Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
Okay, I just wanted a provocative title :)
Tim Gier, admin of AR Zone and a sophisticated thinker in my view, likes to approach animal rights through pure rationality based in atheism, materialism, and naturalism. I think this is a worthwhile endeavor because it will help create a robust argument for a vegan world.
But, if I've understood Tim correctly, I think he ends at rationality, and this is where I think he is wrong. Ultimately, animal liberation and a vegan world will be achieved through emotion. That is, empathy and compassion for animals and their suffering, and a realization of and empathy for common interests--most importantly freedom--between humans and other animals, will be the driving force behind social change. Maybe Tim is ultimately arriving at this point through his rational approach and I've missed it, but I just want to point out that pure rationality will likely not cut it. Humans will need a belief in something greater, an ideal or some spiritual/religious conception, for a vegan world to be achieved.
Hah! I like your title, Pranav! :)
I don't think that humans, as a general matter are rational. I think that most of us, most of the time, operate on emotions, despite how keen we might be to believe otherwise. I think all animals do the same. So, I think I agree with you, and I think that emotions and empathy are both unfairly overlooked in favour of the mistaken belief that we must be rational in order to solve complex and difficult problems.
We have an upcoming podcast guest who I believe feels quite strongly about that too, so I'm looking forward to discussing this topic with them soon.
Apart from that, it's just fun to say that Tim is wrong! :)
I am currently reading The Ethical Project by Philip Kitcher. He describes "The aim of this book is to pursue this program [i.e. Darwinian naturalistic evolution] in the case of ethics. Ethics emerges as a human phenomenon, permanently unfinished. We, collectively, made it up, and have developed, refined, and distorted it, generation by generation. Ethics should be understood as a project - the ethical project - in which we have been engaged for most of our history as a species" (2011:2). Kitcher calls his view "pragmatic naturalism" and by that he means that human morality isn't based on or derived from anyone or anything supernatural or otherworldly. We invented morality, he says, and our morality has its basis in the pre-ethical altruism of our ancestors. Our ancestors were social animals (as we are still today) and the lived in small groups where their natural altruism sometimes failed "in response to the difficulties their social life" (3). As a result of these failings, rules of conduct were invented in order to make life in the social group more tolerable.
What the hell has this got to do with this forum post?? This: Human morality is not the result of some grand scheme of rational thought, or some social contract behind a veil of ignorance. Human morality is largely the result of simple human drives and emotions - the drive to care for one's offspring, the altruistic impulse to look after one's mother, the need to get along with one's neighbors. Morality is the natural result of the pragmatic demands arising out of life in a community of others. Rational thought isn't the foundation of morality, our affects and drives are. (This is what Nietzsche thought too, and I believe that Patricia Churchland's new book Braintrust backs it up as well.)
It stands to reason then that the way to get someone to change their way of thinking is to get them to feel differently. In other words, I agree with you Pranav and if I've what I've been writing appears to be me saying that people will change simply as a result of them hearing some rational or logical argument, I was wrong.