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August 06, 2005



Absolute nonsense. The "line of argumentation" that you're talking about is Benthamite utilitarianism and even a cursory examination of its intellectual history reveals that the cause of equality between human beings has been done far, far more good than harm by people who believed in it.

Abiola Lapite

"The "line of argumentation" that you're talking about is Benthamite utilitarianism"

Which *is* absolute nonsense ...

"the cause of equality between human beings has been done far, far more good than harm by people who believed in it."

But we aren't talking about the cause of equality between *human beings*, are we? Didn't I even write the following?

["men and women, whether they be brown, pink or yellow, are all equals in a profound sense"]

Perhaps you ought to read more carefully before sputtering with rage about what I've written. Animals aren't human beings, and it's deeply insulting both to women and to all those peoples who have been subjected to slavery to compare their struggles with the granting of "rights" to parakeets and llamas.

Julian Elson

Like most people, I'm basically a "do what feels right, and toss in a bit of haphazard moral reasoning when you hit the tricky bits" ethicist. I am not as anti-utilitarian as I used to be, but I still feel like it isn't of much use (nor do I think it really does much harm).

Benthamism/Singerism really has no room for either human or animal rights. It just has room for human and animal welfare. My thinking on the animal welfare front lately has been that a lot people are already morally well-equipped to understand animal welfare issues, without the weirdified Benthamism of Singer or the weirdified Kantianism of Regan (actually, Kant is already weird to start out with, IMHO, so maybe I should just say modified Kantianism). Their morals are already okay, but they are *factually* deluded about various issues ("Animals lead pleasant lives on family farms before a brief, painless slaughter." "Animals are Cartesian automatons that don't have qualia."), or they think that morally animal welfare is an issue, but they do stuff (eat factory farmed meat, etc) that they think is immoral anyway, which is fairly typical akrasia, no different than a spouse who cheats even if she thinks she shouldn't. I rarely find people who say, "I think that factory farming conditions cause immense pain and suffering, and I support it economically, and I think that's fine," and I suspect those who do are bluffing.

In short, I see no need to radically restruction our common-sense moral values in favor of Benthamism, or "painism," or modified Kantianism. We just need to be more aware of the emprical facts and be more concerned about our pre-existing moral feelings.

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