.

How far to take this inclusivity beyond people, though, seems incredibly tricky. The idea that bacteria have a right to life is, to me, absurd. But cruelty to dogs horrifies me. On the other hand, I eat pork, giving little thought to how intelligent pigs are and how much they can suffer. (And I've been told that pigs are roughly as smart as dogs, if not smarter; certainly they can feel pain and can suffer.) I wonder if that attitude will seem blatantly immoral to people of the future, as racism or sexism seem to us now.

(On preview: like 71, I recall when reading Berube's book that it seemed to have some nice discussion of issues like this. But I'll be damned if I can reconstruct them in any detail.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:34 PM
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75: Ah, Tim, I'm afraid you'll have to troll alone; I need to get some other stuff done now.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:34 PM
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Everybody talks about animals' rights, but no one talks about their responsibilities. The obligation to be delicious, for example. I wish I could ponder this question over foie gras right now.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:35 PM
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65: again, very curious, LB. Had we but world enough, and time, I'd love to probe your moral intuitions more deeply. How do they form? Presuming you don't think them infalliable, how do you test them?

My equally ignorant sense is that while it may be difficult to ground a moral code not dependant on the supernatural in anything other than one's moral intuitions, most people at least try. Hence: rights theories and all that.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:36 PM
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79: It's no fun doing it without the master.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:37 PM
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I have a very difficult time interpreting this as a matter of respecting the animal's rights.

Sure. I argue with people all the time, for instance, about whether keeping cats indoors is or is not cruel. (I'm pro-letting them out in places that aren't too densely urban, i.e., with minimal street traffic--the same places I'd let a 5 or 6 year old play outside without constant supervision.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:38 PM
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Presuming you don't think them infalliable, how do you test them?

When they lead to consequences I don't like, I try to figure out if the problem is my moral premise, or my disapproval of the consequence. If it's the first, I change premises to something that will more reliably produce consequences I approve of. I dunno, what do other people do?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:39 PM
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84: but that's just reframing the question, not answering it. How do you figure out what consequences you don't like?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:41 PM
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Through introspection. What are my other options?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:42 PM
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Further to 85: and how do you "figure out if the problem is [your] moral premise, or [your] disapproval of the consequence"?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:43 PM
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I dunno, what do other people do?

Same. It is, at least to me, discomfitting to realize that what I think of as my rights are basically founded on my "popularity."

Gawd, that depresses me to no end.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:43 PM
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What are my other options?

The Word of God, of course.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:44 PM
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This thread is inspirational. I now plan to read Rawls, Nozick and Sandel on the subject over the next few months. I'll get back to you when I figure it all out.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:44 PM
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Do carp have rights? Not pretty, but more useful than cats. I say yes (contradicting my earlier posts).

Sexually, though, carp are not my type.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:45 PM
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Is it time to resurrect the Unfogged Reading Group?


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:45 PM
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91:

Sexually, though, carp are not my type.

Depends on how they're prepared.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:46 PM
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So, does it turn out that these problems do not, in fact, get easier if you aren't a libertarian?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:47 PM
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On carp rights? I don't think that there's a standard work on the topic yet. It's on the frontiers of philosophy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:47 PM
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95: I'm sure Rawls must have written something about it in _A Theory of Justice_. It's, like, a million pages long or something.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:50 PM
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94: Nope, I'm still better off. I'm not terribly bothered by deriving my moral code from introspection -- I get the impression that libertarians are troubled by the consequences either if you give animals rights (no carnivory?) or if you don't (free Michael Vick!).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:52 PM
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I am not seeing how this is easier if you aren't a libertarian after reading this thread.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:53 PM
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pwnd by AWB.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:53 PM
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Perhaps the title should have been "Things that are easier if you're me, and I'm not a libertarian."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:54 PM
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74: OK I took like one philosophy course in college, but as I see it rights are (good and useful) "nonsense upon stilts." The point of rights is to short-circuit moral discussions by elevating some principles above question.

Ultimately, how people feel about the relative rights of chickens and dogs *is* the primary guide to whether or not they have rights. There's not really much else. People's feelings can be influenced by a number of things including arguments by analogy but ultimately it comes down to what people agree to. It's a question of politics.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:55 PM
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Your moral code, yes, LB, but your moral code isn't law. I find it rather easy to figure out what I think is right and wrong for myself, but much harder to think about law and enforcement for a very large and complex nation, which is, I think, what this thread is about. Not that any of us are in that position, but...


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:55 PM
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102: But the point is that I've got a coherent concept of the realm within which I'm willing to attempt to make law based on my moral code. Where other people have what I, and the society I live in, recognize as a 'right' to act freely, that means I'm not going to impose my moral code on them. Where they don't, I feel free to try. Whether I succeed is up to the vagaries of the democratic process, but that's the same with any law.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:58 PM
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97: yes, they have problems because they're trying to work out a logically consistent system and that can be very difficult to do with animals (especially if one is opposed to "cruelty" but not meateating). It doesn't seem like it should be a point in your favor that you're not even trying, and are instead comfortable just falling back on personal feelings.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:59 PM
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I have a perfectly logically consistent system, completely secular, entirely rational, and I'm not going to tell any of you. Nyah nyah nyah.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 12:59 PM
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Who said I wasn't trying to work out a logically consistent system? That was the point of 84 -- that I'm not introspecting on an ad hoc basis, I'm evaluating premises based on their ability to produce consistently acceptable results.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:01 PM
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Where other people have what I, and the society I live in, recognize as a 'right'

But if that's all there is to your "coherent concept of the realm within which [you're] willing to attempt to make law based on [your] moral code", that's not really a coherent concept at all.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:02 PM
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Speaking of vegetarianism and consent, I got an odd comment the other day on an old post about the German cannibal guy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:03 PM
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Penis: very tough. Cook like tongue.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:04 PM
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I've got a coherent concept of the realm within which I'm willing to attempt to make law based on my moral code.

I guess this confidence frightens me a little. Not in you, of course, because I think you have a fairly broad interpretation of what "people" in your "society" think about rights. I think the problem is that none of us really know what "people" and "society" think about rights, other than what our chosen news sources tell us those people think about rights.

If you watch Fox News, you're sure to think that most people have a very narrow definition of rights, and that there's a sick little corner of America trying to overturn the rights we all believe in while demanding rights almost no one thinks people should have. The media is atomized to the point that none of us has a stable or mutually coherent view of what "America" believes or thinks about law.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:04 PM
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101: Of course, since ultimately "rights" are an invented human concept that only exist if they're legally entrenched. But we argue about rights that aren't legally protected all the time as if they depended on something beyond the law.

libertarians are troubled by the consequences either if you give animals rights (no carnivory?)

Not just libertarians: all sorts of people get bothered by this. I still don't see what's wrong with agreeing that being a vegetarian is morally superior to eating meat, or that eating meat violates the rights of animals, while nonetheless doing it anyway.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:05 PM
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I still don't see what's wrong with agreeing that being a vegetarian is morally superior to eating meat, or that eating meat violates the rights of animals, while nonetheless doing it anyway.

Most people don't like to do things that they openly acknowledge to be wrong?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:07 PM
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, that's not really a coherent concept at all.

It's coherent, it's just not rooted in something we treat as eternal or resistant to change. Which people don't like for a variety of reasons. But that doesn't mean it's not the best description of what's actually going on.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:08 PM
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It's coherent, it's just not rooted in something we treat as eternal or resistant to change. Which people don't like for a variety of reasons.

Yeah, I don't like it either. If I had access to the stone tablets, I'd be happier.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:11 PM
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But we argue about rights that aren't legally protected all the time as if they depended on something beyond the law.

Yeah, we talk *as if* there are rights that depend on something beyond the law -- God, or reason, or whatever. But there aren't.

But what does this mean: I still don't see what's wrong with agreeing that... eating meat violates the rights of animals, while nonetheless doing it anyway.

Those are some weakass rights.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:11 PM
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112: "sure, you're an amoral monster, but so are lots of people, so don't sweat it!" seems like somewhat of a common thread in B's analysis of behavior. Maybe the rest of us should just get with the program!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:13 PM
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If I had access to the stone tablets, I'd be happier.

Probably depends on the specifics of the tablets.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:13 PM
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Most people don't like to do things that they openly acknowledge to be wrong?

But we do all the time.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:13 PM
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The more I think on the phrases "We hold these truths to be self-evident" and "unalienable rights," the more I realize how rhetorically weak they are.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:13 PM
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Well, if you have to, you defy God or the nature of reality or wherever the tablets in question came from. I'd still like having the reference point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:14 PM
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Those are some weakass rights.

Not at all. I'm talking about on an individual level, not on a social one. The question of whether society should (say) outlaw meat eating would be a lot trickier.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:14 PM
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I still don't see what's wrong with agreeing that being a vegetarian is morally superior to eating meat, or that eating meat violates the rights of animals, while nonetheless doing it anyway.

Because it seems wrong, if you really believe that eating meat is violating the rights of animals, to go ahead and do it. It seems pretty weak. Compare with 'abortion is really murder, but I don't think women need to be punished.' We thought: the protestor can't really believe that it's murder if he thinks that.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:15 PM
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To step back, LB, earlier you said: A society that is in my opinion a good society will agree on rights including those to mutually agree to marry whoever you want.

Ours does not, which you presumably think makes it (at least in this particular) not a "good society." But other than your telling me this is your moral intuition, I have no idea why that would be so. And of course on this issue the moral intuitions of many people in our society differ from yours. How are we to decide who is right?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:16 PM
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Rights have to be social and political, pretty much by definition, I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:16 PM
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So I'm just going to go ahead and mention that you can create a pretty good fundamental basis for human (and, for that matter, dog) rights from some of the more-plausible evo-psych explanations for non-kin altruism.

I'm going to go ahead and assume I'm going to regret mentioning it, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:16 PM
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How are we to decide who is right?

The "democratic process," including elections, courts, and the influence of custom and argument on both. You're looking for grounding that LB has more or less explicitly denied exists.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:19 PM
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Because it seems wrong, if you really believe that eating meat is violating the rights of animals, to go ahead and do it. It seems pretty weak. Compare with 'abortion is really murder, but I don't think women need to be punished.' We thought: the protestor can't really believe that it's murder if he thinks that.

Well, *I* didn't think that; I thought the protester was failing to differentiate between his or her moral sense and his or her sense of what the law should entrench. To run with the analogy: it may seem wrong, if you really believe that abortion is killing a baby, to go ahead and have one, but people do it all the time. And I think they should have the right to do that because none of the rest of us have the right to compel them not to.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:19 PM
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Yeah, but there are evo-psych groundings for meat-eating too.

Evo psych weakens certain theories of "human nature", but I don't think you can get an ethic from it. Hnor killing, revenge killing, and polygamy all presumably have evo-psych grounds. As far as that goes, rape and the murder of step-children do.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:22 PM
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126: But I'm not, really. I'm just looking to know what she thinks.

But honestly I don't care enough to pursue this further.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:22 PM
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127 continued: and to go on with the issue of rights, rather than moral sensibility, even if I conceded that a fetus has a "right to life," that doesn't mean that a pregnant woman doesn't *also* have a right not to be pregnant, so I'd still end up saying that outlawing abortion is wrong. (Not to mention socially undesireable, etc.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:22 PM
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Animals are on this earth to please and/or feed us. It is not only ok to kill cows for beef, we are obligated to do so to provide for those who eat meat for protein. And hunting deer is a right for those who enjoy doing so. But dogs are very different in that they serve us in ways that other animals cannot. Show me a cow that can jump into a river and save someone's life or a deer who can walk a blind person down the street, then maybe we can start talking about not killing them either.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:23 PM
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Is there an instance of a "right" in our society that is pragmatically inconvenient yet nonetheless respected? If not, I'd argue that "rights" consist of moral pragmatism made explicit.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:23 PM
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123: I think people generally have a right recognized in our society to freely choose those people with whom they will associate, and I'm willing to derive the right to marry the person of your choosing from that. If I spent a couple of days on it, I could probably write up an argument that I'm being consistent and opponents of gay marriage aren't, but for the purposes of this thread consider me waving my hands.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:24 PM
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In the world of today, with a few rustic exception, dogs are useless at best. Fry 'em up. Most of them do nothing more useful than autofellatio and shitting.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:25 PM
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128: Yeah, but there are evo-psych groundings for meat-eating too.

Yup! You can even create an evo-psych grounding for both laws preventing dog-killing and dog-fighting and meat eating, without being inconsistent, because of the social role dogs play in human society.

Evo psych weakens certain theories of "human nature", but I don't think you can get an ethic from it. Hnor killing, revenge killing, and polygamy all presumably have evo-psych grounds. As far as that goes, rape and the murder of step-children do.

Well, right, you have to do some extrapolating to larger communities than typically seen on the revenge, honor, and step-child killing fields of the veldt if you want to lose those downers. But they can be lost.

The inclusion of polygamy among those wrongs was, I must say, an artful and piquant B-troll.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:28 PM
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terbball, are we also obligated to kill cats for protein? They do nothing useful. Or were you joking?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:29 PM
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136: Pest control?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:29 PM
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I am not saying that you must acknowledge a fetus has a right to life, B, just that it's not really surprising to think that people would think it weird to hear someone say 'Eating meat is wrong' while nonchalantly eating a burger. It's not just weakness of will.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:31 PM
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Companionship is, in fact, useful, as millions of lonely elderly shut-ins would testify if they had anybody to talk to.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:31 PM
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Emerson being the exception that proves 139.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:31 PM
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Tom the Dancing Bug lays all this out pretty neatly.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:31 PM
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132: Right to privacy, rules governing admissibility of evidence, that sort of thing.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:33 PM
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it weird to hear someone say 'Eating meat is wrong' while nonchalantly eating a burger.

Teenage boy meat-eaters do this every time they have a meal with a vegetarian, because it's the funniest and most original joke of all time. Then they say, "Ohhhh, the flesh of this dead thing in my mouth is so succulent! Murder is delicious!" Then they refuse to accept that my failure to laugh is because it's not funny; it's because I am, by virtue of my quietly eating a salad, an evil, harping bitch.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:35 PM
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This entire thread disgusts me. I'm dead serious.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:36 PM
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No, I'm very serious. Well all due respect, your question is not serious in that we all know there is more than enough food to go around. But if there wasn't AND cats were a good source of protein, then we wouldn't start thinking about all those cute little kittys that we kill in shelters?


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:37 PM
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f I conceded that a fetus has a "right to life," that doesn't mean that a pregnant woman doesn't *also* have a right not to be pregnant

Er, how can you call that a right to life? It seems about as powerful as my right to not have a bad day. I really don't understand what it means.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:37 PM
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144: Sorry about that, chief.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:39 PM
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143: now I'm not just wondering where you find these guys, but how many there can possibly be? It's like you're constantly being swamped by the all-time moon tide of the dickweed ocean.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:42 PM
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I have trouble thinking that any carnivore has a right not to be eaten. Especially the cats that have killed two birds right in front of my eyes in my back yeard, and probably a rabbit too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:50 PM
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I think there's a real difference between something like "we're perfectly within our rights to eat animals" and "Animals are on this earth to please and/or feed us," which I find pretty noxious.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:52 PM
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now I'm not just wondering where you find these guys, but how many there can possibly be?

She did say that she was talking about teenagers in this case (and perhaps the adolescent-minded?), which coincides very well with reality, in my experience.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 1:54 PM
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I guess I've been annoyed with the countless op-eds and HuffPo columns in the past few weeks by my fellow vegetarians shouting on about how outraged everyone is by Michael Vick, but you had a Burger King chicken sandwich today! Thou-art-the-man!-style accusations of hypocrisy.

Gah, and the head of the Atlanta NAACP. "White also said he didn't understand the uproar over dogfighting, when hunting deer and other animals is perfectly acceptable."


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:19 PM
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I think I agree with B on this.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 2:23 PM
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Animals are on this earth to please and/or feed us.

This is pretty funny. What if there were animals that depended on human flesh to survive? Would they have a "right" to eat us? Would we have a "right" to kill them?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 3:00 PM
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What if there were animals that depended on human flesh to survive?

Yeah, what if?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 3:02 PM
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Yeah, what if?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 5:03 PM
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138: Sure, but the point I'm trying to make is that what most people think is weird isn't necessarily the best foundation for stuff like human rights or morality.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-28-07 5:07 PM
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I don't put any stock in the idea of animal rights, but I don't see that there is an actual problem here. I think that a right not to be tortured is perfectly consistent with the absence of a right against being killed.

I think there is a pretty clear analogy to American constitutional law. It is permitted, assuming that due process has been provided, to execute someone for a crime. But (leaving aside the innovations of the Bush administration) torturing someone is not permitted in any case. I would say that standing law pretty much reflects public opinion on both of these points.


Posted by: aretino | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:24 AM
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