Usyless
This didn't always go particularly well at RT, but it's the end of the semester, I am deprived of the captive audience of my students, and there is no better way to live than in collective contemplation of the True and the Beautiful. So this is a thread for general philosophy discussion. Bring your paradoxes, dilemmas, and befuddlements.

It's a better bet if we talk about stuff that interests y'all, so anybody got anything they're curious about or want to fight over?

And preemptively, Bigwig, it isn't necessary for you to come in and tell everyone how much you don't care.
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Paquito
Usyless wrote:
It's a better bet if we talk about stuff that interests y'all, so anybody got anything they're curious about or want to fight over?


The trolly problem.
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Usyless
Paquito wrote:


The trolly problem.


Solved.
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kgaard
Nicholas gets it.
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Usyless

More seriously, there are actually many many trolley problems, and I think a lot of people misunderstand the role they play in philosophy.

Most of the time, people have been introduced to some version of a trolley problem as a kind of pedagogical instrument to get them to contrast implications of different moral views or to get a grip on their own moral dispositions.

But to philosophers, trolley problems are interesting for different reasons. There are many variations on trolley problems, and it turns out that the pattern of peoples' pretheoretic moral intuitions about them is a bit surprising. What seem like small modifications to the cases get lots of people to switch intuitions from saving one to saving five. For example, people will pull a switch to move the trolley to a track where it will kill one instead of five, but they won't push a fat man off a bridge to stop the trolley from killing five. An interesting question is a) what it is that explains the pattern of peoples' intuitions (it's probably not as obvious as you think) and b) whether this explanation points to something which could plausibly be morally relevant.

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Zuben
Hey Usyless, link to that thing I'm always begging to get linked to, you know; that survey about different philosophical positions and how many pro philosophers adhere to what position on them.
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Zuben
Usyless wrote:

For example, people will pull a switch to move the trolley to a track where it will kill one instead of five, but they won't push a fat man off a bridge to stop the trolley from killing five. An interesting question is a) what it is that explains the pattern of peoples' intuitions (it's probably not as obvious as you think) and b) whether this explanation points to something which could plausibly be morally relevant.



Doesn't it just gesture to the fact that what people think are rational choices are more like impulsive aesthetic ones (rationalized after the fact) and that the visceral physical acts that make up the decision factor into people's moral choices more than the actual results? Because that's what seems obvious to me and you're saying it's not obvious, so I assume you're suggesting it's really something else.
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Sparkle
Usyless wrote:


And preemptively, Bigwig, it isn't necessary for you to come in and tell everyone how much you don't care.


lol
"We think it is more important to be right than it is to appeal to the humanity of people we disagree with." ~Hannah Gadsby
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EJ
Who tied all dem people to two differnt tracks? Questions dumb man.
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wirthling
Who would win in a fistfight between John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant?
"I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything." - Charles Darwin
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Paquito
Usyless wrote:

More seriously, there are actually many many trolley problems, and I think a lot of people misunderstand the role they play in philosophy.

Most of the time, people have been introduced to some version of a trolley problem as a kind of pedagogical instrument to get them to contrast implications of different moral views or to get a grip on their own moral dispositions.

But to philosophers, trolley problems are interesting for different reasons. There are many variations on trolley problems, and it turns out that the pattern of peoples' pretheoretic moral intuitions about them is a bit surprising. What seem like small modifications to the cases get lots of people to switch intuitions from saving one to saving five. For example, people will pull a switch to move the trolley to a track where it will kill one instead of five, but they won't push a fat man off a bridge to stop the trolley from killing five. An interesting question is a) what it is that explains the pattern of peoples' intuitions (it's probably not as obvious as you think) and b) whether this explanation points to something which could plausibly be morally relevant.



Radiolab did an episode about driverless car AI, and what we should be programming these AIs to do when hitting one of two groups of people is inevitable. It dove into how people react to variations of the trolley problem, how their answers change, and how this bears on opinions about AI.

It's been a while since I listened to the episode, but I remember them landing on the notion that the morally correct choice, in all variations of the trolley problem, is the one that results in fewer deaths. That bothered me.
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Usyless
Zuben wrote:
Hey Usyless, link to that thing I'm always begging to get linked to, you know; that survey about different philosophical positions and how many pro philosophers adhere to what position on them.


https://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl
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Usyless
Zuben wrote:


Doesn't it just gesture to the fact that what people think are rational choices are more like impulsive aesthetic ones (rationalized after the fact) and that the visceral physical acts that make up the decision factor into people's moral choices more than the actual results? Because that's what seems obvious to me and you're saying it's not obvious, so I assume you're suggesting it's really something else.


"Physical viscerality" of the act is probably playing a role, but for example, people say it's wrong to press a button that makes a robot take organs from a healthy patient and save five sick patients just like they say it's wrong to do it yourself. So physical viscerality is at best only part of the explanation of the patterns. It's also a bit tricky to characterize what "physical viscerality" means. Is it about directness of causation? Is it about proximity? Is it about touching the person?

Anyway, this paper argues that you're right.
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Caesar
Usyless wrote:
For example, people will pull a switch to move the trolley to a track where it will kill one instead of five, but they won't push a fat man off a bridge to stop the trolley from killing five. An interesting question is a) what it is that explains the pattern of peoples' intuitions (it's probably not as obvious as you think) and b) whether this explanation points to something which could plausibly be morally relevant.

Aren't both of those moves murder?
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Esoteric Allusion
Do you believe that it is both morally wrong to behave in such a manner that people yet to exist are harmed, for example by polluting the planet in such a way that it is uninhabitable 250 years from now, but that it iis not morally wrong to kill a blastocyst because it lacks personal identity and therefore cannot be harmed? If so, do you think those views are in tension with one another?

What if, instead of abortion, the issue was having a child in sub-optimal conditions such as having a child while relatively poor and instead of destroying the planet, we merely left it much worse off?

Are these moral attitudes towards persons that might exist and be harmed in the future inextricably linked? Why or why not?
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Ergill
You listen to Very Bad Wizards, 'less?
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Putu
If a man sharts just a little, and no-one is around, does he really have to change his undergarments?
That's...not what I meant at all.
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Usyless

Esoteric Allusion wrote:
Do you believe that it is both morally wrong to behave in such a manner that people yet to exist are harmed, for example by polluting the planet in such a way that it is uninhabitable 250 years from now, but that it iis not morally wrong to kill a blastocyst because it lacks personal identity and therefore cannot be harmed? If so, do you think those views are in tension with one another?

What if, instead of abortion, the issue was having a child in sub-optimal conditions such as having a child while relatively poor and instead of destroying the planet, we merely left it much worse off?

Are these moral attitudes towards persons that might exist and be harmed in the future inextricably linked? Why or why not?


To your questions, my answer is yes, it is wrong to harm people who are yet to exist, no, it is not wrong to kill blastocysts, and no, there is not a tension (at least not an immediate tension) between these views. But there is a much deeper problem lurking in this area.

Here's a plausible, very generic sort of moral principle I like: In order to do something wrong, you have to do something against which someone has or will have a complaint (related: in order to do something wrong, you have to wrong someone). When we're talking about harm-based complaints, the principle just says "no harm no foul". 

"No harm no foul" lets us explain pretty straightforwardly why not bringing someone into existence (killing the blastocyst, or even simply deciding not to have a child) is not wrong, while hurting people who will exist in the future is wrong. If I choose not to bring someone into existence, then there's nobody to have a complaint against what I do. Nobody is harmed. If I choose to harm future people, those future people do have a complaint against what I did. They are harmed.

Great! Problem solved. Well...

The deeper problem is this: many of our actions, and especially actions that affect the future at a large scale, don't change the well-being of people who will exist no matter what - they change WHO will exist. If we change policy in a way that substantially increases pollution, it is plausible for butterfly-effect type reasons that in 250 years, the people who exist are a completely different set of people than if we don't change policy that way. "No harm no foul" suggests something quite odd about this. Since the people who exist in the polluted future would not have existed at all if we hadn't polluted, we have not harmed them (provided their lives are still worth living, at least). And if we have not harmed them, then they have no obvious complaint against what we did. And this is true of many procreative choices too. If you have a child in suboptimal conditions, you do not harm them, because there was no other way for that very person to exist.

If you're e.g. a classical utilitarian you're going to deny "no harm no foul". But then you really do start to have a tension, since on that view not bringing someone into existence is just as bad as killing them.

This sort of issue is actually one of the areas I am working in right now, and I just taught a course on it. In my view the problem of figuring out how to make decisions when the number and identity of people who exist depends on what you do is one of the two or three most interesting problems in moral philosophy (and philosophy more generally). Pretty much every view on the table (I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to take a stab) says something pretty crazy about some of these cases.

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Usyless
Caesar wrote:

Aren't both of those moves murder?


That's one way to look at it (depends what you mean by murder). Even if it is, though, there's a question about whether one murder is equally bad to the other.
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Usyless
Ergill wrote:
You listen to Very Bad Wizards, 'less?


What I've heard of it is pretty good.
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Digital Geist
Dear Useless,

How are you doing with animal ethics? I try not to think about it because I like meat, so, fuck my life I guess. I just find appeals to suffering limited, and I don’t see a compelling reason to assign the same moral respect to fish as I would a monkey. I should probably give moral weight to delicious pigs, but they are delicious, you see.

Help me ease my conscience... or go vegan I guess.
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Usyless

Digital Geist wrote:
Dear Useless, How are you doing with animal ethics? I try not to think about it because I like meat, so, fuck my life I guess. I just find appeals to suffering limited, and I don’t see a compelling reason to assign the same moral respect to fish as I would a monkey. I should probably give moral weight to delicious pigs, but they are delicious, you see. Help me ease my conscience... or go vegan I guess.


I think the case against factory farming is as strong as the case for just about any claim in ethics, and this has become the dominant view. As an anecdote, after philosophers chose an animal charity for an annual drive, notorious curmudgeon Brian Leiter, sore that people decided to donate to help animals rather than elect Bernie Sanders, ran a poll on his popular professional philosophy blog presumably intending to show that there was a large contingent of philosophers who were not concerned about animal rights but who were being bullied into silence. It did not go the way he expected.

81% of respondents thought that factory farming was either wrong or holocaust-level wrong (this is pretty consistent with my experience of philosophers, as well). It's hard to overstate how significant a consensus this is for philosophers. For reference, 81% is also the percentage of philosophers (see the earlier linked survey) who believe there is an external world. (the comparison isn't perfect - there was no "I have no opinion" response, for instance)

The case against buying factory farmed meat is a little weaker than that but still very strong.
The case against farming meat in "humane" conditions is a little weaker than that.
The case against buying meat raised in "humane" conditions is weaker still.

I have a paper making a fancy and heavily qualified argument that it's okay to buy some factory farmed meat (maybe cows) grounded in a view about the issue I mention in my response to EA. But it's a pretty narrow claim I'm making, and it relies on things I think people outside philosophy shouldn't be confident about (and also some empirical claims people inside philosophy shouldn't be confident about).

What I'm saying is, you are a bad person and you should feel bad.

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Zuben
Digital Geist wrote:
Dear Useless, How are you doing with animal ethics? I try not to think about it because I like meat, so, fuck my life I guess. I just find appeals to suffering limited, and I don’t see a compelling reason to assign the same moral respect to fish as I would a monkey. I should probably give moral weight to delicious pigs, but they are delicious, you see. Help me ease my conscience... or go vegan I guess.


I stopped eating pigs and for the most part I don't eat any meat outside of fish (although once every few months I will take a break and indulge my chicken and beef desires). TBH, first you miss it quite a bit, and then you don't miss it much at all outside of convenience (like I'm hungry now, and there's a hotdog stand, but I won't eat that). Anyway, it wasn't the horrible game changer I thought it would be. Now I'm limiting my dairy and egg intake and eating a lot of vegan substitutes, and again, it's not a big deal. I'm not going to pretend it's the same or, like some vegetarians and vegans, better, but it's not a significant shift after you get used to it.
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Zuben
Dear Usyless,

Am I complicit in sexual slavery because of my porn habit?

Sincerely,

um, Bigwig
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Paquito
Usyless wrote:
In order to do something wrong, you have to do something against which someone has or will have a complaint (related: in order to do something wrong, you have to wrong someone). When we're talking about harm-based complaints, the principle just says "no harm no foul".


You cheat on your spouse, and no one in the world knows about the affair outside of the person you slept with.

Do you believe there's no harm in this case, because your spouse is in the exact same condition they'd be in if you weren't having an affair? Or is a breach of trust, discovered or not, considered harm?
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Usyless
Paquito wrote:


You cheat on your spouse, and no one in the world knows about the affair outside of the person you slept with.

Do you believe there's no harm in this case, because your spouse is in the exact same condition they'd be in if you weren't having an affair? Or is a breach of trust, discovered or not, considered harm?


I think harm is a matter of your life going worse, and I think your life can go worse by losing something important to you even if you are not aware of its loss. So I think you do harm someone by cheating even if they don't find out.

But also, I think not all complaints are harm-based complaints. So even if they weren't harmed, you'd be wronging them by cheating.
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Usyless

Zuben wrote:
Dear Usyless,

Am I complicit in sexual slavery because of my porn habit?

Sincerely,

um, Bigwig


I don't have a strong view about this, but I'm not a huge fan of "complicity". I think it matters if you are contributing to a harm, but insofar as complicity comes apart from that, I'm not sure it has moral significance. And I don't think Bigwig's porn habit makes a significant contribution to sexual slavery.

Plus I feel like his mom has done so much to relieve demand that he gets a pass.

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Caesar
Usyless wrote:


That's one way to look at it (depends what you mean by murder). Even if it is, though, there's a question about whether one murder is equally bad to the other.


If iwere in a position to save the life of another person and the only cost was that I had to sacrifice my own life, I would probably do it -- but that's my own decision. If the cost was me sacrificing someone else, I'd have to say no -- unless that person agreed to die. If not, I would feel that i was committing murder. I'm actively taking the life of a completely innocent person. The fat man is just standing there minding his own business. He's done nothing to deserve to die. If an accident happens that causes people to die, it's a shame, but accidents happen. I'm not going to kill someone to stop one from happening.

"No harm, no foul". I've harmed and fouled a person by killing them (against their will) even if I've done it to save others.
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Zuben
Usyless wrote:



I don't have a strong view about this, but I'm not a huge fan of "complicity". I think it matters if you are contributing to a harm, but insofar as complicity comes apart from that, I'm not sure it has moral significance. And I don't think Bigwig's porn habit makes a significant contribution to sexual slavery.

Plus I feel like his mom has done so much to relieve demand that he gets a pass.



What do you mean by complicity here? I see it, in the context above, as providing revenue to an industry that you know causes suffering to create its product. Like eating meat. Also, signing the bottom "um, Bigwig" was a joke about trying to hide my identity by signing a fake name. 

Also, what about white people who benefit from white privilege and do little or nothing to combat that privilege? I think the term "complicity" covers that form of self-interested inaction pretty well. Does "causing harm" cover knowing that you can flip a switch to save someone's life and not flipping that switch because you can't be assed? Just in terms of phrasing, it doesn't feel like it does. 

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Zuben
Caesar wrote:
If iwere in a position to save the life of another person and the only cost was that I had to sacrifice my own life, I would probably do it -- but that's my own decision. If the cost was me sacrificing someone else, I'd have to say no -- unless that person agreed to die. If not, I would feel that i was committing murder. I'm actively taking the life of a completely innocent person. The fat man is just standing there minding his own business. He's done nothing to deserve to die. If an accident happens that causes people to die, it's a shame, but accidents happen. I'm not going to kill someone to stop one from happening. "No harm, no foul". I've harmed and fouled a person by killing them (against their will) even if I've done it to save others.


So, by this logic, you wouldn't end the life of one person to save the lives of every other person on the entire planet, because murder. 
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wirthling
Zuben wrote:

Also, signing the bottom "um, Bigwig" was a joke about trying to hide my identity by signing a fake name. 


He knew that and was playing along, you dork.
"I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything." - Charles Darwin
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Paquito
Zuben wrote:

So, by this logic, you wouldn't end the life of one person to save the lives of every other person on the entire planet, because murder. 


I'm with Caesar. It's morally wrong to kill an innocent person to save lives, no matter how many. But I'd kill that innocent person, believing that I'm morally culpable for murder. I'd be willing to accept the consequences of that murder, even if that meant getting the death penalty.

But say Caesar's in that position, and doesn't kill that innocent person. He's not morally culpable for the death of everyone else. The person that created that situation is culpable for those deaths.
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Paquito

Paquito wrote:

But say Caesar's in that position, and doesn't kill that innocent person. He's not morally culpable for the death of everyone else. The person that created that situation is culpable for those deaths.


Actually, if someone put Caesar in a situation where he'd have to choose between killing that innocent person, or letting the rest of humanity die, I'd say that person would be culpable for the death of the innocent, even if Caesar was the one that did the killing.

I'd only say Caesar is morally culpable for murder if this situation wasn't created by a person. Like, a meteor is about to hit the Earth, and Caesar has the ability to throw a random person at the meteor to deflect it.

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Digital Geist
Usyless wrote:



I think the case against factory farming is as strong as the case for just about any claim in ethics, and this has become the dominant view. As an anecdote, after philosophers chose an animal charity for an annual drive, notorious curmudgeon Brian Leiter, sore that people decided to donate to help animals rather than elect Bernie Sanders, ran a poll on his popular professional philosophy blog presumably intending to show that there was a large contingent of philosophers who were not concerned about animal rights but who were being bullied into silence. It did not go the way he expected.

81% of respondents thought that factory farming was either wrong or holocaust-level wrong (this is pretty consistent with my experience of philosophers, as well). It's hard to overstate how significant a consensus this is for philosophers. For reference, 81% is also the percentage of philosophers (see the earlier linked survey) who believe there is an external world. (the comparison isn't perfect - there was no "I have no opinion" response, for instance)

The case against buying factory farmed meat is a little weaker than that but still very strong.
The case against farming meat in "humane" conditions is a little weaker than that.
The case against buying meat raised in "humane" conditions is weaker still.

I have a paper making a fancy and heavily qualified argument that it's okay to buy some factory farmed meat (maybe cows) grounded in a view about the issue I mention in my response to EA. But it's a pretty narrow claim I'm making, and it relies on things I think people outside philosophy shouldn't be confident about (and also some empirical claims people inside philosophy shouldn't be confident about).

What I'm saying is, you are a bad person and you should feel bad.



When you are talking about “meat” I’m assuming the source matters. Like, on a moral weight scale, eating cows/pigs is worse than eating chicken, which is worse than say, salmon, which is worse than crab.

I generally buy that attributing moral respect to things that have, or could possibly have, some degree of capacity for “personhood” or an equivalent cognition, is worth considering in this. Maybe that leads down a “babies can also be eaten” path, but I doubt it.

Regardless, I try to avoid buying and contributing to factory farming methods, because I the reasoning against it is compelling enough. I still feel like a bad person for eating bacon, occasionally. I’ll consider those bad feelings my just penance.

Zuben wrote:


I stopped eating pigs and for the most part I don't eat any meat outside of fish (although once every few months I will take a break and indulge my chicken and beef desires). TBH, first you miss it quite a bit, and then you don't miss it much at all outside of convenience (like I'm hungry now, and there's a hotdog stand, but I won't eat that). Anyway, it wasn't the horrible game changer I thought it would be. Now I'm limiting my dairy and egg intake and eating a lot of vegan substitutes, and again, it's not a big deal. I'm not going to pretend it's the same or, like some vegetarians and vegans, better, but it's not a significant shift after you get used to it.


I... may end up going down this path. I eat chicken still, but increasingly eat fish. But I’ve heard pretty much the exact same thing from a few of my now vegetarian friends.

The main barrier I have to going in on this dietary change is mostly cultural. As in, I married into a culture that both heavily featured meat, and especially pig. To compound this, not eating my (extended) in-laws food, for example, would likely be hurtful to them. It would also cause a fair bit of insult at just about any family celebration where a whole pig is the centerpiece and a BFD.

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Zuben
Digital Geist wrote:
When you are talking about “meat” I’m assuming the source matters. Like, on a moral weight scale, eating cows/pigs is worse than eating chicken, which is worse than say, salmon, which is worse than crab. I generally buy that attributing moral respect to things that have, or could possibly have, some degree of capacity for “personhood” or an equivalent cognition, is worth considering in this. Maybe that leads down a “babies can also be eaten” path, but I doubt it. Regardless, I try to avoid buying and contributing to factory farming methods, because I the reasoning against it is compelling enough. I still feel like a bad person for eating bacon, occasionally. I’ll consider those bad feelings my just penance. I... may end up going down this path. I eat chicken still, but increasingly eat fish. But I’ve heard pretty much the exact same thing from a few of my now vegetarian friends. The main barrier I have to going in on this dietary change is mostly cultural. As in, I married into a culture that both heavily featured meat, and especially pig. To compound this, not eating my (extended) in-laws food, for example, would likely be hurtful to them. It would also cause a fair bit of insult at just about any family celebration where a whole pig is the centerpiece and a BFD.


If you still eat meat once in a while with the in-laws, then whatever. You will still have massively reduced your meat consumption, therefore saving animals's lives and significantly reducing your carbon footprint. So if your objection is that you will feel compelled to still eat meat in social situations once in a while, then just start with that. Question: is that really the thing that's stopping you or just an excuse of sorts?
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Zuben
One thing about saving animals' lives by not eating meat is that with the exception of wild caught or hunted animals (that you catch or hunt yourselves) you aren't really saving lives or anything. Basically, animals that get born into the meat industry are killed; it's not like they gather the animals that weren't eaten because I don't eat meat anymore and they go and live in a pasture. But what does happen is that the general demand for meat is reduced and the industry, over time, adjusts by rearing less animals for slaughter. 
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Digital Geist
Zuben wrote:


If you still eat meat once in a while with the in-laws, then whatever. You will still have massively reduced your meat consumption, therefore saving animals's lives and significantly reducing your carbon footprint. So if your objection is that you will feel compelled to still eat meat in social situations once in a while, then just start with that. Question: is that really the thing that's stopping you or just an excuse of sorts?


To a degree, both. I know my frequency of going abroad to visit family will increase over the coming years, and I probably use that in conjunction with the frequency that I am with in-laws as a "would I really be doing anything?" as a justification for not changing my diet. 

Tbh, I mostly eat chicken and fish anyway, and it's rare that I eat pork/beef. I'm privileged that I live in an area where I can choose to buy both of the former from sources that I know aren't factory farmed in the first place. 

I'm mixed on chicken having a level of cognition that I would assign enough moral respect to in order to abstain from completely, rather than simply not support factory farming methods. As for most fish I consume, I'm far less concerned. 

On an entirely practical note, I'm about midway through a body-recomp, and when I try to figure out how to get enough protein without chicken, I essentially end up with consuming a shit ton of whey isolate, which isn't exactly optimal. I'm sure it's possible, but the lazy, selfish part of me says "you don't want to have protein farts all day because your wife will leave and I hope you enjoy sleeping on a box spring made of boxes you lonely asshole."

Zuben wrote:
One thing about saving animals' lives by not eating meat is that with the exception of wild caught or hunted animals (that you catch or hunt yourselves) you aren't really saving lives or anything. Basically, animals that get born into the meat industry are killed; it's not like they gather the animals that weren't eaten because I don't eat meat anymore and they go and live in a pasture. But what does happen is that the general demand for meat is reduced and the industry, over time, adjusts by rearing less animals for slaughter.


Yeah, I more or less accept that premise, which is why I've stopped buying beef and pork. I know, I pat myself on the back every day. 
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Caesar
Zuben wrote:


So, by this logic, you wouldn't end the life of one person to save the lives of every other person on the entire planet, because murder. 

Depends on what that person is doing. For example, if they're about to detonate the device that ends humanity, I'll kill then to stop it. Bit....well other than that type of scenario, your hypothetical is really stupid.
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Ergill
I don't know if I could handle even limited vegetarianism. There's this Peruvian chicken place near where I live. I think the Peruvian part is they punch the chicken in its face until its dead. And it's so good.
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Usyless
If you want to be a better person and eat less meat, I think it's much better to cut chicken than to cut beef. The lives of factory farmed cows are better than the lives of factory farmed chickens, and you get many, many times as much meat from one cow than from one chicken. And I don't think there's any plausible view that says chickens don't matter morally but cows do.
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Paquito
Caesar wrote:
Depends on what that person is doing. For example, if they're about to detonate the device that ends humanity, I'll kill then to stop it. Bit....well other than that type of scenario, your hypothetical is really stupid.


That isn't quite what you were talking about though. Better example: If someone is about to detonate a device that ends humanity, but is willing to destroy the device if you kill an innocent person, do you think it's morally wrong for you to kill that innocent person?
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Zuben
Usyless wrote:
If you want to be a better person and eat less meat, I think it's much better to cut chicken than to cut beef. The lives of factory farmed cows are better than the lives of factory farmed chickens, and you get many, many times as much meat from one cow than from one chicken. And I don't think there's any plausible view that says chickens don't matter morally but cows do.


Aren’t cows more intelligent than chickens and don’t they form mor complicated social bonds than chickens? I’ve never heard of a cows body running around after its brain has been destroyed. Also aren’t their pain centres more complex? Regardless, if you can cut beef but not chicken, it’s still better to at least cut beef.

Lastly I get the impulse to spare mammals because my sympathetic imagination extends to them more easily than it does to fish, birds, reptiles, insects, Osman.
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Ergill
Usyless wrote:
If you want to be a better person and eat less meat, I think it's much better to cut chicken than to cut beef. The lives of factory farmed cows are better than the lives of factory farmed chickens, and you get many, many times as much meat from one cow than from one chicken. And I don't think there's any plausible view that says chickens don't matter morally but cows do.

The owner has assured me that his chickens live free-range before pugilist artisans pummel them to certain death. I have a clear conscience.
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Esoteric Allusion
Beef is vastly more environmentally damaging than chicken. It requires more energy input that leads to pollution per unit of meat. So if your ethics of quasi-vegetarianism is related to environmental concerns, it's better to stick with chicken.

I also think there might be morally relevant cognitive differences between chickens and cows that make cows more worthy of protection.
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Esoteric Allusion
Usyless wrote:

Here's a plausible, very generic sort of moral principle I like: In order to do something wrong, you have to do something against which someone has or will have a complaint (related: in order to do something wrong, you have to wrong someone). When we're talking about harm-based complaints, the principle just says "no harm no foul".



The approach to this question that has always resonated with me is that future-oriented concerns fall within a category of non-moral preferences that have moral significance because of their instrumental value to fulfilling people in the present. We respect the future because the future matters a lot to people and it is morally good to fulfill people and morally bad to thwart fulfillment. 

It's not correct to say that no living person today is harmed by destroying the planet 250 years from now. People really want future generations to do well. It seems deeply important to most people, in fact. This happening is harmful in the sense that it damages what people living right now want out of life. People take action that might be harmful to future generations, but when you examine people's beliefs and drives, at least for most this is really a consequence of them not accurately orienting their actions to their own values. 

This approach does seem to open up a potential case against abortion if it can be demonstrated something similar is going on. 

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Usyless
Esoteric Allusion wrote:


The approach to this question that has always resonated with me is that future-oriented concerns fall within a category of non-moral preferences that have moral significance because of their instrumental value to fulfilling people in the present. We respect the future because the future matters a lot to people and it is morally good to fulfill people and morally bad to thwart fulfillment. 

It's not correct to say that no living person today is harmed by destroying the planet 250 years from now. People really want future generations to do well. It seems deeply important to most people, in fact. This happening is harmful in the sense that it damages what people living right now want out of life. People take action that might be harmful to future generations, but when you examine people's beliefs and drives, at least for most this is really a consequence of them not accurately orienting their actions to their own values. 

This approach does seem to open up a potential case against abortion if it can be demonstrated something similar is going on. 


That does not seem very plausible to me. It means that if people alive right now had sadistic desires towards the future, there would be nothing to be said against doing things to ensure that future generations are tortured forever. Planting a bomb that will blow up a school of children in 50 years is wrong, and it is wrong because of what you would be doing to those children, not because of what you're doing to us. People do care about the future, but grounding our obligations not to harm future generations that way is like saying torturing kids is wrong because it makes their parents upset.

I do think that we have extra reasons to care about the future stemming from existing people's desires to have their children and the human race in general continue and flourish, but these reasons are in addition to reasons stemming from the interests of future people in their own right.
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Zuben
When EA writes under his Usyless account, do you think he changes the lighting to set the mood?
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Paquito
Zuben wrote:
When EA writes under his Usyless account, do you think he changes the lighting to set the mood?


I think it's more of a Tyler Durden alter-ego thing. Usyless is the ego that fucks.
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Esoteric Allusion

Usyless wrote:


That does not seem very plausible to me. It means that if people alive right now had sadistic desires towards the future, there would be nothing to be said against doing things to ensure that future generations are tortured forever.


That is the unpleasant implication of this view, yeah. The counter-argument is that this only seems distasteful because you and everyone you know doesn't hold this set of values. This ends up just being a broader critique of desire consequentialism.

I don't think this position is without fault, but I think the ethics engaging in behavior that might harm persons that do not currently exist is a particularly difficult area. Hence my question. 

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Usyless
Esoteric Allusion wrote:



That is the unpleasant implication of this view, yeah. The counter-argument is that this only seems distasteful because you and everyone you know doesn't hold this set of values. This ends up just being a broader critique of desire consequentialism.

I don't think this position is without fault, but I think the ethics engaging in behavior that might harm persons that do not currently exist is a particularly difficult area. Hence my question. 





Every view has counterintuitive implications, but not all are equally absurd. And the idea that it is okay to make sure that future people (even those who will exist no matter what you do!) will be tortured as long as nobody alive cares is one of the worst. It's far worse, I think, than the 'repugnant conclusion' and the 'non-identity problem', which are the Scylla and Charybdis that views in this area are trying to avoid. And I don't see the reason for it. Why not just take a temporally egalitarian complaints-style view in the spirit of no harm no foul (be desire satisfactionist about complaints if you want)? The limitation to presently existing people doesn't do the view any favors as far as I can tell. I don't see a case where your view has more plausible implications than that one, and I don't see any compelling theoretical reason favoring it either.
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