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.