How we treat other living things

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Pattern-chaser
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Pattern-chaser » August 5th, 2020, 12:44 pm

Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 4:36 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 3rd, 2020, 10:46 am
Yes, I would say so. Moral thinking is a human invention. It could even prove to be uniquely human, we don't know. But we invented morals, so they say whatever we create them to say. But this, of course, is justification by unfounded assertion, and I don't think this 'justification' is anything close to acceptable, morally.
If the several opinions on morality you deliver here are not themselves a matter of "justification by unfounded assertion,"...
Oh, but they are! How could it be otherwise?

Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 4:36 am
...then perhaps it will please you to adumbrate for us the arguments for 1) morality as human invention, 2) morality as a uniquely human invention, and 3) morality as "say[ing] whatever we create [it] to say."
It seems to me that we are reliant here on 'common sense', and on such consensus as exists. Unless we want to make the argument that objective morality is possible (and I certainly don't), nothing more rigorous than this seems to apply....

Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 4:36 am
Moreover, according to another scientific oracle, all living things are engaged in a competition for survival, decided by fitness for survival, which is another way of saying decided by what survives.
Survival of the fittest, while I definitely don't challenge it, is not morality, but merely an empirical observation. The universe - what we often call "Nature" - is not moral or immoral, it just is. Humans are moral. Sometimes.
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Pattern-chaser » August 5th, 2020, 12:45 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 8:23 am
We can just as easily turn many of these sorts of questions around towards humans. What gives anyone the right to hold children in captivity, to force them to go to school, etc.?
Agreed. These questions, and others that are similarly challenging, all apply.
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Pattern-chaser » August 5th, 2020, 12:49 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 5:58 am
The malaria carried by mosquitoes is a living thing - a single celled organism. Why might we consider it acceptable to attack that living thing but not the mosquito?
Because the mosquito is an unwitting carrier, while the disease threatens us directly? Swamps support mosquitoes, but we cannot drain all the swamps without causing untold environmental damage. And then we could consider those who, like me, object to such behaviour. Might we not also target (exterminate) them (i.e. me), to stop them from stopping the rest of us from draining the swamps, to kill the mosquitoes, to rid humanity of the threat of malaria? And so on.
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Pattern-chaser » August 5th, 2020, 12:51 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 5:58 am
Do you regard moral justifications as necessary in order to act, such that, as a general rule, we can't do anything unless there is a moral justification for it?
If we believed that, we could never act at all, since there are no moral justifications.
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Angel Trismegistus » August 5th, 2020, 3:01 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 12:44 pm
Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 4:36 am

If the several opinions on morality you deliver here are not themselves a matter of "justification by unfounded assertion,"...
Oh, but they are! How could it be otherwise?
Fair enough.
Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 12:44 pm
Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 4:36 am
...then perhaps it will please you to adumbrate for us the arguments for 1) morality as human invention, 2) morality as a uniquely human invention, and 3) morality as "say[ing] whatever we create [it] to say."
It seems to me that we are reliant here on 'common sense', and on such consensus as exists. Unless we want to make the argument that objective morality is possible (and I certainly don't), nothing more rigorous than this seems to apply...
A consensus of common sense? If you find that persuasive, so be it.
Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 12:44 pm
Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 4:36 am
Moreover, according to another scientific oracle, all living things are engaged in a competition for survival, decided by fitness for survival, which is another way of saying decided by what survives.
Survival of the fittest, while I definitely don't challenge it, is not morality, but merely an empirical observation. The universe - what we often call "Nature" - is not moral or immoral, it just is. Humans are moral. Sometimes.
Based solely on our exchange of posts, it seems to me that we are bound to talk past each other in a discussion of this matter. You see, I don't think morality is the special province of human being -- I find morality throughout the universe, in everything in it. Human morality is only a special case of morality. Moreover, human morality is, I would argue, objective in principle, originating in the drive of self-preservation, rationalized and acculturated over hundreds of thousands of years of socialization. I distinguish the objective principle of morality from the moral judgments based on that principle -- the moral judgments are subjective, but the principle they flow from is objective and universal. I am prepared to argue my case, but as I say, I wonder if we're not bound to talk past each other in a discussion of this matter, given our differing initial assumptions and no doubt our different conceptions of morality?
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Pattern-chaser » August 6th, 2020, 8:12 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 12:44 pm

It seems to me that we are reliant here on 'common sense', and on such consensus as exists. Unless we want to make the argument that objective morality is possible (and I certainly don't), nothing more rigorous than this seems to apply...
Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 3:01 pm
A consensus of common sense? If you find that persuasive, so be it.
It's not that I find it "persuasive", it's that empirical observation seems to indicate that that is what we have, all we have. So that's what we use.

Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 12:44 pm
Survival of the fittest, while I definitely don't challenge it, is not morality, but merely an empirical observation. The universe - what we often call "Nature" - is not moral or immoral, it just is. Humans are moral. Sometimes.
Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 3:01 pm
Based solely on our exchange of posts, it seems to me that we are bound to talk past each other in a discussion of this matter. You see, I don't think morality is the special province of human being -- I find morality throughout the universe, in everything in it. Human morality is only a special case of morality. Moreover, human morality is, I would argue, objective in principle, originating in the drive of self-preservation, rationalized and acculturated over hundreds of thousands of years of socialization. I distinguish the objective principle of morality from the moral judgments based on that principle -- the moral judgments are subjective, but the principle they flow from is objective and universal. I am prepared to argue my case, but as I say, I wonder if we're not bound to talk past each other in a discussion of this matter, given our differing initial assumptions and no doubt our different conceptions of morality?
I agree. Our conceptions of morality, what we mean by morality, is probably a major cause of our differences. I tend to keep it simple: morality is about right and wrong, not good or bad, and not survival or well-being.

You say that you find morality throughout the universe. This seems to imply that you find it outside of humanity. If so, where?

You also assert that human morality originates "in the drive of self-preservation, rationalized and acculturated over hundreds of thousands of years of socialization". Now that may be so, I suppose, but is it anything more than a feeling, in your case? You feel that we developed concepts of right and wrong to forward self-preservation? Why might that be, do you think? How does a sense of right and wrong support self-preservation?
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Gertie » August 6th, 2020, 10:52 am

PC
Gertie wrote: ↑
August 3rd, 2020, 6:13 pm



Yeah I agree, I think most people would agree that morality is still meaningful, still matters, even if it's a human invention, rather than an independent 'objective fact' about the world. So philosophically, we need to consider what a justifiable foundation might be, and then apply it to the issues we face like this one.
I agree with the first bit, but I wonder if you're evading your own conclusions with the latter? I think, because morality is not 'objective', that there are no "justifiable" foundations, philosophical or otherwise.
It depends if you believe notions of Oughts is meaningful regardless of being human created concepts. I do. The question then is why? And my answer is that it matters whether conscious beings (humans and other species capable of a quality of life) are flourishing or suffering. Where-as a world of dead rocks has no use for morality, it's meaningless in such a world, because rocks don't have interests.

It seems to me that we are reliant here on 'common sense', 'common decency' and on such consensus as exists. Nothing more rigorous than this seems to apply....

That could mean absolutely anything to different people, at different times, and in different places, are you content with that? Or do you have an idea as to what might necessarily constitute common sense and common decency re morality? And what actually makes it moral in your view?


Gertie wrote: ↑
August 3rd, 2020, 6:13 pm
I think morality is basically about wellbeing and flourishing, that this is good, and harm and suffering are bad. And this is applicable to all sentient beings...
But good for one creature is bad for another. By this analysis, morality is a compromise, at best.

Yep. Often can be.
Gertie wrote: ↑
August 3rd, 2020, 6:13 pm
So the 'enslavement' of pets is probably a mixed bag from the pov of those species we're fond of.
You say "probably", but I wonder how we can/could be confident in your assessment? Nagel again.

We're not totally in the dark, we can make reasonable assumptions.
Gertie wrote: ↑
August 3rd, 2020, 6:13 pm
As regards mosquitos, I'm not sure we can say a mosquito has the neurological kit to be capable of a quality of life, but the humans they harm do, so we should protect ourselves as necessary.
But mosquitoes offer us no harm, in and of themselves. They unwittingly carry something that does. So should we target the unwitting carrier, or the disease itself?
The disease if we can, on the basis the mosquito might have something worth calling a quality of life. But a mosquito is probably a borderline case.

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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Pattern-chaser » August 6th, 2020, 1:02 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
I agree with the first bit, but I wonder if you're evading your own conclusions with the latter? I think, because morality is not 'objective', that there are no "justifiable" foundations, philosophical or otherwise.
Gertie wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 10:52 am
It depends if you believe notions of Oughts is meaningful regardless of being human created concepts. I do. The question then is why? And my answer is that it matters whether conscious beings (humans and other species capable of a quality of life) are flourishing or suffering.
I see morality as distinguishing between right and wrong. If you see it otherwise, we're talking across one another. 🙄 I do not see how flourishing or suffering is right or wrong. I must assume you mean something different. 🙄

Pattern-chaser wrote:It seems to me that we are reliant here on 'common sense', 'common decency' and on such consensus as exists. Nothing more rigorous than this seems to apply....
Gertie wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 10:52 am
That could mean absolutely anything to different people, at different times, and in different places, are you content with that?
Content? Maybe not. Accepting? Yes. It seems to me that that's how it is, so I accept it. I might prefer something a little more rigorous, but the truth is that we face many questions about the universe that we can't find a clear and definite answer to. So we guess, and rely on feelings, and all manner of things. We use such tools as we have. Such tools as are appropriate to the particular task we're involved with, that is. 🙂

Gertie wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 10:52 am
Or do you have an idea as to what might necessarily constitute common sense and common decency re morality? And what actually makes it moral in your view?
No. Common sense and decency aren't 'objective' any more than morality is. Morality is about right and wrong, IMO.

Pattern-chaser wrote:
You say "probably", but I wonder how we can/could be confident in your assessment? Nagel again.
Gertie wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 10:52 am
We're not totally in the dark, we can make reasonable assumptions.
We can? 😯 What assumptions do you think are reasonable, as we try to understand what it's like to be a bat (or whatever)?
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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by h_k_s » August 7th, 2020, 1:30 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 10:14 am
I'm interested in the morality of how we humans treat other living things. I'm wondering what are the moral justifications, if any, for our conduct?

I'm not offering anything super-clever here, only a simple description of my own moral perspective, for your scrutiny, and hopefully for your suggestions for improvement.

The most obvious way that we treat other living things is that we eat them. I propose that we ignore this (for the purpose of this discussion about morals); nearly all living things do this to survive, and we humans are no different. This is the way our world works. I see no point in considering its morality.

It's the other ways we treat living things that concern me.

● I have no problem with killing and eating a horse, but what gives me the right to capture and imprison it, and force it to carry me around, with a painful bit of steel in its mouth so that I can hurt it if it does not do my will?

● How is it alright for us to exterminate mosquitoes because they carry a disease that could harm us? Should we not target the disease directly, or just keep away from mosquitoes?

There are lots more examples, but my question reduces to this: what is the moral justification for humans using other living creatures as we see fit? I can see only two:

1. Might means right. I can do this, so I may do this, and I will do it, if I choose.

2. Some Christians believe that God gave humans "dominion over the animals".

I can't see how either of these is a convincing moral justification for us to act as we do. Can you? Or can you offer some other way of justifying our behaviour?
Aristotle tackled this question by concluding that non-human animals possessed no intellect as humans do. In his mind that justified humans exploiting animals.

You can go with that, or you can start over.

By starting over, you must ask, by what criteria would you judge such actions?

Would you judge it by need? By availability? By custom?

For the past 6 years I have been living with a cat. He is a wonderful cat, very affectionate, very amusing, and very helpful. He has caught and trapped a big rat that was living in my hallway closet which I did not know about. The rat was so big that my young cat at the time could not kill it. But there was such a fuss coming from the bathtub in the middle of the night that it woke me, and upon seeing the stand off in the tub between the two of them, I rushed to get my spearfishing spear, and then I impaled it. The rat would not die. So I had to beat it to death with a bar of soap. So my cat has helped me rid my home of pestilence. When I later found the rat's nest I then understood what had been going on.

My cat sleeps on top of my bed at my feet. If he stirs in the night and jumps down it means there is either a mouse or bug in our bedroom or else there is something going on outside. The cat has alerted me to many burglars in the night, whom I have then spotted and chased off with my flashlight and my 45ACP.

So the cat is very useful, as well as affectionate, and amusing, and there is never a dull moment with him around. Cats are ideal pets. He hates going to the veterinarian but these visits will ensure that he lives longer, perhaps 20 years. Wild cats are lucky if they live 2 or 3 years. So the cat is better off with me.

Most animals live longer with humans. This is a great benefit to them. But in return humans exploit them for one reason or another. Such as for horse racing. Or for dairy cattle. Or for wool. Or for goats milk. Or for chicken eggs. There are lots of ways we exploit animals without killing them. At the end of their useful lives we will often slaughter them and use their meat for something else. But they would have died anyway, and most certainly sooner if they were wild. And most likely in the jaws of another animal.

Ergo the fact that animals are destined to die and likely to be eaten by other animals seems to logically excuse us humans for eating them as well. It seems they are destined to die and be eaten.

Do you feel better now?

My own philosophical approach is to argue that animals are better off being exploited by humans.

Aristotle's approach was they were "lesser creatures" and since humans are comparatively "noble" compared to animals therefore whatever humans see fit to do with animals is philosophically ok. This way of thinking was a popular justification for ancient as well as 17th and 18th Century slavery. But Aristotle was a creature of his own culture.

What do you think? That's what I think.

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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by h_k_s » August 7th, 2020, 1:33 am

chewybrian wrote:
August 2nd, 2020, 6:16 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 10:14 am
I'm interested in the morality of how we humans treat other living things. I'm wondering what are the moral justifications, if any, for our conduct?

I'm not offering anything super-clever here, only a simple description of my own moral perspective, for your scrutiny, and hopefully for your suggestions for improvement.

The most obvious way that we treat other living things is that we eat them. I propose that we ignore this (for the purpose of this discussion about morals); nearly all living things do this to survive, and we humans are no different. This is the way our world works. I see no point in considering its morality.

It's the other ways we treat living things that concern me.

● I have no problem with killing and eating a horse, but what gives me the right to capture and imprison it, and force it to carry me around, with a painful bit of steel in its mouth so that I can hurt it if it does not do my will?

● How is it alright for us to exterminate mosquitoes because they carry a disease that could harm us? Should we not target the disease directly, or just keep away from mosquitoes?

There are lots more examples, but my question reduces to this: what is the moral justification for humans using other living creatures as we see fit? I can see only two:

1. Might means right. I can do this, so I may do this, and I will do it, if I choose.

2. Some Christians believe that God gave humans "dominion over the animals".

I can't see how either of these is a convincing moral justification for us to act as we do. Can you? Or can you offer some other way of justifying our behaviour?
I'll just play a bit of devil's advocate. It seems you are implicitly deciding that the animals would be better off if they were not in our care and under our control. But, you haven't really made the case. In the past, dogs stayed with us for mutual benefit, helping to protect us and guard our stuff while living in relative comfort as part of the package. Not all animals come to live with us willingly, but in many cases, you could make a case that their lives are more comfortable than they might be in the wild. These days, at least, most horses get pretty good care, for example. Perhaps you are simply projecting our human ideas of freedom onto the animals. Most of them, once they realize they will get three squares and a comfy bed, will stay with us willingly. (Ever feed a stray cat, a squirrel, a duck, a crow...?) So, this implies that they must be happy with the deal. You have not made the case that life is worse, on the whole, for domesticated animals when compared to those in the wild. If we make their lives better, then we have not imposed any injustice upon them, have we?

This is completely off topic, but I see that your favorite philosopher is Heidegger. I assume you must be aware of his membership in the Nazi party, and the fact that his private memoirs show that he was anti-semitic to the end. Though I have a strong interest in existentialism, I have chosen not to study him for these reasons. I wonder if you have considered him from this perspective, and whether we should wish to learn from such a damaged source, when others are available. What insight do you think you gained from him, and do you think there is any reason to avoid a philosopher based on (at least some of) their ideas being offensive?
Excellent point about dogs, @chewybrian . I always love your insights.

Cats also. They began to associate with humans after the agricultural revolution because our ancestors were storing grain, and this attracted mice and rats, and the cats decided it was ok to put up with humans if you could get your claws on some of those mice and rats!

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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by h_k_s » August 7th, 2020, 1:35 am

Gertie wrote:
August 2nd, 2020, 2:38 pm
PC
● I have no problem with killing and eating a horse, but what gives me the right to capture and imprison it, and force it to carry me around, with a painful bit of steel in its mouth so that I can hurt it if it does not do my will?

● How is it alright for us to exterminate mosquitoes because they carry a disease that could harm us? Should we not target the disease directly, or just keep away from mosquitoes?

There are lots more examples, but my question reduces to this: what is the moral justification for humans using other living creatures as we see fit? I can see only two:

1. Might means right. I can do this, so I may do this, and I will do it, if I choose.

2. Some Christians believe that God gave humans "dominion over the animals".

I can't see how either of these is a convincing moral justification for us to act as we do. Can you? Or can you offer some other way of justifying our behaviour?
If you have no underlying foundation for Oughts to apply to such situations, you can justify it whatever way you want can't you? Likewise societies.
Youre assuming-away the problem.

The problem is to lay that foundation.

Your proposed resolution is to ignore it. Well ignorance is certainly bliss. At least for some.

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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by h_k_s » August 7th, 2020, 1:38 am

Angel Trismegistus wrote:
August 3rd, 2020, 1:02 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 10:14 am
I'm interested in the morality of how we humans treat other living things. I'm wondering what are the moral justifications, if any, for our conduct?

...[M]y question reduces to this: what is the moral justification for humans using other living creatures as we see fit? I can see only two:

1. Might means right. I can do this, so I may do this, and I will do it, if I choose.

2. Some Christians believe that God gave humans "dominion over the animals".

I can't see how either of these is a convincing moral justification for us to act as we do. Can you? Or can you offer some other way of justifying our behaviour?
Humankind's treatment of the fauna and flora of the world is clearly exploitative and egocentric. The thread question, therefore, further reduces to this: What is the moral justification for conduct that is exploitative and egocentric? And the answer that suggests itself is the answer offered by the popular evolutionary narrative of our time -- survival.
In some cases, such as for meat on the table, it is survival yes. Ergo a necessity with no other choice.

But for my cat it is a symbiotic relationship based on mutual benefit, not survival.

I was surviving just fine with that unknown rat living in my hallway closet. But then again if he/she had plague fleas then it could have killed me and then it would have been survival.

But it's not always survival.

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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by h_k_s » August 7th, 2020, 1:41 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
August 4th, 2020, 8:23 am
Two of the more important issues here in my view are these:

(1) We have to be careful when it comes to figuring that we know how other animals think/feel about anything--or even if they're capable of thought (in the case of something like mosquitoes, for example). And if we're going to say that we need to treat other things like moral agents even if they don't really think or feel anything, then why wouldn't we think that we need to treat all inanimate objects as moral agents, too? Moral agency usually hinges on personhood, but it's not at all clear that creatures like mosquitoes have personhood.

(2) We can just as easily turn many of these sorts of questions around towards humans. What gives anyone the right to hold children in captivity, to force them to go to school, etc.? What gives us the right to imprison other humans just in case they murder someone? Why not "target the tendency to do violence directly" or just stay away from those people? The sorts of answers you come up with for those questions could apply just as well to non-human creatures.
Those are all good questions @Terrapin Station . But you are just cluttering the issue by drowning it in verbosity.

Try to stay focused on the animal question for a change.

Just because there are many philosophical questions does not mean that any one of them cannot be addressed and resolved.

So try again to answer, and cut out some of the crap.

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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Gertie » August 7th, 2020, 3:06 am

hks
If you have no underlying foundation for Oughts to apply to such situations, you can justify it whatever way you want can't you? Likewise societies.
Youre assuming-away the problem.

The problem is to lay that foundation.

Your proposed resolution is to ignore it. Well ignorance is certainly bliss. At least for some.
You only needed to read a little further to see I proposed a foundation, grounded in the interests of sentient beings mattering (aka their wellbeing), regardless of whether morality is subjective or objective -
It depends if you believe notions of Oughts is meaningful regardless of being human created concepts. I do. The question then is why? And my answer is that it matters whether conscious beings (humans and other species capable of a quality of life) are flourishing or suffering. Where-as a world of dead rocks has no use for morality, it's meaningless in such a world, because rocks don't have interests.
It's the existence of experiencing Subjects which brings meaning to the notion of actions being right and wrong, because the Subject at the sharp end of our actions has a quality of life, is capable of being happy, healthy, fulfilled, flourishing, or unhappy, in pain, oppressed, etc. This quality of life which consciousness brings into the world gives meaning to notions like harm and kindness, Oughts and Rights, or however you want to go about making moral choices.

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Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Gertie » August 7th, 2020, 3:08 am

PC
Gertie wrote: ↑
Yesterday, 3:52 pm
It depends if you believe notions of Oughts is meaningful regardless of being human created concepts. I do. The question then is why? And my answer is that it matters whether conscious beings (humans and other species capable of a quality of life) are flourishing or suffering.
I see morality as distinguishing between right and wrong. If you see it otherwise, we're talking across one another. 🙄 I do not see how flourishing or suffering is right or wrong.
OK

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