My philosophy on veganism - I need help

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tinyphilosopher
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My philosophy on veganism - I need help

Post by tinyphilosopher » Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm

Hey everyone,

This is my first post. I'm new to philosophy and veganism so keep that in mind while reading this. Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this, and please let me know if I can clarify anything :)

Here is my philosophy on why we shouldn't kill animals, and I'd like some help in poking holes or addressing the holes that I bring up in this post.

- All Humans have a right to life
- There is no great way to distinguish all humans from animals
Thus, we should grant the right to life to animals as well.

That is essentially the argument. It seems pretty good, at face value. It can easily contend with all kinds of objections like "consciousness", etc... but it has some other issues that I'm unsure how to handle. I have read some philosophical posts on the internet and some people use a very similar argument to what I described above.

Okay, so on to the issues....
People often pose this question "Would you kill an animal to survive, if that was your only source of food and you were starving?" My answer has always been "Yes".
Now, if we flip it and say "Would you kill a human to survive, if that was your only source of food and you were starving?" The answer to this has always been "No"

This feels really inconsistent to me.

Morally, is it okay to kill in order to survive? In some circumstances maybe...
What if someone was born who lived off the death of other humans (humor me). Morally, is it still okay to kill to survive? Or, does that person have a moral duty to starve and thus die?

The thing I'm trying to highlight here is that there starts to seem like we might a moral duty to die if we can't sustain ourselves off things that lack the right to life or aren't sentient or whatever. This really starts to feel too demanding of a moral system to ask of us.

Here's another example, I can't even walk outside without killing an ant. Just by me living or attempting to thrive in this life, I am murdering animals. But, I wouldn't be satisfied if every time I walked outside I squashed and killed a bunch of humans.


It feels like there's some direction I need to go here, but I can't find it.
Generally, humans and animals are not equal. Generally humans are more capable in many ways. But, that is not accounted for in my initial argument and thus we all have equal rights. How can I feel more justified in killing an ant so that I can walk outside than I could be killing a human by walking outside? Is there a path here? Is my initial argument too inclusive somehow and needs altered?

Is there maybe an argument here that this moral philosophy is asking too much of us? I don't know, just throwing out ideas.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:57 pm

tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
- All Humans have a right to life
Are you religious? If not, who says humans "have a right" to live? Perhaps you should read through a couple of our deontology vs. consequentialism threads.
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
There is no great way to distinguish all humans from animals
There is a way to distinguish humans from animals, such as clams and oysters, and that is sentience. However, many of the animals that are killed for food are highly sentient.
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
Thus, we should grant the right to life to animals as well.
It is better to focus on animals not being born. Once they are born there are often many reasons why we should kill them.
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
Now, if we flip it and say "Would you kill a human to survive, if that was your only source of food and you were starving?" The answer to this has always been "No"
I think there are lots of factors to consider before deciding if it is morally right to kill a human or another highly sentient animal.

What is the age, and health, of the person being killed?
What is the future potential of the person being killed? I wouldn't want to kill someone who has the potential of finding a cure for cancer.
Is the person being killed a meat eater or have a negative world impact in any other way?
What is the actor's age and health?
Does the actor have others who are economically or emotionally dependent on him?
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
I can't even walk outside without killing an ant. Just by me living or attempting to thrive in this life, I am murdering animals. But, I wouldn't be satisfied if every time I walked outside I squashed and killed a bunch of humans.

Your focus should be on sentient animals and not simply animals.
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

tinyphilosopher
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Post by tinyphilosopher » Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:51 am

Jebus wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:57 pm
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
- All Humans have a right to life
Are you religious? If not, who says humans "have a right" to live? Perhaps you should read through a couple of our deontology vs. consequentialism threads.
I'm not religious. I say "have a right to live" just as a premise that most people tend to say "yes, that's true" to. Then hopefully the rest falls into place. I would love to read those threads though. I'm new here so is there a way to find those easily? If not, links would be great if you have them available!
Jebus wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:57 pm
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
There is no great way to distinguish all humans from animals
There is a way to distinguish humans from animals, such as clams and oysters, and that is sentience. However, many of the animals that are killed for food are highly sentient.
Your response doesn't really work for my second premise because I'm saying all humans, not some humans. If you agree with premise one then sentience doesn't work for premise 2. This is intended to help people see that they need to exclude some marginal humans or encompass animals.
Anyway, even if you make the claim that sentience is a good differentiator it has to be justified. And even if you do that your argument leads us to vegan+oysters+clams which is totally fine by me!
Jebus wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:57 pm
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
Thus, we should grant the right to life to animals as well.
It is better to focus on animals not being born. Once they are born there are often many reasons why we should kill them.
I don't really understand this. How would this lead to rights for currently alive animals? I'm maybe just misunderstanding what you mean here.
Jebus wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:57 pm
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
I can't even walk outside without killing an ant. Just by me living or attempting to thrive in this life, I am murdering animals. But, I wouldn't be satisfied if every time I walked outside I squashed and killed a bunch of humans.

Your focus should be on sentient animals and not simply animals.
Do you exclude ants as 'sentient' animals? You say to focus on sentient animals, but it still seems like we end up in the same spot just with a few exclusions.

Thanks for taking the time to respond! :)

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Post by Kaz1983 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:48 am

Go read Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape, it's a great book and talks about well-being and morality in general.

Anyways.....
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
Okay, so on to the issues....
People often pose this question "Would you kill an animal to survive, if that was your only source of food and you were starving?" My answer has always been "Yes".
Now, if we flip it and say "Would you kill a human to survive, if that was your only source of food and you were starving?" The answer to this has always been "No"

This feels really inconsistent to me.
I believe that it's okay if you deem it necessary.

See if you need to kill flies because it's affecting your well being, do it if you feel it's necessary..... if you need to kill a cow because you have no access to any food and are hungry.... Do it if it's necessary..... if you need to eat a human because your stranded on top of a mountain with no food, do it if you feel it's necessary.

If it's not necessary, it's an immoral act.

When it comes to killing another human for food, both humans in that scenario can experience the same sort of well-being, unlike all the previous scenarios I gave like:

"If you need to kill a cow because you have no access...." or "you need to kill flies because it's affecting.."

The act of killing is still not moral, regardless if it's necessary or not but unlike people killing animals for food, it's completely understandable.
Morally, is it okay to kill in order to survive?
Yes..

Is it moral? ... depending on who you ask, the answer will vary.... the way I see it's completely understandable, if you have no option to survive, you aren't responsible..

See the difference is humans have moral agency, loin do not but that doesn't change the fact that you did what you felt was in your best interest when it comes to self-preservation.

That action would be ammoral tbh:

Amoral is something lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something - could argue that the rightness and wrogness of the action (killing to survive) is not something you should be concerned about.
The thing I'm trying to highlight here is that there starts to seem like we might a moral duty to die if we can't sustain ourselves off things that lack the right to life or aren't sentient or whatever. This really starts to feel too demanding of a moral system
Just by being alive we are having a very negative impact on the planet anyways, veganism just seeks to minimizes that as much as possible and increase what you get from the damage we create.

It all comes down to well being at the end of the day.

A human has the ability to experience more well-being when it comes to both pain and pleasure for example... way more than say a cow... it just like how a cow has a high experience of both pleasure and pain compared to a small animal like a rat or mouse.

Just think that if your ability to experience well being is far higher than the cows, that means thst the cow should sacrifice it's well-being for you, because you can experience far greater well-being than the cow.

That also means that if your a retard who has not got the ability to experience well-being that is more than a cow.. to stay consistent you have to be willing to sacrifice yourself for the cow in that situation.
Is there maybe an argument here that this moral philosophy is asking too much of us?
It all comes back to the fact that humans can experience a lot higher well-being than animals. I think you will identify more as your model system is based on utilitarianism rather than deontology...

Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics, or the ethics that define the morality of actions, see the greatest happiness principle states that a moral action is one that maximizes well being.....

Here is a video on utilitarianism:

https://youtu.be/-a739VjqdSI

A quiz on whether you are a utilitarian or not

https://qz.com/1196243/test-how-moral-o ... ophy-quiz/
Last edited by Kaz1983 on Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:37 am, edited 5 times in total.

Kaz1983
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Post by Kaz1983 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:28 am

Utilitarianism says Batman is immoral because he doesn't just kill the Joker. Batman knows that the Joker will kill again... the consequences of your actions if you do not kill the Joker, will result in lots of people suffering and many dying.

To put it in a different perspective, it's like saying: buying meat and dairy is never ok because the consequences of doing so will result in profit for the meat industry.

Deontology says about Batman is moral because he never kills the Joker, the action of killing him is always immoral even if the consequences of not killing the Joker result in lots of people suffering and many dying.

To put it in a different perspective, it's like saying: buying meat is ok even if the consequences of doing so result in profit for the meat industry.

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Post by Jebus » Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:53 am

tinyphilosopher wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:51 am
I would love to read those threads though. I'm new here so is there a way to find those easily? If not, links would be great if you have them available!
There is a search function in the upper right corner. Otherwise, you can start by looking through this one. If you don't have time to read through the whole thread, just focus on Brimstonesalad's comments. viewtopic.php?f=7&t=785&hilit=francione
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:51 am
Your response doesn't really work for my second premise because I'm saying all humans, not some humans. If you agree with premise one then sentience doesn't work for premise 2. This is intended to help people see that they need to exclude some marginal humans or encompass animals.
I don't see your premises holding up in a debate. Not everyone agrees that all humans have rights or that humans are similar to animals. Here is how many people react when you suggest that there is no great way to distinguish humans from animals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N51yFypvUyA

Why not instead go with something like this:
1. A human being is an animal that has an interest in increasing pleasure and reducing pain.
2. A cow is another animal that has an interest in increasing pleasure and reducing pain.
3. Why should our treatment of humans be so vastly different than our treatment of cows?

I realize that this would also fail with religious people who don't think humans are animals, but I would use a completely different approach with these people, instead pointing out parts of their scriptures which support the vegan perspective.
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
I don't really understand this. How would this lead to rights for currently alive animals? I'm maybe just misunderstanding what you mean here.
Intelligent vegans are not focusing on saving the lives of cows who have already been born. We realize that they are doomed and even if everyone stopped eating meat tomorrow we would still have to kill 99.999999% of them. We focus on reducing demand for animal products so that fewer animals will have to suffer in the future.
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
Do you exclude ants as 'sentient' animals?
Sentience (and sentient) is not a binary term. Humans are more sentient than cows, who are more sentient than rats, who are more sentient than ants and so on. Although I don't think we should kill ants on purpose, I also don't think they require enough consideration for keeping me from walking outside. Ants don't seem to care much about their own lives. They often sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the group.
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

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Post by Sunflowers » Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:44 pm

Dear Tinyphilosopher,

I too think your opening argument is a good one. I would adjust it slightly so that it says not that all humans have a right to life (for some do not - such as dead humans and, more controversially, those who have freely done atrocious things), but that all subjects of a life have a right to life, other things being equal. After all, we do not have a right to life because we are humans, but irrespective of whether we are (if I found out tomorrow that I am, contrary to appearances, not a human but an alien, I'd still have a right to life).

Anyway, I too think that it would be morally permissible for me to kill and eat an animal if I needed to do so in order to survive. There is a limit to what morality demands of us, and it doesn't normally demand that we lay down our lives (though there are exceptions).

I too would be far more reluctant to kill a human to survive, than kill an animal. But that, I think, is beside the point. For what we're dealing with here are 'permissisions' not 'obligations'. If I need to kill someone in order to survive, then my reason tells me that I 'may' do so. It does not say that I 'must' do so. I am under no obligation to kill anything to survive, I am merely morally permitted to do so.
IF I kill an animal because I needed to in order to survive, then I do no wrong. But likewise, if I refuse to kill a human - even at the cost of my life - I still do nothing wrong.

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Post by tinyphilosopher » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:20 pm

Jebus wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:53 am
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:51 am
Your response doesn't really work for my second premise because I'm saying all humans, not some humans. If you agree with premise one then sentience doesn't work for premise 2. This is intended to help people see that they need to exclude some marginal humans or encompass animals.
I don't see your premises holding up in a debate. Not everyone agrees that all humans have rights or that humans are similar to animals. Here is how many people react when you suggest that there is no great way to distinguish humans from animals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N51yFypvUyA

Why not instead go with something like this:
1. A human being is an animal that has an interest in increasing pleasure and reducing pain.
2. A cow is another animal that has an interest in increasing pleasure and reducing pain.
3. Why should our treatment of humans be so vastly different than our treatment of cows?

I realize that this would also fail with religious people who don't think humans are animals, but I would use a completely different approach with these people, instead pointing out parts of their scriptures which support the vegan perspective.
If someone does not accept premise 1 then I will work the argument from a different angle, similar to how you would use a different approach for someone who is religious. Most people I have encountered will accept the first premise. The man in your video is not willing to engage in a rational or logical debate about the morality of killing/eating animals so I don't think it's relevant to be honest.
Jebus wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:53 am
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
I don't really understand this. How would this lead to rights for currently alive animals? I'm maybe just misunderstanding what you mean here.
Intelligent vegans are not focusing on saving the lives of cows who have already been born. We realize that they are doomed and even if everyone stopped eating meat tomorrow we would still have to kill 99.999999% of them. We focus on reducing demand for animal products so that fewer animals will have to suffer in the future.
I don't understand what you're saying in this quote. The alive animals are the ones who become food. We want to prevent that from being necessary so a large part of that is convincing people that killing the alive animals is wrong.
Jebus wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:53 am
tinyphilosopher wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:16 pm
Do you exclude ants as 'sentient' animals?
Sentience (and sentient) is not a binary term. Humans are more sentient than cows, who are more sentient than rats, who are more sentient than ants and so on. Although I don't think we should kill ants on purpose, I also don't think they require enough consideration for keeping me from walking outside. Ants don't seem to care much about their own lives. They often sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the group.
Okay, so some hierarchy of sentience exists? Since we have the highest level of sentience we are on top.

The thing to point out with ants is that they are killed for our convenience. We could avoid killing them at all, but when I need to go to work or to a movie I end up killing many of them just by walking. I'm not killing for survival, I'm killing so I can thrive in life. At what sentience level is killing for convenience not okay?

Are babies subject to less moral consideration because they're less sentient?
Is potential sentience what you value most?


Thanks for your response, I do appreciate it. I will do some more research on this, using the search functionality you suggested.

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Post by tinyphilosopher » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:31 pm

Hi @Sunflowers!
Sunflowers wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:44 pm
I too think your opening argument is a good one. I would adjust it slightly so that it says not that all humans have a right to life (for some do not - such as dead humans and, more controversially, those who have freely done atrocious things), but that all subjects of a life have a right to life, other things being equal. After all, we do not have a right to life because we are humans, but irrespective of whether we are (if I found out tomorrow that I am, contrary to appearances, not a human but an alien, I'd still have a right to life).
I like this suggestion! In the future I may use that when making this argument :)
Sunflowers wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:44 pm
Anyway, I too think that it would be morally permissible for me to kill and eat an animal if I needed to do so in order to survive. There is a limit to what morality demands of us, and it doesn't normally demand that we lay down our lives (though there are exceptions).
Do you happen to have any links or books that I could look at to better understand the demands of morality? It feels slightly arbitrary to say it can't demand us to lay down our lives, but I am not well versed in this area.
Sunflowers wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:44 pm
I too would be far more reluctant to kill a human to survive, than kill an animal. But that, I think, is beside the point. For what we're dealing with here are 'permissisions' not 'obligations'. If I need to kill someone in order to survive, then my reason tells me that I 'may' do so. It does not say that I 'must' do so. I am under no obligation to kill anything to survive, I am merely morally permitted to do so.
IF I kill an animal because I needed to in order to survive, then I do no wrong. But likewise, if I refuse to kill a human - even at the cost of my life - I still do nothing wrong.
Yes, I do agree that we're talking about 'permissions' here. I think my objection to this line of reasoning is that it seems to permit some things that I was not super satisfied with permitting.
For example:
Someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to kill an innocent person. Am I permitted to do so or is this morally wrong?
Let's say someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to kill a million people. Am I permitted to do that as well?
Let's say someone was born needing to eat a few people (or a thousand, however large if it somehow changes how you feel about it) everyday. Would they be permitted to do so just for survival?

It feels like the morality you are describing would allow me to do just about anything to survive, so long as I have no alternative - besides dying. I'm not arguing this is wrong, but offering some examples of why I was/am hesitant to accept that line of reasoning.

But, let's accept that now. It still does not address our current lives, which are still not justified under the morality as defined. I don't walk outside to survive. I walk outside for sunshine, to work, to go see a movie, for pleasure, and in turn I'm killing things that are subject to moral consideration. This is still left unaddressed at this point, I think.

Let me know your thoughts. I really appreciate your thoughtful response :)

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Post by Sunflowers » Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:57 pm

The first thing I'd say is that, in my view, our most reliable guide to what's right and wrong is normally going to be our intuitions and the intuitions of others, rather than theories. And so as a method of figuring out what's right or wrong, I always recommend trusting intuition and, where intuition breaks down or delivers no clear verdict, employing thought experiments about relevantly similar cases (a method that is not guaranteed to give one the right answer, but is the best approach under the circumstances). What I am opposed to, as a method, is the attempt to formulate principles - rules that tell one what matters, when and where.

It is by intuition that we are primarily aware of moral norms. And we test the credibility of any proposed principle or moral theory by how well it does at respecting our intuitions. So I think we do things the wrong way around if we start deferring to our favourite theory over the deliverances of our intuition (yet that is almost invariably what happens - we have a tendency to follow our favourite theories rather than follow the evidence that the theory was about).
For instance, I do not need a moral theory or some handy set of moral principles to recognise that it is wrong to kill an animal for fun. It is obviously wrong - that is, its wrongness is intuitively clear. And that is extremely good evidence that it is actually wrong.
And it seems to me to be no less clear that if I am starving to death and can only survive if I kill and eat an animal, then intuitively that seems morally permissible - which is very good evidence that this is exactly what it is.
Those who insist that we need principles may think that these intuitions are inconsistent. But really what they mean by this is that such intuitions are inconsistent with their favourite theory.

If someone puts a gun to someone's head and tells them to kill an innocent, then intuitively that person is permitted to do so (and intuitively the number of innocents at stake doesn't matter). And if they did not do so, then intuitively that is very praiseworthy - praiseworthy precisely because it is to have gone beyond the call of duty.
We can think of variations on the scenario about which our intuitions would be different, of course. For instance, I think it would be different if the innocent in question was my partner. I probably ought to sacrifice my life for her (and her for me, if roles were reversed). That doesn't mean I think my partner is more morally important than others - that's clearly false - it just means that my relationship to her makes a difference (in this case, a dramatic difference) to what I'm morally permitted to do.
But, importantly, we don't need a theory about these things - we can just trust our intuitions, for where they're clear and widely corroborated they constitute about the best evidence we could ever have of an act's morality.

Sometimes, however, our intuitions are not clear (or they are clear but conflict with the equally clear intuitions of others). That is to be expected, as all of our faculties have their blind or blurred spots.

When that happens I think it is a mistake to reach for a principle to help reach a judgement. What is best, I think, is to try and imagine an analogous case about which one's intuitions and the intuitions of others are clearer.


Take homosexual sex. People have differing intuitions about its moral permissibility. So clearly we can't rely on intuiitons about it, because they differ (and the fact they differ tells us that our faculty of intuition is simply not reliable about this issue, just as our sight is not reliable in poor lighting conditions and so on).

But we can imagine something a bit like homosexual sex - sneezing in someone else's face, for instance. After all, that's something most of us have no desire to do and it involves an exchange of bodily fluids. Well, what if two people of the same sex really want to sneeze in each other's faces? I suggest that the intuition of most people - including people on both sides of the debate over the moral permissibility of homosexual sex - will agree: there is nothing morally objectionable about it, other things being equal. It is odd, and it may even repulse many, but it is morally permissible for adults to engage in it, and if they're the same sex that's really neither here nor there.

Well, if the case is sufficiently analogous - and I think it is - then it provides us with a basis for inferring that, probably, homosexual sex is morally innocuous. This doens't follow of necessity, but it seems the reasonable conclusion to draw. And it is reasonable no matter what one's intuitions are about homosexual sex itself, for we know that hte conflicting nature of those intuitions discredits them.

Is this way of doing ethics - that is, relying on intuition and intuiton about thought expeirments in difficult cases - arbitrary? I don't perosnally think so. It is open to abuse, certainly. But that's true of principles as well. And I would say it is arbitrary to defer to a principle over intuition.
I supppose to my mind we are not being arbitrary if we are employing the approach that is most likely to give us correct judgements.

Re recommendations - I don't really have any unfotunately. The kind of approach to moral theorising that I am adopting is known as 'moral particularism' and its most prominent defender is a philosopher called Jonathan Dancy.

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