• Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact

  • The Argument From Marginal Cases

    July 25th, 2013
    veg
    The argument from marginal cases claims that you can't both think that humans matter morally and that animals don't, because no reasonable set of criteria for moral worth cleanly separates all humans from all animals. For example, perhaps someone says that suffering only matters when it happens to something that has some bundle of capabilities like linguistic ability, compassion, and/or abstract reasoning. If livestock don't have these capabilities, however, then some people such as very young children probably don't either.

    This is a strong argument, and it avoids the noncentral fallacy. Any set of qualities you value are going to vary over people and animals, and if you make a continuum there's not going to be a place you can draw a line that will fall above all animals and below all people. So why do I treat humans as the only entities that count morally?

    If you asked me how many chickens I would be willing to kill to save your life, the answer is effectively "all of them". [1] This pins down two points on the continuum that I'm clear on: you and chickens. While I'm uncertain where along there things start getting up to significant levels, I think it's probably somewhere that includes no or almost no animals but nearly all humans. Making this distinction among humans, however, would be incredibly socially destructive, especially given how unsure I am about where the line should go, and so I think we end up with a much better society if we treat all humans as morally equal. This means I end up saying things like "value all humans equally; don't value animals" when that's not my real distinction, just the closest schelling point.


    [1] Chicken extinction would make life worse for many other people, so I wouldn't actually do that, but not because of the effect on the chickens.

    Comment via: google plus, facebook, lesswrong

    Recent posts on blogs I like:

    Be less scared of overconfidence

    deferring to markets • deferring to experts • deferring to low-information heuristics • why they fail • blindness to outliers • what to do instead

    via benkuhn.net November 30, 2022

    Corncob Dolls

    I went to a farm and at the farm I got to see a corncrib and the corn that had fell out of the corncrib that no one wanted I got to use my fingers to take off the corn kernels and once the cobs were empty I put them in a bag and then once I got back to the…

    via Anna Wise's Blog Posts November 7, 2022

    Light Switch

    When I got my loft bed it was just so annoying every morning to have to get out of bed, climb down the ladder, turn the light on, and climb back up, just so I could see stuff. I decided to make a string for my light switch because I really wanted to be abl…

    via Lily Wise's Blog Posts November 7, 2022

    more     (via openring)


  • Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact