Re: Wow, this book must be really bad

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That reminds me of the blurb from the front cover of Thomas Altizer's Gospel of Christian Atheism: "It is not a gospel...; it is not Christian...; and it is not atheism.... In an attempt to celebrate 'the death of God,' this book succees only in demonstrating the death of the 'death-of-God-theology.'"


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:15 PM
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Read it to remind yourself of the enormities of which putatively civilized beings are capable.

Honestly, who uses "enormities" this way?


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:16 PM
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Enormities means something other than that?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:19 PM
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Check out the enormities on that guy!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:24 PM
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it means "something really big" which is the meaning all right-thinking american are used to.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:24 PM
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well, it can I mean. I'm not used to seeing it as a noun, and it stuck out when I read the sentence.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:25 PM
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Damn. Wrongthinking again.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:26 PM
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Enormititties! Hurray! And on that note I'm going to sleep.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:26 PM
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I should mention that BR's biggest desire from Unfogged is to convince redfoxtailshrub to come hang out with us/teach us how to cook.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:29 PM
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I do think that the plural is weird there, as if one said, "The vile vastness...es of which putatively civilized beings are capable." I'm much more accustomed to seeing references to the enormity of some act than "enormity" as a term for an act itself.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:31 PM
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The OED tells us that "enormity" means "Deviation from moral or legal rectitude" or "Extreme or monstrous wickedness." Also "A breach of law or morality; a transgression, crime; in later use, a gross and monstrous offence." The definition "Excess in magnitude; hugeness, vastness" is marked as obsolete, with the following disclaimer: "recent examples might perh. be found, but the use is now regarded as incorrect."

In other words, virtually every English speaker uses "enormities" this way.

[I wrote this comment simply to have an excuse to use my new "ProxyIt!" feature.]


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:32 PM
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Aw, yay! I do want to meet you guys, and it's not hard to convince me to introduce extra food to any occasion.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:32 PM
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Also, the OED examples are about 50/50 between singular and plural.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:33 PM
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12:

open invitation to hang/cook with us.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:36 PM
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11, virtually every English speaker except every single one I've ever read, apparently.


Posted by: HamLove | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:36 PM
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14: Woo! I will be sure to take you up on this, though I have no idea where you live, so it might take a while.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:38 PM
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Richmond, VA


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:39 PM
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Look, FL, if he'd wanted a praiseworthy review he'd've had to have tackled a tough subject, like why organic honey feeds the fascists liberals breed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:40 PM
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From what I vaguely recall, his point is not so much that people don't have rights, but more an exploration of why people should have rights, in order to demonstrate that we probably need to stop thinking that only people have rights. Why don't other animals capable of feeling pain have the right to be free from it, as we are? What's the moral underpinning here?

He makes utilitarian arguments, which are always hinky, but I do think there's a non-evil interpretation here. For instance, in our legal system, you'd have less of a penalty for willfully torturing a healthy squirrel than you would for torturing Terry Schaivo. While I think all torturing is bad, bad, bad, it's kind of hard to reconcile why it would be more evil to kill someone who is incapable of feeling pain (or anything).

It's a fair point to suggest that we're currently kind of taking a low and self-centered approach to morality. I mean, the only reason it would be OK to hurt a squirrel and not a person incapable of feeling pain is that...well, you'll never be mistaken for a squirrel.

Ultimately, he's making a utilitarian argument that leads to the kind of conclusions you see in buddhism. Sort of unsurprising, since both approaches start out with an exploration of suffering.

Of course, this leads not only to proscriptions for veganism, but eventually to arguments like "well, what right have we to take land that the jaguars/wild buffaloes/ants need?" And, of course, that really does begin to dramatically cut into our ability to live on the planet.

So, that's why it's kind of evil, because it forces us to eventually come to a realization that we will choose to cause suffering to live well. And on top of making us realize we're doing this horrible calculus, he's also demanding we take away our ability to dehumanize other creatures. Which means we're causing suffering and feeling empathy for the creature that's suffering, but doing it anyway. We're kind of sociopathic serial killers.


Posted by: anonymiss | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:41 PM
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Okay, it might take a little while even now that I know. Not nearly as long as if you lived in Alaska or Portugal, though.

All the OED examples, plurals and otherwise, are over 120 years old. I think I may be forgiven if I continue to think that the plural with no following prepositional phrase is arch at best.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:47 PM
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Alternatively, we're the most considerate predators on earth.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:48 PM
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Why?


Posted by: Fleur | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:50 PM
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Because we like you!


Posted by: Considerate Predators | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:51 PM
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So, that's why it's kind of evil, because it forces us to eventually come to a realization that we will choose to cause suffering to live well. And on top of making us realize we're doing this horrible calculus, he's also demanding we take away our ability to dehumanize other creatures. Which means we're causing suffering and feeling empathy for the creature that's suffering, but doing it anyway. We're kind of sociopathic serial killers.

And what "kind of evil" is it to point out the plain simple truth?

Just kidding, Mr or Ms Anonymous. Really. Kidding.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:51 PM
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RFTS, Our comments crossed. I was dealing with Michael's towering ignorance, not your (correct) stylistic critique.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:52 PM
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M-O-U-S-E


Posted by: Fleur | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:52 PM
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Aha! Carry on, then, carry on.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:54 PM
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M-I-S-S. I mis-read the name, which even has a email acct at nowhere.com.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:54 PM
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OT
Can Libertarians be environmentalists?


Posted by: Fleur | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:55 PM
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I am quite taken with the image of a bunch of kindly Jungle Book carnivores sitting around singing the Mickey Mouse Club song.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:56 PM
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There's no way to ask this non-trollingly, but what does Peter Singer say about animal-on-animal violence?

I thought about taking his class to get an answer to this question (as it plays a pretty large role in my "too impractical to be worth my time" thinking about him), but I've heard it's mostly his fans lining up to fellate him.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:56 PM
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IIRC, one of the blurbs on the back of W. W. Bartley's 1973 bio of Wittgenstein was "a farrago of lies and poppycock". The book became well-known largely because of Bartley's claim that he'd managed to find and interview, many years after the fact, men that Wittgenstein had picked up in Viennese bars.


Posted by: Amit | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:57 PM
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LOL.

That may not, in fact, be what he's saying. I'm watching Dexter reruns, so that may be coloring things...


Posted by: anonymiss | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:58 PM
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LOL.

We will kill you for that, however.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:00 PM
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LOL!


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:02 PM
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Can Libertarians be environmentalists?

There are libertarians who claim to be oh-so-concerned about environmental protection, but even more concerned about the horrible dead weight loss associated with regulatory intervention, and if only policy makers would exclusively use pigovian taxes and Coase theorum-derived assignment of property rights, they would cheerfully support more environmental protection. But as a practical matter, it is rare to find a libertarian who prioritizes environmental protection.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:05 PM
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Lol! A suicide cult at Unfooged! :)

It's...like...my guilt over killing fleas and ticks.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:06 PM
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37, Jainism was debunked with the invention of the microscope.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:08 PM
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36
Thanks my sweetest.

How's the game?


Posted by: Fleur | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:09 PM
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How's the game?

Reaction here.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:11 PM
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Back to the topic of Labs' original post, this blurb seems to constitute and exception to the general rule of an inverse correlation between the length of the blurb and its fidelity to the original tone of the review.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:21 PM
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36. Pffft. Real libertarians don't hold with any of that shit; they just know that if all the environmental regulations went away, Hank Galt would invent an anti-pollution machine that everyone who cared about the environment could buy and run on their own little plot of land.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:30 PM
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31: I know I shouldn't bother and you even acknowledge that you're trolling, but, um, do you really think he's never thought of this before and you would stump him?

Animals rape each other, dude. Children hit each other.

Thoughtful and just grown-ups oughtn't do these things.

And would this mean we can only eat predators? Because cows and sheep don't eat other animals.

There is honestly nothing more boring to me than internet animal rights discussions, so I bow out immediately. Additionally, I am beyond uninterested in animal rights proselytizing, but that is a really silly argument.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:37 PM
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43: I've mentioned it before, but are we so sure that legumes cannot feel some sort of pain? The only ethical diet is cannibalism, because only man is vile.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:40 PM
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I think you misunderstood me, oudemia. I didn't think I would stump him, and I didn't mean it as a gotcha question. I wanted to take his class to learn his answer.

I know thoughtful and just grown-ups oughn't do these things. My question is, should they prevent animals from doing them?


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:50 PM
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Because cows and sheep don't eat other animals.

I surmise that Oudemia has never lived on a farm, and that she has never seen a herd of cattle surround a covey of helpless rabbits, trample them to death, and devour them while mooing delightedly. It isn't a pretty sight.

So what about it, Oudemia? Have you ever lived on a farm? Have you ever seen the actual feeding practices of cattle? I thought not.

Seeing a pack of sheep relentlessly tracking and devouring a tiny weasel is an equally horrible experience -- one which I am confident that Oudemia has never had.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:51 PM
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I guess I should have clarified precisely what I was asking, but I did specify that I wasn't trying to stump the man.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:53 PM
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Of course would bow out. Because she doesn't know what she's talking about. She cares nothing for rabbits and weasels, only for ravenous, cruel domesticated animals.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:56 PM
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Oudemia


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:56 PM
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I exploit yeast for this one delicious and socially lubricating by-product.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:58 PM
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44: ... but are we so sure that legumes cannot feel some sort of pain?

Ah, a new interpretation of "All we are saying is give peas a chance."

Personally, I'm OK as long as they are free range legumes.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 11:09 PM
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Hopelessly OT:
I've just been reviewing the DC photos, and you-all are some well-dressed motherfuckers. Weirdly, everyone looked like what I thought they'd look like, except for teo, who I thought would be much dorkier, and heebie, who I thought would be blonde for some reason. My favorite shot has to be this one.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 2:31 AM
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he'd've had to have tackled a tough subject, like why organic honey feeds the fascists liberals breed.

Liberals love organic honey because bees are naturally feminazis and socialists. Hey, you don't suppose Jonah's book is actually an elaborate and brilliantly executed social satire, like Mandeville's Fable of the Bees? Eh, I didn't think so.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 6:45 AM
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Would it be totally unreasonable for the keepers of the Flickr gate to request that people seeking access to the pool contribute pictures of themselves?


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:02 AM
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The only animals that have "rights" are those that can hire lawyers.


Posted by: John Hall | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:20 AM
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52. I can see I'm reluctantly going to have cave in and sign up for the flickr group or I won't be able to follow anything. Remind me how, again.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:28 AM
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Just emailed instructions to you, OFE.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:37 AM
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Ta muchly


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:39 AM
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54: I think it would be. I don't like putting pictures of myself up online, particularly, and have been a member of the Flickr pool for a year with no pictures up except that one of my kids in their last year's Halloween costume. I'm not getting why that would have made it inappropriate for someone else in my position to look at other Unfogged pictures.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:40 AM
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Kick LB out!!!! Kick her out!!!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:50 AM
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There are pictures of me up now. Ghastly ones, but pictures.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:51 AM
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could someone post or email me instructions? almost-real email address posted. delete the extra o obviously.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 7:59 AM
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They are not ghastly pictures at all. The only problem is that my exposure was off on your pictures.

My other regret is that I didn't capture your true intimidating look. LB is very intimidating in person.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:01 AM
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In favor of LizardBreath's point, I'll add that I've had access to that pool for a while and didn't have pictures up until this summer. To be fair, I couldn't have put pictures of my own up until recently, because I don't own a digital camera of my own, and all but two of the pictures of me in that pool have been uploaded by other people. (I borrowed the camera used to take the pictures of me in fancy duds.)

I think, however that I understand Napi's reasoning. Napi might want access to the Flickr pool limited to people who are willing to post their own pictures to protect himself. It's a kind of theory of deterrence based on mutual destruction. Posting pictures reduces/ removes one's anonymity. In general, if someone isn't subjecting himself to the risk of exposure, then it may be unwise to trust him with one's own exposing photos, because one can't realiate if there's abuse.

Napi--I sent an e-mail to an address that you posted on an old blog of yours. I don't really need an answer, but I was just wondering whether you still use that e-mail.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:01 AM
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Am I the only one who thinks the one who thinks the inevitable anthropomorphizing in Singer-style animal rights discussions is a bit shady? Surely the subjective experience of pain is part of the story?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:03 AM
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then it may be unwise to trust him with one's own exposing photos

I think it would be a bad idea for people to post exposing pictures. Except the women, maybe.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:06 AM
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LB is very intimidating in person.

Dude, if you're not kidding, you're very easily intimdated. I like that -- saves effort.

Surely the subjective experience of pain is part of the story?

I don't know that equating an animal's experience of pain to a human's really is all that anthropromorphic. While I have no illusions about the mental capacity of my dog generally, she (visibly) reacts to pain in pretty much the way people do. I don't know that we have sufficient understanding of her subjective experience of pain to assume that it's fundamentally different from mine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:08 AM
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I think, however that I understand Napi's reasoning.

I do too, but I think the protective goal is better served by limiting the pool to people who are 'known' to some extent.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:09 AM
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don't know that equating an animal's experience of pain to a human's really is all that anthropromorphic. While I have no illusions about the mental capacity of my dog generally, she (visibly) reacts to pain in pretty much the way people do.

I await dsquared's traditional invocation of Rylean 'behaviourism' here.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:10 AM
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I am deeply concerned that ogged will reveal to my mortal enemies that I occasionally wear orange.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:10 AM
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Has anyone here read Elizabeth Costello? A great novel.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:16 AM
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67: but to assume you know anything about your dog's mental state, which I argue you would have to do if you wanted to accord it rights on the basis of e.g. suffering, is anthropomorphizing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:17 AM
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64 -- it's cruel to insist that people post pictures of themselves to the pool; not all of us have digital cameras, right?


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:18 AM
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re: 72

I don't see how that follows. LB's point is a good one. If it behaves like it's in pain, it's in pain. Mental state, schmental state.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:20 AM
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I had a look through the pool and there is a picture of me, drunk, last New Year. So I am safe from the great exclusion.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:21 AM
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72: While the word would have to be a different one (that is, I suppose I can't anthropromorphize another person), how does that differ from assuming I know anything about your mental state? If someone hurts me, I feel what I know to be genuine suffering. If I see someone hurt you, you wince and express unhappiness. If I see someone hurt my dog, she winces and yelps. I'm not clear why my knowledge that you're really suffering, rather than just behaving as if you were, is different from my knowledge that she is.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:22 AM
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Did you read Slow Man? The character of Elizabeth Costello appears in that book.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:23 AM
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76: If someone hurts me in a dream, they'd better wake up and apologize.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:25 AM
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It's possible to set rules that users must contribute pictures in order to be members of the group, but I think there are better workarounds. If it's a concern about there being too many photos of you on the main page/too high up, you can ask some of us more negligent uploaders to put up those things we were meaning to or find something to throw up on the page, etc., and I'm sure some would respond and thereby "bury" your pics. If the concern is that your photos are overrepresented, slow up a bit? If you just want to see what everyone looks like, I do too, but I don't think that we can require that of Deggofnu.

On the admin end, I either know or inquire about all the users' identity before I approve them as group members.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:29 AM
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Huh. I suppose I have some Mongol hordes to apologize to, then. (Last night, fighting off what appeared to be Ghengis Khan's horsemen with a sharpened shovel while Newt dawdled around trying to find his stuff and get his shoes tied before fleeing to safety. Peculiar dream -- I woke up thinking "Why a shovel"?)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:29 AM
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74: what is pain to a dog, or, more to the point, a lobster? Please explain in terms a lobster would understand. My point, less speciously, is that animal consciousness is fundamentally different than our own, and that arguing for rights for animals based on direct analogy to human experience is as fraught as arguing by analogy always is. I'm not arguing for freedom to kill dogs, here, just that the utilitarian foundation for barring it strikes me as shaky. Saying "I know my dog feels pain because I empathize with her suffering" is perfectly reasonable, but it isn't empirically grounded philosophy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:29 AM
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76. Yes, but there comes a cut-off, as species get more remote from each other. Can a jellyfish feel pain and if so, would you recognise it if you saw it? People who say you can't empathise with a dog would argue that they're simply setting the bar at a different place, and that you can't prove that you can recognise pain in a dog any more than you can in a coelenterate. I think they're deeply wrong, but that's what they'd say.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:30 AM
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Has anyone here read Elizabeth Costello? A great novel.

See also Kafka's "Report to an Academy" and Agamben's The Open. All in the same constellation.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:30 AM
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Sent you an email, Katherine.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:33 AM
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And in a nearby galaxy, Roth's Everyman.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:34 AM
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Saying "I know what a dog feels is fundamentally different from the pain I feel" is also not empirically grounded. Empirically, my dog avoids pain, she remembers things that have caused her pain over long periods, she shows aggression to animate actors that have caused her pain; this looks a whole lot like what people do when hurt.

Obviously, the consciousness of an animal is very different from the consciousness of a person. But if you start, say, at the great ape level, not incomparably different. And pain seems like a simple enough experience that it would be the sort of thing that remained comparable down to consciousnesses quite different from our own. (I'll give you lobsters. I'm not worrying about lobsters. And they creep me out, so I don't really care if they're suffering.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:35 AM
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86-->81


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:37 AM
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(I'll give you lobsters. I'm not worrying about lobsters. And they creep me out, so I don't really care if they're suffering.)

Aren't you the one who gave me shit about causing needless pain to trout with "catch and release"?

Speciest.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:37 AM
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Admittedly, I was more giving you shit than actually concerned about the fish-harassment inherent in catch-and-release. Still seems like a bogus way to spend an afternoon, particularly for the fish.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:39 AM
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http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pain/

[Introductory reading]



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:39 AM
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80, 81: And coming full circle, I dreamt last night about being bitten by (or, more accurately/bizarrely, having about half my arm essentially swallowed by) a large dog. We were causing one another much pain in the course of the struggle. Clearly, my pain was more important.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:42 AM
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86: I'm not saying I know if's different, I'm saying it's no easier to know for sure with a dog than it is with a lobster. Pain, even for humans, is a subjective experience. The only way to actually know how much pain somebody is experiencing is to ask them. It's impossible to ask an animal. Now, I think Singer's argument is that it's impossible to ask an infant or somebody in a coma either, but that (to me) just points to the fallacy of treating suffering as an objective, universal value.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:43 AM
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The only way to actually know how much pain somebody is experiencing is to ask them.

That seems obviously false.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:45 AM
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The only way to actually know how much pain somebody is experiencing is to ask them. It's impossible to ask an animal. Now, I think Singer's argument is that it's impossible to ask an infant or somebody in a coma either, but that (to me) just points to the fallacy of treating suffering as an objective, universal value.

What about a conscious, competent person you don't share a language with? They can communicate pain through nonverbal actions and sounds, but you can't ask them about it. This doesn't seem to me to be at all an obstacle to empathizing with their pain, but it puts them (from your point of view) in exactly the same position as a dog.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:45 AM
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I have this same problem, but opposite, when I'm trying to get my lobster off.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:47 AM
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re: 95

They flush red at the appropriate moment. Duh.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:48 AM
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Call me a wimp, but I prefer my lobsters killed before they're dropped into a pan of boiling water even so. Just on the off chance.

I'd guess that anything with a vertebrate nervous system feels pain in roughly the same way, because the mechanics of the reaction are the same. Can't prove it, but then, I'm the one who doesn't boil live lobsters either.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:48 AM
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94: have the translator ask them to hold up 1 to 10 fingers. I'm not just inventing this; it's how doctors figure out how much pain people are in. Now obviously being human we can make assumptions about how much pain another human is in and probably be right, and we could make the same kind of assumptions about a gorilla and (somewhat less) probably be right. We could even make the same assumptions about a lobster and possibly be right. All this tells me is that it's a necessarily subjective way to figure out where to draw the line.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:56 AM
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the translator

If you've got a translator, it's kind of pointless to have specified not sharing a language, isn't it?

All this tells me is that it's a necessarily subjective way to figure out where to draw the line.

Sure. But I don't see any compelling reason to draw the line at the species boundary. I've got soft reasons for extending it pretty far through mammals and birds at least, in that they act in ways that closely correspond to the ways people act when hurt. I'm not saying that my reasons are necessarily compelling, but they're convincing to me and to plenty of other people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:01 AM
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Destroyer,

You ask a very good question. Singer doesn't have the standard animal rights answer available, that animal on animal violence is not a problem because animals are not moral agents. (Regan and others use this. The other person who can't use it is Saponsitz, because he thinks that animals are moral agents.)

There was an article in Environmental Ethics recently arguing that animal on animal violence was a real moral wrong. The reaction on the listserv of the International Association for Environmental Ethics was interesting. Almost everyone dismissed it out of hand, without proposing real arguments: "Obviously there is nothing wrong with animal on animal violence" Da/le Jamie/son pointed out, though, that the article began with premises that everyone on the list accepted, and led to unacceptable conclusions. Thus the list needs to do more than point out that the conclusion is unacceptable. No one really replied after that point.

Jam/ieson has made similar arguments in the past. He has a nice article showing that people like Regan still haven't solved the problem of animal on animal violence.

Currently, I favor biting the bullet and saying that a compassionate God would have made a world without carnivorism.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:02 AM
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re: 98

These are all behaviours. People speaking, people holding up their fingers, etc. They are actions. In this respect, there's no difference from inferring dog-pain from dog-behaviour.

With respect to other people's 'mental states' we are always in that position. Hence centuries of philosophical discussion about the problem of other minds.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:03 AM
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I don't understand your argument, Tweety. What does it mean to say that pain is "a subjective experience?"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:09 AM
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a world without carnivorism

Finally, some real liberal fascism.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:10 AM
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103: The very face of liberally fascist dining.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:12 AM
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102: I can see an argument that utiliarian moral arguments are necessarily flawed because you can't know what any other entity's experience of suffering is. To the extent Tweety's saying that this is a problem for utilitarian arguments including animal suffering but not for those limited to human suffering (if that's what he's saying), I don't follow it either.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:14 AM
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101: if I were going to make the argument from neuroanatomy, which I think I'm not, I would say that the mechanics of the mirror neuron system are going to necessarily make us believe we have a stronger understanding of animal states of mind than they do, because that system evolved to correlate patterns of activation between like (that is, both human) brains. But I'm not going to make that argument. Instead I'll just point out that calling symbolic language a behavior like any other, while on some level true, elides some fairly key subtleties of definition.

99: sure, speaking practically I'm pretty much there with you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:15 AM
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I don't think anyone called symbolic language a behavior like any other; they said that some behaviors carry a message we can be confident we're understanding correctly.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:19 AM
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I've got soft reasons for extending it pretty far through mammals and birds at least, in that they act in ways that closely correspond to the ways people act when hurt are way cuter than bugs.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:19 AM
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102: pain is a subjective experience because our understanding of pain does not correlate exactly to the painful stimulus, so for instance you will remember a half hour colonoscopy as less painful than a 10 minute one, given equal (self reported) peak levels of pain if the pain at the end of the procedure was less. Less graphically, a shot will hurt less if you're distracted.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:19 AM
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Instead I'll just point out that calling symbolic language a behavior like any other

I'm still cranky about your 'assume a translator' move. While most humans are capable of symbolic language, that doesn't mean that any given pair of humans are capable of immediate communication, and yet failure to communicate symbolically does not (introspectively) have any impact on my sense of empathy for another person's pain. I see someone who speaks only Mandarin break his leg and react to the pain, the fact that I can't ask him to tell me how bad it is on a scale of one to ten doesn't mean anything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:20 AM
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108: You've nailed the distinction between lobsters and trout. Trout are pretty.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:21 AM
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Instead I'll just point out that calling symbolic language a behavior like any other, while on some level true, elides some fairly key subtleties of definition.

Not really. From an epistemic point of view, it is just another behavioural datum.

Also, for what it's worth, I'm not sure that language adds anything at all. What am I getting, vis a vis identifying the presence or absence of pain in others, from, "you know I feel a distinct crushing sensation in my toe" that I'm not getting from "aaaaaaaaaahh"?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:21 AM
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104: The new venue for Bay Area meetups and Ogged's first dates.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:22 AM
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re: 109

No-one denies that pain involves an experiential element. There's something it's like to be in pain. Furthermore, the precise experiential quality of that pain is intrinsically private to the experiencer -- I can't know what your pain feels like for you. This is all commonplace stuff everyone discussing pain pretty much buys into.

However, when asking the question, "is this person/animal/thing in pain?" those subjective experiences don't form any part of the data we have to go on. All we have to go on is behaviour -- linguistic, or otherwise. In this respect, human pain is just like animal pain.

To a certain extent, we're all methdological behaviourists. We have to be.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:26 AM
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Look, say you see somebody getting whipped. You think "damn, that must hurt like hell." The person is screaming, and their face is contorted. If you asked the person what the subjective experience of that pain was, what would they say? Now imagine they're wearing vinyl and in a sex club. Would you imagine their subjective experience of that pain would be identical?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:29 AM
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No, but I'm not seeing what follows from that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:32 AM
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re: 115

I don't see what work your example is doing. I can still rely on their behaviour and dispositions to behave as a guide to whether the person is in pain or not.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:32 AM
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Sifu, I don't see anyone denying that pain has a subjective or experiential element; granted. It's not clear that gets you anywhere on the question of animal pain.

In other words, ttaM gets it right.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:33 AM
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The animal-on-animal thing for me is the real kicker. If people are moral agents and animals aren't, then the whole argument about the extensibility of rights collapses. Infants and comatose people are still moral agents (and thus rights-bearing) because this is a categorical statement about people, not a contingent statement about some kinds of people. (If we were going to distinguish people as being moral agents on whether they act, there are a whole lot of people who wouldn't qualify.) If there is only a subtle gradation of difference between animals and people, and thus rights are largely extensible along that gradation, then there ought to be an equal gradation of moral agency. Meaning we should imprison young male elephants for raping rhinoceri (a behavior that's been observed in southern Africa recently), punish crows for breaking raptor eggs, etc--there's a whole range of destructive behaviors that higher mammals exhibit that aren't narrowly about consuming food to remain alive.

This, by the by, is pretty much the view that some late medieval European peasantries took towards domestic animals: a pig that destroyed property or a cat that attacked chickens was a criminal, was treated as a moral agent. Basically, if you want to talk about animal rights but you don't have a well-worked out position on animal-animal violence, I don't take you at all seriously.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:33 AM
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Also the reason language is different is not because they can communicate to you. It is because you can ask them what you want to know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:34 AM
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It is because you can ask them what you want to know.

I don't get this at all. I can ask my dog, or a Mandarin speaker, all the same questions. I'm not going to get an intelligible answer in either case.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:38 AM
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If people are moral agents and animals aren't, then the whole argument about the extensibility of rights collapses

Ok, but this is more an indictment of the fact that we talk about this in terms of "rights" than an argument about how animals ought to be treated. If we were to ground this instead in something like "solicitude for living creatures (including ourselves)" there's really no need to talk about whether someone or something is a moral agent.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:40 AM
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If people are moral agents and animals aren't, then the whole argument about the extensibility of rights collapses.

Bad news for babies and the mentally handicapped, Dr Mengele!


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:41 AM
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I think I'm losing my own thread a bit here, but my basic argument would be that our understanding of human pain is fundamentally different because we have -- in language -- a way of sharing our subjective reality that animals do not. Because we've had this shared framework for a very long time, we're able to make conclusions about even those humans we have not communicated with.

OT: this is a fucking hard argument to have on a cell phone.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:41 AM
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my basic argument would be that our understanding of human pain is fundamentally different because we have -- in language -- a way of sharing our subjective reality that animals do not.

I get you now. I still don't think I agree, but this is a reasonable argument.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:43 AM
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re: 120

Again, behaviour. Behaviour. More behaviour.

The epistemic problems raised by other minds [whether they exist, and what it's like to be them] aren't solved by the fact that language is a relatively complex phenomena. Unless you take a fairly hard behaviourist line. In which case, the production of certain kinds of behaviour just is the criteria for having a mind, and there's nothing more to mental states than dispositions to behave. But that's not a position you can take given your emphasis on the subjectivity of pain experiences.

re: 124

Shorter tweety. Other humans are more like us than like animals. This makes it easier for them to indicate their pain-states to us.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:44 AM
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122: exactly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:44 AM
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126.2: exactly, yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:47 AM
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I don't get this at all. I can ask my dog, or a Mandarin speaker, all the same questions. I'm not going to get an intelligible answer in either case.

This is really wrong, I think.

I can actually ask my dog, "Do you need to go out?" and get a pretty good answer. Because he's come to associate that question with going out--he knows the sound. He also knows how to get my attention when he needs to go out to go to the bathroom. But I have no idea what he's feeling or thinking inside about the experience of being outside except that he's habituated to pooping and peeing outside, largely because I punished and rewarded him as a puppy to get him habituated to that. There are very real and final limits to the communication I can have with my dog, and we're about at them already with the question, "Do you need to go out?"

But the Mandarin speaker is another matter. One of the historical events that I'm most fascinated by is the way in which Cortes was able to communicate with Native Americans in central Mexico. A lot of people know that he had an interpreter/mistress who could speak both Maya and Aztec (La Malinche) but that wouldn't have helped much unless he also had someone who could translate Maya to Spanish. Which he did: a previously shipwrecked Spanish sailor who had lived among the Maya. Think about that. Spanish and Maya had virtually nothing in common as languages or as historical frames of reference at that initial moment of contact. The only connection was the generality of being human. But somehow, that sailor, just using that generality (gestures, etc.) was able to acquire fluency in Maya in a fairly compressed timeframe, to communicate with the Maya in a fully human way. That's the difference between the Mandarin speaker and your dog. Sure, in the next five minutes? You won't be able to communicate that differently. In the next five years? A world of difference.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:47 AM
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Shorter tweety. Other humans are more like us than like animals. This makes it easier for them to indicate their pain-states to us.

Well, yeah. I buy that argument completely with respect to, e.g., jellyfish. I don't accept that the possession of language is a key point of resemblance in that regard, but the argument seems generally to be a fair one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:48 AM
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re: 130

Yeah, I was casting his argument in a compressed and plausible form. I don't really buy all the language stuff or the 'subjectivity' stuff either.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:50 AM
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Yeah, if you lose the language on rights, and just say, "We should have solicitude for the pain of other organisms", fine. But the fact that I have sympathy for other humans (let alone other organisms) doesn't require me to accomodate their will or actions in all things, to preemptively concede all my own desires and priorities to them, or to steadfastly refuse any action which might make use of other organisms (or people) because of a difference in capacity or power between myself and them.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:51 AM
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129: That's the difference between the Mandarin speaker and your dog. Sure, in the next five minutes? You won't be able to communicate that differently. In the next five years? A world of difference.

Sure, absolutely. But there are still billions of people in the world with whom I cannot immediately communicate with using language. If I put them in a different category than dogs in terms of the moral status of their suffering, it's because their possession of language categorizes them as a different kind of thing than dogs, not that the act of communicating with them through language (which I can't do as I sit here) is necessary to establish that moral status. I understood (inaccurately, as Tweety has explained) Tweety to be making the latter claim, and was disagreeing with that claim.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:51 AM
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But the fact that I have sympathy for other humans (let alone other organisms) doesn't require me to accomodate their will or actions in all things, to preemptively concede all my own desires and priorities to them, or to steadfastly refuse any action which might make use of other organisms (or people) because of a difference in capacity or power between myself and them.

it more or less rules out eating them or experimenting on them though.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:52 AM
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Everybody listen to Tim Burke; my thumbs are about to fall off. Suffice to say, of course language is special!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:52 AM
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134: Speak for yourself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:53 AM
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re: 135

Yeah, but it's specialness is overstated.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:53 AM
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That's the difference between the Mandarin speaker and your dog. Sure, in the next five minutes? You won't be able to communicate that differently. In the next five years? A world of difference

Once more this is going down a route with respect to the status of severely handicapped human beings which everyone considers an obvious and monstrous reduction when Peter Singer approaches it from the other side.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:54 AM
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doesn't require me to accomodate their will or actions in all things, to preemptively concede all my own desires and priorities to them, or to steadfastly refuse any action which might make use of other organisms (or people) because of a difference in capacity or power between myself and them

Right, but if you take it seriously (and I didn't limit the solicitude to pain), it's a long way from requiring nothing of you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:56 AM
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The epistemic problems raised by other minds [whether they exist, and what it's like to be them] aren't solved by the fact that language is a relatively complex phenomena. Unless you take a fairly hard behaviourist line.

But there's a middle ground between hard behaviorism and worrying about knowing other minds. Language is complex and gives us a lot of evidence about the minds of our fellow humans. Maybe not good enough evidence to please a philosopher, but pretty good evidence. Animals' behavior, especially the behavior of dogs and other cute mammals, is also evidence of their pain-states, etc., just not as good.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:56 AM
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137: except when it comes to specifically human concerns like, y'know, ethics.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 9:56 AM
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Huh. While I get that language is probably necessary to develop ethics, I don't see why that gives it any special status as a marker of what gets to be the subject of ethical consideration. (See dsquared on making lampshades out of handicapped babies.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:01 AM
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138: but it isn't, because what's important is not the specific communication of one individual, it's the whole history of human communication, and the generalizations that allows us to make.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:01 AM
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141 employs a rhetorical strategy I deplore when it is used by others, and may not make sense. Please disregard until such time as I can get my thoughts more together.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:04 AM
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re: 140

Again, of course language is potentially a rich source of evidence in our assessment of another organism's state. But it's a matter of degree, not kind.

re: 141

Er, no. As I've been arguing, language is emphatically not special when we are asking a simple question like, "is this organism in pain?". That, for higher organisms at least, we are perfectly capable of inferring the existence of pain from behaviour,

Furthermore, I'd want to argue, strenuously, that the possession of language doesn't give an organism special ethical status.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:04 AM
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I dunno, I think we often experiment on people and just don't call it such. That's pretty much what I think a "trial program" or test policy implemented by a state or by a civic institution amounts to. It's certainly what some kinds of development projects amount to. In some cases, this is done with some form of consent, in some cases not.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:07 AM
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The question for me, I guess, is not "is this animal in pain"; it's "what does it mean for a doglobster to be in pain given that the only thing I know about its conscious (subjective) awareness of the world is that it is different in fundamental ways from mine".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:09 AM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but the question is something like: does the evidence for experience of pain that's provided by language-use provide more sure or reliable knowledge of that pain than the behavioral evidence for pain as experienced by animals?

A lot of pressure on the word "knowledge" there, and even if we answer in the affirmative, it's not clear that the difference in surety of our knowledge isn't one of so small a degree as to be negligible when it comes to deciding whether causing pain to animals is justifiable.

Or is this not the nature of the question about language-use? Is the claim supposed to be that linguistic agents in some sense deserve more consideration (conferring of rights, perhaps) simply because they're more like us? I hope no one is claiming that only linguistic animals are the proper subjects of moral consideration.

On preview, semi-pwned on several fronts.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:09 AM
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the world of pain--
and blooming blossoms
add another burden
(Issa)

this refers to 10 in mandarin, i suppose


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:11 AM
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I do think, by the way, that non-human minds are knowable in some fairly rich and complex ways. But I think what we can know about them would complicate all of these questions a good deal more. For example, I think it's very possible that wolverine minds, or orca minds, are not just indifferent to the suffering of other organisms caused by wolverine or orca actions, but actually regard that suffering as a part of playfulness or pleasure, as a surplus that goes well beyond sustenance. I think it's equally possible that there are non-human minds that are much more indifferent to being killed or hurt than we are.

I think this in part because there's a lot of evidence that human subjectivity is very plastic in these ways. We're trying to think about these issues from within the event horizon of modernity, of rights-talk, of radical forms of individuality. But I'm pretty confident that there have been human beings in the past who have thought very differently about personhood, violence, suffering, temporality, and other things that "feel" very fundamental and universal to me in my own mind.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:12 AM
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I do, in fact, claim that species who can use language, being more like us, should be given more consideration than species less like us. I do not claim that this is the only axis of "like us" we have available to evaluate likeness.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:14 AM
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it's "what does it mean for a doglobster to be in pain given that the only thing I know about its conscious (subjective) awareness of the world is that it is different in fundamental ways from mine".

What I find weird about that is the word doglobster. You're a neuroscience person (IIRC) and I'm not, but assume you have a person's, a dog's, and a lobster's brain each on a dish in front of you. And now start playing "One of these things is not like the other one." The lobster is the odd organism out, right?

People are not dogs, but they are not totally dissimilar from dogs. They're a lot like great apes, which themselves are a lot like apes generally, which bear a reasonable resemblance to monkeys, and so on and so forth. I'd be strongly inclined to assume that a chimp's experience of pain is very much comparable to mine, and once I'm outside my own species, I don't see a reason to start drawing a line short of where animals stop behaving in ways that I recognize as similar to the ways I behave when I'm in pain.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:16 AM
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re: 147

Your, "given that the only thing I know about its conscious (subjective) awareness of the world is that it is different in fundamental ways from mine" is doing a lot of work, and it's also begging some big fucking questions.

It's by no means obvious that what you say you 'know' is even true, nevermind the seperate question of whether you 'know' it.

In fact, one could make a pretty strong argument the other way -- that all of the available evidence from neurology, evolutionary biology, ethology, animal and human behaviour, etc. -- suggests that qua pain-experience, most higher animals are, in fact, exactly like us.

They may well not be like us in, say, their appreciating-a-nice-chianti-and-a-pipe-of-best-tobacco-in-front-of-a-logfire-ness. But is that the relevant ethical test here? Again, to assume it is, is to beg some big questions.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:16 AM
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The point of the above being that I think it would be a mistake to say that those other human subjectivities (or orca and wolverine minds) are evil or wrong. They were or are what they are. At the same time, I think I'm right to prefer my own frame of reference with its greater (but not unlimited) solicitude for other minds, for reasons that go beyond "I'm accustomed to it". Thinking about the range of possibilities allows me to accept that there is a reasonable continuum of choices people can make about that solicitude that go from "kill no other animal organism under no circumstances" to "eat meat and kill other humans under a number of circumstances".


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:16 AM
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I think this in part because there's a lot of evidence that human subjectivity is very plastic in these ways. We're trying to think about these issues from within the event horizon of modernity, of rights-talk, of radical forms of individuality. But I'm pretty confident that there have been human beings in the past who have thought very differently about personhood, violence, suffering, temporality, and other things that "feel" very fundamental and universal to me in my own mind.

This is really key. I was hoping no one would ask how you determine how much solicitude is due another organism, because it's hard to answer that question without getting into essentialisms. On the other hand, considerations like this can make a lot that's black and white seem gray: a lot of medical experiments, for example, are over the line, wherever you draw the line.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:17 AM
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153: it is different in fundamental ways because they don't use language. That right there is a greater difference than between any two human populations.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:31 AM
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re: 156

Those who dismiss the importance of language say that animals do experience pain like we do, and that in the morally relevant sense they are similar. You can't address that claim by pointing out that in some other sense [language use] they are different without a whole argument that language use is morally relevant and, furthmore, that the capacity for language trumps the capacity to feel pain [qua ethics].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:36 AM
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don't know that equating an animal's experience of pain to a human's really is all that anthropromorphic. While I have no illusions about the mental capacity of my dog generally, she (visibly) reacts to pain in pretty much the way people do. I don't know that we have sufficient understanding of her subjective experience of pain to assume that it's fundamentally different from mine.

Amen. Scientific restraint is all well and good if you're performing scientific experiments, but in regular life, you go by the empirical evidence.

On New Year's day I advised my boyfriend's sister about how to kill ants, but I felt really guilty about it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:36 AM
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I'm saying that the whole argument about moral relevancy is suspect when you're talking about a species with which we do not have the intersubjective framework provided by language.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:40 AM
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||

Do tell what the class makes of Singer, won't you? I'm not sure I get the Mengele angle, unless Singer's saying go ahead & strangle puppies for all I care, just don't expect to talk about it.

"Ethics" is/are determined in discourse, but not every living thing can engage in discourse. Or so I suppose--I've just been arguing with the cats over whether or not closed doors with susceptible doorknobs should be considered Cat Doors.

These West Coast threads are hell on a night owl such as I. Later I shall pore over its enormity.

|>


Posted by: Rah | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:42 AM
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Why do you feel guilty about killing ants? I'm assuming you advised something eco-friendly for the ones in the kitchen, not poised with a magnifying glass in the front yard.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:42 AM
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Infants and comatose people are still moral agents

While I find this thread excruciating, I'm hoping TB will explain what this means. On at least the most familiar way of understanding the moral patients/moral agents distinction, it's false, but I'm confident that I'm just not getting the claim.

Rob HC, if you're still reading-- why is this off-limits to Singer?


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:43 AM
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Wait, language provides an intersubjective framework? Thank God I missed this thread or I'd have shoved Word and Object so far up your ass you'd burp up rabbit parts.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:44 AM
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Well thank goodness somebody showed up to point out I haven't done the reading. Like, any of the reading. Ever. Including Singer. But I have taken undergrad neuroscience courses!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:47 AM
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'Gavagai' could make a convincing burp noise.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:47 AM
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re: 159

The moral relevancy argument isn't suspect at all. My position is that a linguistically-grounded intersubjective framework is not what's doing the ethical work.

Also, what FL says re: Quine.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:47 AM
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On the other hand reading the back cover blurb of the Quine on Google Books I completely disagree.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:49 AM
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I love you tweety!


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:49 AM
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re: 164

Nothing you've said in anything above has drawn on the contents of a neuroscience course [undergrad or other].

In fact, I'd be very surprised if "animals have really different subjective consciousnesses from people" featured prominently in a neuroscience syllabus.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:50 AM
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163 fails to convince me.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:51 AM
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169: only sort of. I was making inferences from (1) a class on the nature of altered conscious states (2) reading I've done on the mirror neuron system and (3) some Tomasello I read a while ago and didn't quite agree with.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:54 AM
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A baby's diaper is full of moral agency.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 10:59 AM
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I don't have time to catch up on this thread (although i would really really like to) but I need to point out a part whole fallacy in Tim's 119. He says he is willing to grant moral agency to babies and the retarded because they belong to the category human being. But moral agency isn't a category level property. Species, as entities, are about as far away from having any mental properties as you can get. On the other hand, granting moral status on the basis of any group membership is simple tribalism.

The plain fact is that for any animal you can find a member of the species Homo sapien with nearly identical individual properties. You can't claim to have a morality based on individual rights unless you take this fact seriously.

I would be happy to take the problem of animal on animal violence exactly as seriously as my interlocutor takes the argument from marginal cases.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:01 AM
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it more or less rules out eating them or experimenting on them though.

Disagreed. I think it rules out deliberate cruelty, or unavoidable pain without at least a decent sense of tradeoff (e.g., I'm sort of okay with medical testing on animals on the grounds that it produces medicines for us, and also for veterinary use; i'm not okay with testing new cosmetics or detergents on them, however).

E.g., (here we go, let's start a major argument that'll distract everyone from the primaries), the abortion question. I'm willing to allow that a fetus expresses a desire not to be aborted, on the same grounds that I'd allow that a jellyfish or flatworm expresses a desire not to be harmed, i.e., apparently these organisms move away from threatening stimuli. Of course that's not "pain" or consciousness, but you know, fine, it's a living thing, it does what it can.

That said, I'm not willing to say this means we shouldn't kill such things, ever. There should be some kind of cost-benefit analysis, a recognition that you know, it's not quite the same thing as kicking a rock. In re. abortion, of course, I think that there always is. In re. animals, unfortunately, I think there often isn't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:05 AM
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Labs, I'm not still reading, in fact, I haven't even read the thread thus far, but...

The argument is off limits to Singer because he's a strict consequence man. Intentions don't matter for evaluating the goodness of an action. Thus the fact that animals lack sophisticated intentional states doesn't matter.

The real question isn't whether we should punish elephants who rape rhinos, but whether a human being who sees an elephant raping a rhino has a moral obligation to stop it. I actually have never seen a convincing argument against such a duty, even by deonotologists, although the problem is more obvious for consequentialists.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:05 AM
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I love tribalism! What's wrong with tribalism? Extend it out a couple hundred concentric layers of group hierarchy and you have a workable system, by gum.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:05 AM
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Anyhoo, yes, I am arguing that it's a category-level property and yes, there are problems with that, which Singer actually writes about very well imho. Within the category, there is a continuum, and thus there are marginal cases. Infants belong to the category as they will become adults; the comatose both because they may recover and because we know that their minds were like ours prior to becoming comatose and thus may still be despite an inability to communicate at present; the retarded because of access to basic level moral reasoning.

I kind of think about it like a color spectrum. There's a range of colors "blue" and at the borders of blue, you get things that are almost something else, but that doesn't mean blue is red. There's an emergent character to human consciousness even in its marginal cases that distinguishes it from all other consciousness, and a capacity for moral agency (and accountability) is part of what results from that distinction.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:09 AM
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While I have no illusions about the mental capacity of my dog generally, she (visibly) reacts to pain in pretty much the way people do. I don't know that we have sufficient understanding of her subjective experience of pain to assume that it's fundamentally different from mine.

I'd agree. But I'm not sure that settles much, and I'm curious, if this is the way Singer argues, how he defends this. I'm assuming everyone wants to draw a line somewhere. But I'm not sure saying 'this thing has human-like consciousness' is a good way to draw the line on utilitarian grounds.

My cat winces and reacts to pain the same way I do, and so does your dog, but we've more or less bred those animals to act in ways that we understand them. (And we're more or less designed to predict other people's mental states.)

We haven't really done the same with lizards. Or snakes. My worry is how *any* line can be drawn that wouldn't smuggle in all sorts of assumptions on what consciousness *should* look like. It begins to look like what he calls species-ism just moderately extended. Instead of "man is the measure of all things" it's "man and anything man finds cute or relevantly similar to him cognitively (using man's own standards of what counts) are the measure of all things."

A lobster doesn't react in the same way to pain that I do, but why, if we're taking Singer seriously, should that matter? We're just counting up utils. I can think of lots of practical reasons to draw a line, but I'm not sure if there's a principled utilitarian one. I'm curious whether Singer just bites the bullet, or has an answer.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:09 AM
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Rob, that's what I was hoping you'd say about Singer. What about the traditional Benthamite rationales for, say, not punishing the insane? That is, we could construct a consequence-based case for a difference in *treatment* that mapped more or less exactly onto the traditional patients/agents distinction. So (yet again) we'd end up with a sort of consequentialist reconstruction of the thing, if not the thing itself.

I agree with you on the TB/groups point.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:10 AM
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whether a human being who sees an elephant raping a rhino has a moral obligation to stop it

Love it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:10 AM
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Wait, you think that a human witnessing an elephant raping a rhino has an obligation to stop the elephant?


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:11 AM
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Tim, I understand "babies are agents" to mean "babies are the sort of creatures that can be held accountable, justly punished, etc." Is that what you're saying? It sounds like you're claiming that being an agent in the future gives one the status of an agent now, which generally looks like a bad inference. (Cf abortion debates & potential personhood.)


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:12 AM
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161: Far's I know, all the available eco-friendly methods of killing pests are needlessly cruel. There really isn't a big incentive in figuring out non-painful ways of poisoning vermin.

I'm saying that the whole argument about moral relevancy is suspect

Problematic, I think you mean. And of course this depends on whether or not moral relevancy has anything to do with *my* actions and what I can know of them, rather than some kind of "objective facts" (which are, as you're saying, unknowable anyway).

Poor Labs, this must be like running a really bad ethics seminar filled with students who have wandered in off the street.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:13 AM
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Burk3 i5 t3h L3ibniz!


Posted by: earlymodern calabot | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:14 AM
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181: Usually I use the example of a cat hunting a common house sparrow, but since this is the mineshaft, I went with the bestiality rape example.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:14 AM
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I'm now imagining re-education classes for black widow spiders.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:15 AM
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We don't punish the insane, but we do stop them from hurting other people.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:16 AM
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By the way, Singer and Posner had an online debate about philosophy and animal rights, back in the day.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:16 AM
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I don't know how to stop the elephant from raping, but if the rhino demands a fee, you can keep the elephant from - wait for it - charging.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:16 AM
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Ah, I see; it's not so much that we hold the elephant responsible but we do act to prevent, deter, etc. *That* I can see Singer having a problem with.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:20 AM
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A lobster doesn't react in the same way to pain that I do, but why, if we're taking Singer seriously, should that matter? We're just counting up utils. I can think of lots of practical reasons to draw a line, but I'm not sure if there's a principled utilitarian one. I'm curious whether Singer just bites the bullet, or has an answer.

This is where my ignorance of Singer comes in.* Assuming utility is to be our guide to morality, how are we to identify utility except through behaviour?

* [I'm not an ethicist so I haven't done much ethics since undergrad].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:21 AM
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Are you people trying make me stop eating veal? Or just feel bad about it?

Can't I just say a little thank you as I bite each tasty morsel?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:28 AM
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191: It's not just that we identify it through behavior, but that what count as behavior that indicates pain is only behavior that's roughly like ours would be. It just strikes me, a complete non-ethicist, as a practical constraint rather than a moral one.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:28 AM
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I only eat veal whose mothers were unwed teenagers.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:32 AM
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Seriously, Will, lots and lots of things are yummy in the world. Why eat the ones that are based in cruelty?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:33 AM
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Cala gets it exactly right. Figures.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:33 AM
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194:

It is cheaper in the school bathroom.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:34 AM
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193: Right. Which is my problem with Tim's comment way upthread about how we can't talk about animal rights unless we have a solution to the problem of animal violence. There *are* practical limitations; that doesn't mean we can't discuss what we should do with the information we have.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:38 AM
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Babies have the potential for agency within them, is what I mean. Which the elephant, in my view, does not.

I'm curious about the range of things which one should deter if one should deter the elephant from raping the rhino or the cat from hunting the sparrow.

Deter predation in general? If I see a hawk lining up on a squirrel, do I run out into the field to disrupt it?

Deter members of the same species who are fighting for group domination, access to reproduction, territorial control?

In both of those cases, animals are suffering pain, being hurt, being killed. How do they differ from the suffering of the rhino being raped by an elephant? If you answer that the former are "normal" and the later "abnormal", what's the criteria? If you answer that the suffering of the rhino is somehow greater, by what criteria?


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:39 AM
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I spent an afternoon looking into this once, and as far as I can tell there's no evidence that there were elephants raping rhinos. It does appear in the NYTimes magazine article on the subject, but it does not appear in any of the other articles on the same subject. The elephants were simply murdering rhinos in cold blood (they'd knock the rhino over, kneel on it, and then deliver a death blow with a tusk). However, these were post-traumatic stress elephants whose families had been killed in front of them and had no older male roll-models to teach them how to control their musth. When they brought in older males who weren't traumatized the murders quickly stopped.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:39 AM
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Ok, so I don't actually eat veal or frooog grass.

Should it really make a difference whether I eat a baby cow or an adult?

Once I have crossed that line and asserted my superiority to be able to eat an adult, why not the baby?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:40 AM
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Tim was talking purely in the context of Singer and the utilitarian justifications for animal rights, I believe. Nobody here is objectively pro rhino-defilement.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:41 AM
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Can't I just say a little thank you as I bite each tasty morsel?

Sorry, cow.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:41 AM
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100: God did create a world with no predators. It is only after the fall (or possibly after the flood) that predation began. This is why creationists spend so much time coming up for explanations of why T-Rexes need those giant teeth to eat fruits. (I wish I were making this up.)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:42 AM
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200 had me laughing helplessly, starting from the 'no evidence that there were elephants raping rhinos' to the words 'post traumatic stress elephants'. I now have teenage elephants singing "Gee, Officer Krupke" in my head.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:42 AM
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203:

No thanks. I've got my own. At least until we eat them.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:43 AM
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The issue of ascribing rights and agency to animals raises all sorts of other problems. Should a dog be able to refuse vaccinations? Should a cat be able to refuse to be neutered? It seems clear from their actions that neither desires these things.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:44 AM
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Little Elephant school babies:
Don't get PTSD, Make PTSD!


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:44 AM
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When they brought in older males who weren't traumatized the murders quickly stopped.

"Murders?" Now that is attributing agency to the elephant. A good lawyer could probably bargain it down to Culpable Rhinocide, though.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:44 AM
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199: Easy. Since predation = survival for the predator, you don't interfere with it. Since it doesn't = survival for, say, domestic cats, you do what you can, consistent with the practical reality that you can't talk to cats and that it's cruel (imho) to keep them inside unless you live someplace with a lot of car traffic.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:46 AM
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Well, for what it is worth, I plan on taking out my daughter's reproductive organs as soon as possible.
Hate me if you want.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:46 AM
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God did create a world with no predators. It is only after the fall (or possibly after the flood) that predation began. This is why creationists spend so much time coming up for explanations of why T-Rexes need those giant teeth to eat fruits. (I wish I were making this up.)

I love how the parenthetical at the end makes it sound like you're the bible-thumper.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:47 AM
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It seems clear from their actions that neither desires these things.

No, it seems clear that they try to avoid pain, in this case by being stuck with needles. No concept of vaccination, no premonition of castration, but a good pain avoidance reflex.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:47 AM
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The animal-on-animal "problem" is one reason I like the solicitude criterion better than rights--animals have a way of life, and I think the bar for interfering with it should be high (not that we're not going to wipe them all off the planet in the end, but we're talking principles now). Reducing things to rights and moral agency speaks to our lack of knowledge of the animal world, and a desire to frame things in a way we can make sense of and respond to, without thinking too hard or changing our basic ways of interacting with the world. Babble babble, off to swim!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:47 AM
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Young male elephants are often solitary or travel in small male groups, so the idea that they are all lacking older male role models or are all from families that were only partially culled is a narrative that's being shaped by human analogy. In musth, solitary bulls are prone to unpredictable and violent behavior that can include attacks on other species (as well as other elephants) whether or not they're properly socialized. Musth is associated with an intense rise in testosterone (not clear whether that causes musth or is simply associated with it).

The rape claim comes from the NY Times, yeah, which referenced a journal article which I gather did not actually use the term rape. What I heard from two game rangers when I was in Kruger National Park (which is not the park mentioned in the NY Times piece, that's Pilanesberg) is that some young males at Pilanesberg have been spotted mounting rhinos (and other elephants) while in musth.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:50 AM
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My favorite question about elephant morality is whether elephants have a moral category that includes elephants, humans, but not other animals. That is to say, there's some ambiguous evidence of elephants burying humans that have been killed by rogue elephants. This burial behavior has otherwise only been seen with other elephants. Does this mean that elephants see enough "elephant-ness" in humans to consider us moral agents?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:50 AM
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214 gets it exactly right as well. Listen to calaogged, doglobsters!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:52 AM
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215: But the behavior did end when the older males were introduced, right? So even if there's some human analogy going on here, there's still some accuracy to the underlying narrative. My recollection was that the park that had the problem with the rhino murders was a park that was populated with elephants transfered when young from another park where they'd done a cull. So that you did know that all the elephants had "traumatic childhoods."


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:53 AM
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They were depraved on account'a they're deprived.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:54 AM
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210: So I should determine whether a predator has had enough to eat for the day in order to decide whether to deter it from killing? There are a number of predator species that kill in excess of their caloric requirements. There are also omnivorous species that could get their calories elsewhere if I disrupted any opportunistic hunting they're doing.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:54 AM
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If it is normal for your parent to go off to the slaughterhouse, is it traumatic?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:55 AM
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So take him to a social verker!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:55 AM
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I don't think I make categorical distinctions at all, except possibly for Republicans and within Republicans, George Bush. I stated here once that given a choice of what to destroy, Ted Bundy or the Mona Lisa, I would not hesitate a moment. In other words I value some inanimate objects over particular human beings, and move on from there. I am not at all tribal, excepts perhaps for family.

So there are no general rules to apply to particular situations, altho I may use them as shortcuts in rhetoric. My world is entirely aesthetic, and I consider myself immoral or amoral. There are general aesthetic preferences like valuing & choosing, establishing heirarchies of values, avoiding contradictions & inconsistencies, and taking responsibility for my values. Reason does not play a large role.

And I do feel a little guilty ugly when I kill ants. No, not ugly, but...I don't know. I am a conscious agent in the world-tragedy.

My name is Fritz and I live in Basel.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:56 AM
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210: Or better yet, to make the analogy with the cat, I could take already slaughtered meat provided by human farmers and scatter it liberally around my yard so as to keep local predator species from needing to kill wild animals, saving the lives of many local small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects which would otherwise perish. The livestock are going to die anyway: I can't prevent that. But I can use their inevitable deaths to make other deaths evitable.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:56 AM
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What makes 223 really on-topic is that Fritz is an elephant.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:58 AM
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215: My understanding is that the behavior didn't end, because young male elephants (or solitary bulls of any age) in musth have long been known to kill or wound other animals (including humans) regardeless of whether they're socialized. The problem in this case was that the rangers at Pilanesberg paid greater attention to attacks on rhinos because that's the main conservation target at Pilanesberg, and since they hadn't seen attacks on rhinos before, they thought that constituted some new kind of trend. But musth-related attacks on other species are pretty much SOP for elephants.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 11:59 AM
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Tim's questions in 220 can become real practical problems. Most breeds of domesticated dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet, although they have digestive problems. This leads some vegetarians (not me) to make their dogs vegetarian as well. Is this ok? Is it mandatory?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:00 PM
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I think that coming at this all as a matter of aesthetics is an interesting way to think about it, and maybe not too far off of Ogged's solicitude concept.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:01 PM
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227: I can't imagine this is worse for the dogs than standard feedlot practice is for cattle. I suppose the cattle are only going to live a few weeks this way.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:02 PM
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There's a further tension with wanting to count animals as some kind of moral agent and the impulse we have that says it's okay for predators to kill and eat prey because that's how Nature designed them. Intentions don't get to count for the utilitarian, so it doesn't matter whether the hawk kills the squirrel for fun or for food.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:04 PM
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223 was me. Lost my cookies, history, etc in some kind of crash.

What is the tragic sense of life anyway? I think the ancients had, the Theraveda(?) Buddhists have it. What does the enlightenment project of a rational morality mean, anyway? I think it mostly a melodrama, a sentimentality, a rationalization.

The Universe does not applaud or admire us for our rational architectures. Chimps looking behind a mirror.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:05 PM
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226: Basically, the elephants get horny and don't care what they mount?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:06 PM
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204-(I wish I were making this up.)

Illustrated at the Creation Museum. (Not my pic, but I did visit the place shortly after it opened. I wish I were making that up.)


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:07 PM
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I can't imagine this is worse for the dogs than standard feedlot practice is for cattle

That's setting the bar pretty low.

Although cows don't spend much time in feedlots, this is offset by the fact that the whole lifespan of a food cow is dramatically compressed. Typically they are taken from their mother at birth and kept in confinement. (I have never actually seen a good explanation for why this is done.) When the calf reaches adulthood it gets a few months of normal outdoor grazing life, and then six to nine months on a feedlot.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:08 PM
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232: Probably not, actually--musth doesn't actually seem to be associated with the actual urge to mate, which typically occurs at a different time of year, in synchronization with females going into heat. It's more mounting-as-dominance, which shows up with some primates too.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:08 PM
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It's more mounting-as-dominance, which shows up with some primates too.

Lets leave the events of UnfoggeDCon out of this.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:10 PM
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The more I think about it, in practice, the way I end up thinking about these questions is really more like Fritz does. The big-ticket philosophical arguments are important, in particular because they underpin the way we build law, set aside rights, and so on. But in everyday life? Today I may feel bad if I squash a bug, tomorrow I might make a game out of squashing all the ants on the sink. Today I might risk my life and my daughter's life to avoid running over a squirrel, tomorrow I might totally enjoy watching a YouTube video of a squirrel being rocketed in a catapult to its likely death. Today I might shoo away a hawk, tomorrow observe it killing a rabbit with fascination and appreciation.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:13 PM
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I don't see much babbling going on in 214. The "rights" frame is ultimately a red herring, a forced fit for talking about our relationship to the non-human world. It can work in a pinch for explaining why, say, humane slaughter is preferable to inhumane, but given that we can't enter into the sort of compact with animals that generates rights & responsibilities*, it's a sort of shorthand at best.

* Though Vicki Hearne argues convincingly that we can and do enter into such things with (some kinds of) domesticated animals.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:14 PM
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234: I didn't mean that either made sense --- I'm just saying that there are probably an insignificant number of vegetarian dogs, but our entire system of agriculture has moved towards things like feeding cattle on biomass they can't naturally digest, and offsetting that with drugs and bacteria.

It just seems to me a far more interesting/important case, is all. I certainly wasn't condoning it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:16 PM
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Bernie Rollin argues that we need to talk about animal "rights" simply because no moral claim gets taken seriously in the modern world unless it is described in terms of rights. Rollin works mostly with ranchers, vets, and other animal professionals, developing more humane practices.

He basically says "look, I need to use the phrase 'animal rights' in order to impress on the people I'm talking to that they need to go beyond the old 'animal welfare' model, which makes no sense on the industrialized farm. I'm not importing the whole enlightenment philosophy of rights, but I need the power of the rhetoric, and my audience doesn't care too much about the enlightenment background anyway."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:21 PM
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I don't tend to like those kinds of arguments much, where experts say, "Look, I know this isn't the right way to talk about this, but the proles don't understand me if I don't talk this way". That's the kind of thing that lets some social scientists say, "Look, you and I know that my study shows that the effect size of the phenomenon I'm looking at is just marginally above statistical significance, but wouldn't it be a better world if people behaved better in the way my study advocates? So can't we just say that eating Velveeta causes arson?"


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:29 PM
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When elephants attack.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:30 PM
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240: Interesting, thanks -- Hearne says somewhat similar things on occasion (or reports on others in the professional animal training world saying such things).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:32 PM
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241: indeed. I find it a near cousin to "well, the crazy extremists are laudable because they make the less-crazy advocates seem moderate."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:34 PM
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I don't know about cats and rights, but playing fetch with a cat is awesome.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:36 PM
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This isn't particularly germane to the debate at hand, but RHC's description of the life of a "food cow" in 234 is a gross mischaracterization of typical contemporary practices, at least as regards beef cattle (which are the only kind fed in feed lots). He may be thinking of veal calves, which are raise in isolation from their mothers because their mothers are generally dairy cows being milked. This is equally true of dairy heifers, which will grow up to be dairy cows themselves, as it is of dairy bulls/steers, which will be slaughtered for veal or for very low quality grades of beef.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:40 PM
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241: The difference with the scientific case is that in ethics part of the job is trying to justify ordinary ethical ways of talking. Ordinary ethical talk and behavior are parts of the phenomena we are trying to save. There is dispute between conservative ethicists who think the job of the ethicist is to simply explain what we already believe, reformers who think that explanation will involve changing and rationalizing our ethics, and revolutionaries (like Singer) who don't care at all about ordinary ethics. Nevertheless, there is enough of a tradition of accommodating common sense to justify moves like Rollin's.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:40 PM
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My experience with calves being separated from their mothers comes from dairy calves (the big part of the ag economy where I used to live) and veal calves. I am pretty sure I have read accounts of such separation in beef cattle, but I don't have a reference right now.

My main point, that the time spend on a feedlot becomes significant when you consider the shortened life of a beef cow, stands.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:44 PM
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OT: Knecht - you will want to check out the video in 242, watch for the guy's shirt about 45 seconds in.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:46 PM
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The woman in that video has terrible pacing and delivery. "They represent everything that's beautiful about the wild, or do they." Delivered with no real pause beyond the ordinary one associated with a comma between the disjuncts, and completely flat.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:51 PM
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248: Agreed about the relative length (symptomatic of the entire system). All I meant originally, and it seems I didn't put it well, is that something may be short term sustainable that is not long term sustainable. Feedlot cattle do not live long enough to develop some diet/nutrition based problems, but your vegetarian dog examples might.

Personally I find nearly the entire cattle industry, like much industrialized agriculture, unacceptable, so I don't participate, mostly. At least where my lazy self-centered ass can find alternatives.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 12:52 PM
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251: I find it incredibly depressing that the two sectors of society that are most central to human survival--food and energy production--are the most fucked up from the perspective of morality and sustainability.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the most important things are the most abused, but I am still depressed.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 1:10 PM
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220: I think these are quibbling questions that are evading the simplicity of the basic point. Again, practically speaking it's silly to require you to ascertain whether X wild predator has eaten well or not, or to survey the garbage cans in your neighborhood to find out if there's enough vegetable matter and loose lids to enable the raccoons not to hunt. The "mind your own business" ethic applies.

Domestic animals, inasmuch as they are pets, *are* our business. Again, it's impractical to follow your cat everywhere, and it's impractical to feed pets a pure vegetarian diet (both in terms of cost and in terms of their health, duh). So the doggie veggie diet is, imho, silly.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 1:14 PM
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252: That one gets me down. I've done some pretty detailed experimenting on low-impact alternatives in my own life ... and concluded that while there is quite a bit possible without terribly jarring consequences adaption is a hurdle I have absolutely no idea how we get around. There is seemingly insurmountable resources being spent in the other direction.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 1:18 PM
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Domestic animals, inasmuch as they are pets, *are* our business.

What about agricultural animals, in your view. It's completely practical to do a much, much better job there but there is little interest and less awareness, as far as I can see.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 1:19 PM
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B, I still don't get why you'd mess with your cat hunting, then. Except if you're concerned about the ecological impact of the cat on the entire territory it wanders, but that's not a case for messing with it if you see it going after a sparrow, it's a case for keeping the cat inside at all times. (Or not having a cat.)


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 1:29 PM
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Another reason B's logic won't work here is that human domination of the planet is so complete that it is impossible to distinguish animals that we we have some kind of social contract with (like pets or food animals) and animals that are "wild." Everything we do is going to affect the compositions of the ecosystems around us.

Right now environmentalists, especially those in wildlife management, promote ecosystems with long food chains by advocating policies like predator reintroduction. If we took seriously the idea that predation is a form of wrongful suffering, we would reverse these policies, and promote ecosystems with a short, broad trophic pyramid (a lot of primary producers and herbivores and only a few predators, perhaps managing large herbivore populations using only hunting licenses.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 1:43 PM
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For completely different reasons, that's pretty much what the US Department of the Interior did with wildlife management for much of the 20th Century: destroy predators not just for the benefit of ranchers and farmers, but because it assumed that the best environmental world, most pleasing to visitors to the national park system, was one with a lot of scenic herbivores and primary producers and virtually no predators.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 2:14 PM
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249: Thanks for the pointer, JP.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:13 PM
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255: They shouldn't be inhumanely kept or killed. We probably should have a lot fewer of them, certainly no more than can be responsibly kept (i.e., no feed lots, a naturalish diet) on the land that's available for them. IF that makes the price of meat go up, fine.

256: I'm not terribly concerned about her ecological impact, as a single cat. Cats in general can be a problem, though. And I think it's fair to try to stop her killing something when I have a chance. I'll catch and release animals that seem unharmed, and will doctor harmed (but still mobile) animals as much as I can. If they're clearly too damaged to live, I will generally let her finish them off.

257: Obviously all animals are impacted by us at this point. Nonetheless, in terms of my own particular moral behavior, it's not that difficult to distinguish between animals for which I am responsible (my pets, the wildlife that comes into my backyard at least inasmuch as not poisoning it, etc.) and animals for which I am not (the hawks that hunt doves over in the barranca).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:20 PM
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258: That is exactly what makes what I am saying such a big heresy in environmental circles. Actually, there are a million reasons not to return to the full blown ploicy of the early 20th century.

baby crying.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:21 PM
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But again, *practically* speaking, both the early 20th century practice and practice now are based on *the best information we have available.* Which is basically the practical limitation. I don't see why the fact that the policy has changed necessarily means that we shouldn't do the best we can to try to leave stuff alone, consistent with our current state of practical knowledge.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:23 PM
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260.3: you could probably chase 'em off with a bb gun.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:26 PM
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If we took seriously the idea that predation is a form of wrongful suffering, we would reverse these policies, and promote ecosystems with a short, broad trophic pyramid (a lot of primary producers and herbivores and only a few predators, perhaps managing large herbivore populations using only hunting licenses.)

Why would that be better? Even ignoring the profound ecological changes that would bring with it, you've still got predation. "Managing" those large herbivore populations is still predation.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:27 PM
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This is so complicated. If we eat all the animals then we don't have to think about it!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:28 PM
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I haven't read most of this thread but I don't really see why the predation of (say) deer by wolves is wrongful suffering anyway. Who are you, Schopenhauer?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:30 PM
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I don't have a dog (or lobster) in this fight, and I haven't read the whole thread, but I think part of what Sifu (Mr. Tweety?) is getting at with the language business has to do not with the epistemic question of how we know that non-humans are in pain, but rather with the non-epistemic question of whether the states that cause their pain-behaviour have the same disvalue as ours.

At least part of the badness of pain for us has to do with its relations to other states, like fear and humiliation, and more generally has to do with the relation of that state to a whole context of meaning. Its being embedded in a richer context that involves consent, for example, can negate the badness of being in pain; this is one of the morals of the sex-club example. Equally, the pain's being embedded in a more impoverished context where the subject of the pain has no concept of a future (no future, no fear) might render the fact of pain less of a bad thing. (Assume for the sake of argument that the pain in itself can be sensibly said to exist, whatever the context.) Now the full panoply of meaningful context clearly requires the capacity to use language. The question then becomes: is the context in which pain occurs, in animals that can't use language, so degenerate as to render the pain morally irrelevant? My feeling: probably not. But others may differ. Sorry to be so verbose; I know this ain't no seminar.


Posted by: Amit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:37 PM
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"... the full panoply..."

As opposed to the much more common partial panoply.


Posted by: Amit | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 8:43 PM
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No one responds to (or gets?) w-lfs-n's philosophy jokes.

(The Four-Fold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Venison?)


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 01- 4-08 2:45 PM
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