Post Number:#16 May 6th, 2012, 7:03 am
Scott wrote:I oppose factory farming of animals in the real world, just not as much as I oppose the non-consensual causing of suffering on humans and world human hunger and human poverty in real human society. Thus, the answer to the hypothetical is an obvious yes assuming the word oppose is being used loosely. (Incidentally, 3 is very old in this regard. My two year old son is smarter and more mindful and more communicative by any relevant accounts than any non-human animal and was so before he even turned 2, especially if exclude the smartest most humanely conscious animals like dolphins and maybe primates.)
Okay, if you consider my argument in it's strongest possible form, we can instead imagine a farm practice less horrible than factory farming but still bad. And yes, I agree that 3 is very old, we can cut down that number to 1.5.
Scott wrote:That's a false dichotomy.
It's also not the kind of irrationality that can be thrown away when dealing 'in practice' since it fails to explain how potentially rational people act such as the many people who wanted Mike Vick to go to prison for dog fighting but who would have wanted him to go to prison even longer if he was making human preteens fight rather than dogs.
I'm just saying it opens a huge window for arbitrariness and selfish desires. Since it is we who have to propose how much their suffering weighs, who's really going to come up with a figure that would significantly impact the course of their live?
(This has nothing to do with our discussion, but the people who are against the dog fighting while consuming animal prodcuts from factory farms are incredibly hypocritical.)
Scott wrote:What's the ratio of spiders you would painfully de-limb rather than 1 bunny rabbit? Would you rather have 1 million spiders painfully de-limbed than just 1 bunny rabbit? A billion? A trillion? What if it wasn't spiders but ants?
Maybe 500'000. I'm trying to be low on purpose because I know my intuitions are heavily biased towards the mammal. I don't think spiders are sentient, but I can't with absolute confidence assign them a probability for that lower than 0.1%. And then it also depends on what they would feel, if they feel something at al, how strong their pain can get.
The thing is that I know exactly what to consider, even though it is incredible difficult to do so in some cases. Your view seems to contain more variables, not only do you need to think about the suffering of spiders, you're also thinking about a coefficient by which to multiply it by -- where does that come from?
Wowbagger wrote:Okay, but be carefuly to not mis-imagine the thought experiment. You might be thinking that the demented person suffers less because of the lack of awareness, or suffers less because she can't understand the situation or think about it later on. But that's prohibited ex hypothesi! We're talking about the same amount of suffering, so if the above is indeed the case, and healthy people suffer more for slightly indirect reasons, then the momentary suffering of the demented person would have to be increased to provide equality again. In order to really put your views to the test, imagine that the suffering of the demented person would be slightly worse, when all qualia are considered. Still convinced?
Scott wrote:The rest seems to be semantics i.e. whether we say the demented person or animal suffers less for indirect reasons during each outward unit of torture (e.g. each stab with the needle) or that the demented person suffers the same amount for each outward unit (e.g. each stab) but his suffering counts less. In any case, those 'indirect reasons' which make it so the seemingly same amount of torture (e.g. number of stabs with a needle) causes -- depending on how one wants to work the semantics -- the demented person to either suffer less per needle prick or suffer the same but have each unit of suffering not receive are some of the same indirect reasons that makes me have less consideration for non-human animals. Whether we say it is because I do not care about their suffering as much or because I believe they just do not suffer as much is a matter of semantics to me.
That's interesting, I think it's very important to be clear about the semantics here. You say these indirect reasons are *some* of the same reasons you have less consideration for non persons. I fully agree with that, but it wouldn't lead to less consideration per internal suffering. I've always been talking about internal suffering. It then comes down to an empirical question! I wonder what's left from the reasons why you rate persons' suffering stronger than that of non persons.
Suppose Richard Dawkins is right about the following: "[...]most of us seem to assume, without question, that the capacity to feel pain is positively correlated with mental dexterity - with the ability to reason, think, reflect and so on. My purpose here is to question that assumption."
"[...]Without going into the interesting literature on Animal Suffering (see, for instance, Marian Stamp Dawkins's excellent book of that title, and her forthcoming Rethinking Animals), I can see a Darwinian reason why there might even be be a negative correlation between intellect and susceptibility to pain. I approach this by asking what, in the Darwinian sense, pain is for. It is a warning not to repeat actions that tend to cause bodily harm. Don't stub your toe again, don't tease a snake or sit on a hornet, don't pick up embers however prettily they glow, be careful not to bite your tongue. [...] It is an interesting question, incidentally, why pain has to be so damned painful. Why not equip the brain with the equivalent of a little red flag, painlessly raised to warn, "Don't do that again"? In The Greatest Show on Earth , I suggested that the brain might be torn between conflicting urges and tempted to 'rebel', perhaps hedonistically, against pursuing the best interests of the individual's genetic fitness, in which case it might need to be whipped agonizingly into line. I'll let that pass and return to my primary question for today: would you expect a positive or a negative correlation between mental ability and ability to feel pain? Most people unthinkingly assume a positive correlation, but why?
Isn't it plausible that a clever species such as our own might need less pain, precisely because we are capable of intelligently working out what is good for us, and what damaging events we should avoid? Isn't it plausible that an unintelligent species might need a massive wallop of pain, to drive home a lesson that we can learn with less powerful inducement?
At very least, I conclude that we have no general reason to think that non-human animals feel pain less acutely than we do, and we should in any case give them the benefit of the doubt. Practices such as branding cattle, castration without anaesthetic, and bullfighting should be treated as morally equivalent to doing the same thing to human beings."
Source: http://boingboing.net/2011/06/30/richar ... -on-v.html
Would that be enough to reverse your judgement? Would non human animals then count more than adult humans in terms of suffering? Probably not, so what's left? Would it at least increase the consideration you give to non human animals?
Scott wrote:In these terms even a utilitarian might have a justification for torturing animals for the benefit of humans such as Mike Vick's dog fighting ring, but I'm not a utilitarian and suffering is not all that matters to me.
You'd have to think that dogs have almost no experienced feelings to believe that. That to them, losing a violent fight and bleeding out on the floor feels like me kinda wanting a to eat chicken wings but not being able to do so, or me kinda being bored and wanting to get a kick out of animals fighting. I think Daniel Dennett is someone who might take this as a serious possibility, but for most philosophers, the idea is completely absurd, even sociopathic.
(Also note that even if it were the case that animal sentience is "very low", it would still pay from the utiltiarian perspective to raise awareness against speciesism because the number of animals in the wild is huge. And a low number multiplied by a really huge number is still pretty big.
Scott wrote:Do you value the outward suffering of rabbits infinitely more than spiders? What about ants?
No, as I said, as a (negative) utilitarian I know exactly what to measure. Sure, if I was certain that spiders didn't feel pain and were, in that regard, like plants, then I would value their outward suffering (which then would just be a mechanical description of tearing their limbs off) not at all. But my certainty isn't high enough for spiders to not be sentient at all. It also depends on the spider species btw, they're quite divers, if it's i.e. a jumping spider I might assign it higher probability than if it's some tiny mundane spider. Jumping spiders have displayed some pretty impressive skills in behavioral experiments. Ants are quite sophisticated as well, I once had a theory about eusociality being negatively correlated with awareness (because naked mole rats apparently can't feel pain on their skin), but I discarded that after further research (the pain thing is still true for mole rats, but their eusociality is most likely not the cause), so I don't have much reasons to assign ants a lower probability than spiders. Maybe slightly lower.
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