Print Story Equality
By alprazolam (Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 04:57:23 AM EST) not very intense, blah on a friday, degenerate society (all tags)
The following is a quote regarding "Equality" from Micheal Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, also quoting Peter Singer's Animal Liberation.

"The moral idea is that everyone's interest ought to receive equal consideration, regardless of "what they are like or what abilities they have.'"

He then proceeds to outline Singer's argument that being "speciest" is the morally equivalent being racist. Is this something people agree with, or an obvious strawman?

Surely this is not the basis for the "vegetarian movement"?

Do most people think that's what "equality" means?

It reminds me of MNS and the poll regarding human rights. What about "with great rights come great responsibilities"?

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Equality | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden)
I am a speciest by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #1 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 05:14:56 AM EST
I wonder how well Singer strains his shit to recover all the bacteria that get pooped out, it's not right to consign them to  watery death.

What do you think by ni (2.00 / 0) #7 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 06:16:27 AM EST
Singer would say in response to this?

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
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I have no idea, though chordatists by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 06:22:00 AM EST
sounds like it represents the idea a little more accurately.

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I'm not speciest by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #2 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 05:18:55 AM EST
I'll eat human beings if it was legal, honest. Mmm, long pig...

It's the basis for veganism by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #3 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 05:25:12 AM EST
Or, at least, for some of the more radical parts of it.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Not having read the books but I can see a similar by MartiniPhilosopher (4.00 / 2) #4 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 05:40:11 AM EST
argument being used elsewhere in the world, and often in the same vein.

It is an unfortunate thing that this word has become somewhat meaningless in recent times. I think that part of the new lack of meaning is because of the particular use which you cite in the quote. Such a definition is obviously loaded; It is not used so much to clarify an idea or point but instead to obscure it. It is this exact definition of "equality" which I see being used so very prevalently in debate of letting religious dogma being taught in science class: That it does not matter the source of the idea of how people have come into being, but that another has had an idea which is founded upon different principles and therefore stands in equal footing with another. Never mind the sources of the idea or to what end the idea is being used for.

So to answer your question, I believe it is being used as an obvious strawman.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

Bunk by ad hoc (2.00 / 0) #5 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 05:44:00 AM EST
If you take the radical egalitarian view that mankind is just another animal, then look at the other animals: they eat each other all the time.

I've never seen a snake moralize over whether to eat a rat or not.

Cannibalism is another thing. Animals rarely eat their own kind (outside of some mating rituals, then, of course, all bets are off).
The three things that make a diamond also make a waffle.

animal cannibalism by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 07:14:16 AM EST
Yup. But animal cannibalism isn't as uncommon as you think. Animals almost never hunt their own species. But insects always eat their own dead and for many species, the runts of the litter get eaten by either their parents or siblings.

Nature isn't near as fluffy and nice as the people who claim to love it think. This is why every once in a while some idiot gets eaten by a bear.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

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Unfortunately, it's rarely the right person by MohammedNiyalSayeed (4.00 / 1) #18 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 10:00:42 AM EST

that becomes a bear appetizer. Why can't it be the "we should all be nicer to the other animals" people, in order to teach them the "nature isn't every species behaving by your rules, it's you accepting the fact that your rules do not apply to the other animals, and, for that matter, don't really apply to you, unless you apply them to yourself" lesson?

You can build the most elegant fountain in the world, but eventually a winged rat will be using it as a drinking bowl.
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Animal liberation by ni (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 06:08:33 AM EST
is a big book, and that's one poorly chosen line from it.

I'm not really sure where you see the strawman argument here. I mean, the quote isn't an argument to begin with -- I can't see how it can be a fallacious one.

There is no one vegetarian movement, and no one basis for them.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

well I haven't read the book, and I'm no vegetaria by alprazolam (2.00 / 0) #13 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 08:04:17 AM EST

Not by a longshot.  But the argument I seem to be receiving is that eating animal flesh is morally equivalent to eating retards or babies.

Honestly I find the end of The Omnivore's Dilemma a bit disappointing as earlier parts of were at least very interesting and seemed to me at least as being fairly well researched and considered. I can certainly see some fair arguments against eating "meat", namely that animals suffer not only unnecessarily but even the degree of [mistreatment] is enough to make you not want to eat meat. Of course on the other hand there's plenty of "suppliers" who go well out of their way to raise all their animals justly.

But what really got me was that definition of equality. Do people really believe that the cruelest, sickest degenerate is "equal" to the most virtuous and capable? Not that they were born "equal" or with equal rights or whatever, but that their "concerns" are, for lack of better word, "equal"?

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Yes, lots of people by ni (2.00 / 0) #15 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 08:36:19 AM EST
believe that they are morally equal -- that their concerns are of equal moral weight.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
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Equal. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #20 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 10:35:49 AM EST
You've actually hit on a crucial point Singer was trying to make. He grants that the different natural  characteristics of animals (human and otherwise) mean that the rights we afford them will vary species by species. What he underscores is the capacity of animals to suffer and the inequality we grant their suffering. To use your terms, we know animals are concerned about avoiding pain. Left to their own devices, they would not seek out slaughter. They would, like us, do whatever is in their capacity to avoid it. Where they differ from us is in their capacity to avoid it. That's were speciesism comes in. We all grant that (most) animals suffer, we just don't think that their suffering is as important as our own.

The argument about eating babies and the retarded people is easily misunderstood. His point is to show that the common argument that it is okay to kill and eat animals because they lack our capacities has a flaw in it: we don't re-classify humans with diminished capacities as cattle. Our classification is an empathic abstraction, not a calculation based on differing capacities.

This is also the answer to the "animals eat animals" argument. If reciprocity were the key to our notions of equality, then we'd assume it was okay to neglect humans of diminished capacity because that's what they would do on their own. But we don't. We think doing so is inhumane. Why? Not because they have the same capacities as us, but because we grant value to their suffering.

You're trying to conflate Singer's idea of the moral equivalence of suffering with some idea of political/legal equality. Nowhere does Singer argue that cows should have the vote.

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Harriet McBryde Johnson's debate with Singer by johnny (2.00 / 0) #9 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 06:28:25 AM EST
is a great story.  You can read about it in her book Tool Late to Die Young.

The whole book is very good.
Buy my books, dammit!

'vegetarian movement' by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #11 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 07:15:01 AM EST
There are many types, many reasons, and many movements.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Out of context quote. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 2) #12 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 07:55:31 AM EST
In his book, Singer went on to qualify the "ideal" position: "There are obviously important differences between human and other animals, and these differences must give rise to some differences in the rights that each have."

Singer's a utilitarian. When he talks about moral ideals, he is almost always setting them up for revision and qualification. He tends to view moral ideals as important convenient fictions, not road maps for behavior or policy.

In fact, he made explicit that his arguments don't require vegetarianism. He argued vegetarianism was simply the easiest way to not get into the quagmire of trying to figure out how one could kill a creature that suffers in a humane way. He said that, in theory, if painless ways of killing could be devised, then their use would be ethically defensible. However, since we could never be sure that they were painless - the animal could never say because, even if it could communicate, it'll be dead - it is easiest to avoid the issue altogether.

Basically, we've got a straw man Singer set up to show the ideal moral position, then we've taken it out of context, and then we've decided Singer's idea is just an illogical straw man.

Somebody in this here story is trafficking in hay-stuffed humanoids, but I ain't sure it's Singer.

thanks for the info by alprazolam (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 08:23:39 AM EST
good to know that about Singer, I certainly wasn't about to go read the book.  I thought that whole part by Pollan was pretty weak, I'm not sure why he presented it the way he did.

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that part of the book by MillMan (4.00 / 1) #19 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 10:21:57 AM EST
is easily the weakest. Made even worse due to the first third of the book being so spectacular.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

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I'm not sure I agree. by ni (4.00 / 2) #16 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 08:57:47 AM EST
Singer's a utilitarian. When he talks about moral ideals, he is almost always setting them up for revision and qualification. He tends to view moral ideals as important convenient fictions, not road maps for behavior or policy.

First, aside from utilitarianism being fundamentally consequentialist (and therefore subject to revision as a response to the particulars of the situation), I don't see this as characteristic of utilitarianism. I think Singer's writing on meta-ethics shows that he doesn't either.

But as for Singer himself, he really does believe that our moral obligations impose what others would see as extreme requirements on us. Take, for instance, the essay that made him famous: Famine, Affluence and Morality. Singer genuinely believes that people in the western world are morally obligated to give nearly all of their income to charity. I don't see how it's possible to take it as any sort of demonstrative tool or thought experiment: He is very blunt about being very literal.

The rest of your comment I agree with.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

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Cool beans. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #17 Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 09:56:04 AM EST
You know this stuff better than I. I grant you the points.

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Equality | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden)