How we treat other living things

Discuss morality and ethics in this message board.
Featured Article: Philosophical Analysis of Abortion, The Right to Life, and Murder
Wossname
Posts: 429
Joined: January 31st, 2020, 10:41 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Wossname »

Pattern-chaser wrote: August 6th, 2020, 1:02 pm Pattern-chaser » Yesterday, 6:02 pm

We can? What assumptions do you think are reasonable, as we try to understand what it's like to be a bat (or whatever)?

If a thing cannot suffer or flourish and it has no interests to consider then how you treat it raises no moral issues in itself. But if creatures do have interests then how you choose to treat them does raise moral issues. We can ask whether it would it be right or good to increase suffering or to promote flourishing. In general the answer seems to be “it depends.” What it depends on seems a thorny question, and one influenced by cultural and personal attitudes. There are a couple of trends maybe:

One is enlightened self-interest. If we benefit from looking after each other then, other things being equal, it seems to make sense to do so. This might encourage the establishment of some principle of reciprocity. This may not necessarily lead to universal principles. We may see benefit in some areas and not others which may limit or constrain our concern. This is a kind of business model of morality. It lacks some charm, but I suggest that this is often how it is from the national to the personal level. From trade deals (or wars) to gang codes to personal relationships, there is often a cost-benefit analysis; what am I putting in, and what am I getting out? Am I being cheated or exploited? (I do this, this and this, what do you do)? For example, much of the concern about immigrants reflects worries that they will take more than they give. I have heard arguments that suggest that they do, in fact, usually give a great deal. Again, when a horse has reached the end of its working life then, perhaps, I can eat it. And it is reflected in discussion about whether animals are better off under our control. Debate from the perspective of self-interest tends to favour those who have power, (e.g. political, economic, personal) and who see no need for or benefit from compromise (might is right).

A second trend is emotional. We empathise and we care. H_k_s describes a good relationship of mutual self-interest with his/her cat. But I suspect the cat has come to be loved and would be cared for even when old and deaf or unable to hunt. (I may be wrong, I really don’t know for sure). But to the extent that we empathise with, and care for others, then we will correspondingly be concerned with their welfare. I think that by and large this is easier with some animals than others (e.g. it is, perhaps, easier with cats, dogs, horses etc.) which experience indicates may have subjective experiences not too different from our own. It’s harder (not, perhaps, impossible) with fish or spiders (perhaps it’s me) and harder still with viruses. Your point with regard to Nagel is well taken. I think we are forced to rely heavily on our intuition, and this may not be reliable. (What else can we do)? When we choose whose interests to protect first it will often come down to those we care about most.

It may be that ultimately, then, moral decisions are in some ways selfish. They hinge on perceived physical and emotional consequences that we experience following our treatment of others. This reflects cultural and personal influences, but also human ones, rooted in our human capacity for empathy and caring, and when we see this capacity reflected in other animals it ignites a spark of recognition. Ultimately what we deem moral reflects subjective preferences. Telling people they should promote the welfare of those they feel no concern for, and see no benefit from troubling with, will likely be an uphill struggle. I think it may help us to decide how to treat with each other and with others if we understand ourselves, and others, more clearly. And if we are looking to create a foundation for a moral philosophy, one that people will relate to and act upon, then that understanding is a reasonable place to begin.
User avatar
Angel Trismegistus
Posts: 568
Joined: July 25th, 2020, 1:19 pm
Favorite Philosopher: William James
Location: New York City

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Angel Trismegistus »

Pattern-chaser wrote: August 6th, 2020, 8:12 am
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?
Our brief exchange of posts touching on morality has inspired me to start a thread on the subject in which I shall endeavor to answer the fair questions and demurrers in your post and present my argument for objective morality. It would please me if we can continue our discussion there.
Image
User avatar
Angel Trismegistus
Posts: 568
Joined: July 25th, 2020, 1:19 pm
Favorite Philosopher: William James
Location: New York City

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Angel Trismegistus »

h_k_s wrote: August 7th, 2020, 1:38 am
Angel Trismegistus wrote: August 3rd, 2020, 1:02 am
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.
I plan to start a thread on this topic in which I shall argue for objective morality based on survival. I hope you will join me there. (See the post directly above this one.)
Image
User avatar
h_k_s
Posts: 1243
Joined: November 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Aristotle
Location: Rocky Mountains

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by h_k_s »

Angel Trismegistus wrote: August 7th, 2020, 12:31 pm
h_k_s wrote: August 7th, 2020, 1:38 am

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.
I plan to start a thread on this topic in which I shall argue for objective morality based on survival. I hope you will join me there. (See the post directly above this one.)
Sure thing. I always check the new threads and then chime in with my 2 bits. Looking forward to it. Thanks.
User avatar
Thrylix
Posts: 59
Joined: January 11th, 2014, 2:42 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Thrylix »

Pattern-chaser wrote: August 1st, 2020, 10:14 am
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?
It depends on how important or significant you believe the animal in question is. For example, I have a dog who I love and would never hurt, because he's affectionate and intelligent. I couldn't justify hurting him.

Meanwhile, I step on bugs without a second thought all the time, often on purpose. If I'm out jogging and I seen some bustling little anthill, I'll even move over a little so I can plant my running shoe on it and demolish it as I go. I don't even see a need to justify why.
User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 3644
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Sculptor1 »

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?
And those some people do not consider fully human...?

WARNING. This video shows a killing.

George Floyd was clearly in total panic fearing he would be shot or killed by the police - as are many black people in the USA.
Despite this the police get him in the police car, but decide to take him out.

The police dragged him out of the police car with the intention of stepping on his neck to make him unconscious, thus making his fears come true.

Around 20:18 they stand on his neck cutting of his air, and after 10 minutes he is dead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhwxGzY ... 1601207635

For all those that can watch this and still think BLM is a communist plot, maybe you should consider your position? What is it you see when you see a black face? DO you see a human?
popeye1945
Posts: 311
Joined: October 22nd, 2020, 2:22 am
Favorite Philosopher: Alfred North Whitehead
Location: canada

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by popeye1945 »

I believe to behave morally towards other creatures it is necessary to acknowledge their capacity for the range of emotions involving joy and suffering. As a general rule it is wise to ask if ones actions increase suffering in the world or decrease that suffering, to willfully act to increase suffering in the world is by definition evil and immoral. The harsh reality of the world that life lives on life, symbolically the snake consuming its own tail, is something quite impossible to avoid, even the vegetarian lives on life.
Kaz_1983
Posts: 426
Joined: May 26th, 2019, 6:52 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Kaz_1983 »

popeye1945 wrote: November 3rd, 2020, 12:11 am I believe to behave morally towards other creatures it is necessary to acknowledge their capacity for the range of emotions involving joy and suffering. As a general rule it is wise to ask if ones actions increase suffering in the world or decrease that suffering, to willfully act to increase suffering in the world is by definition evil and immoral. The harsh reality of the world that life lives on life, symbolically the snake consuming its own tail, is something quite impossible to avoid, even the vegetarian lives on life.
There are degrees of violence towards other creatures that can range from justified to unjustified. It's quite simple.

For example, building a house you kill lots of ants and probably displace animals from their natural habitat (depending on where you buy your land). Hell driving cars kills certain smaller animals but it's justified to drive cars.

To avoid living in a newly built home and driving a car is not easy to say the least - sure you could give it a go but it's not just as easy as dropping your current job, home, family, friends, neighbours, future plans, not to mention disrupt your children's plans etc etc

I just recognise myself and others who are vegan, as doing a lot less damage when it comes to the killing of animals for animal agriculture and the environment in general compared to somebody who eats animal products.
popeye1945
Posts: 311
Joined: October 22nd, 2020, 2:22 am
Favorite Philosopher: Alfred North Whitehead
Location: canada

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by popeye1945 »

''There are degrees of violence towards other creatures that can range from justified to unjustified. It's quite simple.''



I agree, it is a question of humanity, a cognitive responsibility that other animals are not party to, due to operational instincts.
Kaz_1983
Posts: 426
Joined: May 26th, 2019, 6:52 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Kaz_1983 »

It's quite simple - the way we treat other living things is dictated by what is in our best interests.
popeye1945
Posts: 311
Joined: October 22nd, 2020, 2:22 am
Favorite Philosopher: Alfred North Whitehead
Location: canada

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by popeye1945 »

Kaz_1983 wrote: November 9th, 2020, 8:59 pm It's quite simple - the way we treat other living things is dictated by what is in our best interests.
It has become apparent that our best interests are in developing a spiritual connection to the physical world that for most of us simply does not exist. Humanity has treated the physical world and its living content as commodity. The missing element I feel is in self-control, without which there is no control. Someone here has a title. those whom care win. Care like the concept of self needs be expanded, to believe that our environment is not a part of us is simply folly. With the degradation of the environment comes the degradation of humanity.
User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 3644
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Sculptor1 »

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 thoughtlessly and mercilessly killed a iceberg lettuce today to slake my hunger!!!
Kaz_1983
Posts: 426
Joined: May 26th, 2019, 6:52 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Kaz_1983 »

Unlike animals the iceberg lettuce isn't conscious and aware of you slicing it up into pieces for your sandwich.
User avatar
Pattern-chaser
Posts: 1830
Joined: September 22nd, 2019, 5:17 am
Favorite Philosopher: Cratylus
Location: England

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Pattern-chaser »

Kaz_1983 wrote: November 11th, 2020, 2:49 am Unlike animals the iceberg lettuce isn't conscious and aware of you slicing it up into pieces for your sandwich.
So living creatures, if there are not conscious, deserve no consideration?
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"
Kaz_1983
Posts: 426
Joined: May 26th, 2019, 6:52 am

Re: How we treat other living things

Post by Kaz_1983 »

Pattern-chaser wrote: November 11th, 2020, 8:03 am
Kaz_1983 wrote: November 11th, 2020, 2:49 am Unlike animals the iceberg lettuce isn't conscious and aware of you slicing it up into pieces for your sandwich.
So living creatures, if there are not conscious, deserve no consideration?
Is the animal not conscious because it's dead? Or maybe it's unconscious because the animal is sleeping?
Post Reply

Return to “Ethics and Morality”

Philosophy Books of the Month

The Biblical Clock: The Untold Secrets Linking the Universe and Humanity with God's Plan

The Biblical Clock
by Daniel Friedmann
March 2021

Wilderness Cry: A Scientific and Philosophical Approach to Understanding God and the Universe

Wilderness Cry
by Dr. Hilary L Hunt M.D.
April 2021

Fear Not, Dream Big, & Execute: Tools To Spark Your Dream And Ignite Your Follow-Through

Fear Not, Dream Big, & Execute
by Jeff Meyer
May 2021

Surviving the Business of Healthcare: Knowledge is Power

Surviving the Business of Healthcare
by Barbara Galutia Regis M.S. PA-C
June 2021

Winning the War on Cancer: The Epic Journey Towards a Natural Cure

Winning the War on Cancer
by Sylvie Beljanski
July 2021

Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream

Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream
by Dr Frank L Douglas
August 2021

The Preppers Medical Handbook

The Preppers Medical Handbook
by Dr. William W Forgey M.D.
October 2021

Natural Relief for Anxiety and Stress: A Practical Guide

Natural Relief for Anxiety and Stress
by Dr. Gustavo Kinrys, MD
November 2021

Dream For Peace: An Ambassador Memoir

Dream For Peace
by Dr. Ghoulem Berrah
December 2021