Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Alex Melonas' Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Alex Melonas’ ARZone Live Guest Chat

11 June 2011 at:

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time and

12 June 2011 at:

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time


 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

 

ARZone would like to welcome Alex Melonas as our guest today.

 

Alex became interested in "animal rights" while an undergraduate at the University of Utah, primarily as a result of his belief that he could refute the arguments contained in PETA literature. He was wrong. He became a vegetarian for a number of years before turning vegan.

 

Alex has written essays for Change.org, The Scavenger, his partner’s personal blog That Vegan Girl, and various other vegan-oriented blogs criticizing the premise of “human special-ness.” He also participated in Eric Prescott’s web-series “I’m Vegan.” Alex supposes that the words "abolitionist vegan" describe him, if those words mean “someone who is skeptical that use per se is ethically justified.” But if "abolitionist vegan" means someone who accepts the criticism that "new welfarism," as a practical matter, is useless or worse yet, harmful, to the end of ending animal use, then he respectfully demurs, finding his knowledge in the matter as yet incomplete.

 

Alex did his graduate work at American University in Washington, DC, earning a master's of science in public affairs. He also holds degrees in political science and sociology from the University of Utah. While in DC, Alex worked as legislative fellow in the legislative department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Capital Hill, where he primarily focused on sexual assault, and women's-specific health care needs. He is currently a PhD student in political theory at Temple University.

 

Alex welcomes the opportunity to engage ARZone members today, on a range of topics. Would you please join with me in welcoming Alex to ARZone?

 

Welcome, Alex!

 

Jason Ward:

WELCOME ALEX!!!

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Alex!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks for coming Alex!

 

Will:

Hiya, laddie

 

Sadia:

Mr. Melonas! Hello, Nice to have you here.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Hey Alex!

 

Luna Hughes:

Hi Alex

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Hello alex

 

Sky:

Hello

 

Michelle Dyer:

hi alex

 

Roger Yates:

Welcome to ARZone, Alex.

 

Alex Melonas:

Hi everyone. It is nice to be here.


Carolyn Bailey:

Alex will be responding to his pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage him.  Please refrain from interrupting Alex during his first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address Alex at any time. I’d now like to ask Sharni Buckley to present the first question to Alex; when you’re ready, thanks, Sharni.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Hi Alex, it’s great to have you here. How surprised were you Alex to find that instead of refuting PeTA's literature you became involved in the animal rights movement?

 

Alex Melonas:

Very. What’s interesting about that is this: in my mind, PETA’s central claim (sometimes it’s an all-too-subtle sub-text; sometimes not) is that speciesism isn’t justified. I could not refute that, but I didn’t accept it either, given what follows. So, because I believed myself to be a morally curious person (hence the act of approaching the PETA volunteer, taking the literature, and reading it), but not quite bold enough – although bold might be the wrong word – maybe morally honest enough, I kind of stepped up to the line, but I wouldn’t step over it. That is, I went vegetarian for rather conservative reasons. Those reasons I think are quite common: basically, humans are “special” (whatever that means; fill-in the blank), which means (somehow, by something some people call “logic”) we are justified in exploiting animals, but, because of that “special-ness,” how we currently exploit animals is just too unbecoming to take part in.  All the while, I actively criticized veganism in an effort to justify speciesism. What’s funny is I did this to myself; nobody else seemed to care much.  This internal battle went on for a few years until I was finally, pointedly, called-out for my bad arguments. So I suppose what was so very surprising about moving from a wannabe critic of “animal rights” to an active proponent is that a rather simple piece of literature, with a clear argument and some accompanying graphic photos instantly instigated an internal tumult that I was completely unprepared for. I guess that’s the burden of having what Rousseau called “moral liberty,” or rather, that’s the burden of reason.  As Singer puts it: reason is like an escalator: once you get on, you can’t get off until it reaches the top. And sometimes “the top” of the reasoning process is pretty inconvenient, troubling even.   

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks, Alex. May I ask a follow-up?

 

Alex Melonas:

Please

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks!  Is it fair to say that advocates for animals should not be too quick too judge the efforts and tactics of groups like PeTA – I mean, since what they are doing worked in your case, it probably works in lots of other cases too.

 

Alex Melonas:

I often make that argument. I think vegan leafleting is key, and PETA does it well. In fact, I’m of the opinion that most people can trace the genesis of their interest in “the animal issue” back to PETA in some way, e.g., undercover videos.  (Let me add: in the US at least.)

 

Sharni Buckley:

I guess when an organisation is that rich, they can do pretty much anything as far as literature goes.

 

Alex Melonas:

Wealth, & some dedicated volunteers.

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks, Alex!

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Barabara DeGrande... Barb...

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks Roger.

Alex, you have spent a good deal of time countering anti-veggan sentiment on article comments and forum threads. How do you determine the best use of your time to effect change towards animal beings, and do you have any advice for those of us who are struggling to parse out our limited time between online and in the streets advocacy?

vegan

 

Alex Melonas:

Here’s the truth: I am very skeptical that online advocacy in the form of challenging anti-vegan arguments on blogs is in any way useful towards realizing the end(s) we seek. I say this because of the nature of a comment thread. A) It is inherently autonomous, which means face-to-face contact is lost (that is, in my opinion, a tremendous burden when trying to have a proper conversation). This loss means that people can take positions, make assertions, and so on, in tremendously destructive ways because there is simply no way to hold them accountable. Moreover, B) my suspicion is that, because of the time-delay in responses coupled with the autonomy, there really isn’t an incentive to respond in a rational and logical way as the conversation progresses – the interlocutors, I suspect, (mostly) don’t even read the comments. Finally, C) because of this literal distance, and all the problems associated with it, even for those who are honestly engaged, the lack of human contact (face-to-face interaction, that is) ultimately means that there’s a wall built in upfront.  We are social animals; in the face of a peer pushing, engaging, triggering emotional responses, etc. we are more likely, I’ve found at least, to internalize a message, while the act of reading a message in front of a computer screen sent to me from some anonymous source called “Alex Melonas:56687” or “ilovemeat” doesn’t carry with it that same pressure. Perhaps some bystanders are reading the thread in a serious way, but, especially if the thread is of any significant length, and if the comments are lengthy, I’m very skeptical of that. So why do I do it (and do it so often): because I am, I suppose, just forgetful, or probably, more accurately, I consciously ignore these problems because the anti-vegan sentiments are such that I simply must refute them, i.e., I am combative. Perhaps that’s why I’ve chosen academia. In the end, then, I would strongly suggest staying off of comment threads – let the anti-vegan sentiments stand – if your goal in not doing so is to persuade those anti-vegans to go vegan. Take those same thoughts and instead say them to someone’s face.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Alex, next up is the incredible Carolyn Bailey, go ahead when you're ready Ms. Bailey....

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Hi Alex! There has recently been quite a lot of attention brought to the Australian live export industry due to an expose from an Australian current affairs programme highlighting the appalling treatment Australian cows have been receiving in Indonesia prior to, and during their slaughter. Most advocates, including Animals Australia, who broke this story, have been calling for an end to live export, preferring instead to slaughter these cows in Australia, and send their bodies to Indonesia, frozen. Indonesia has indicated they would source live cows elsewhere, likely Mexico, if Australia were to stop live exporting.

 

How do you feel advocates should approach this topic? Would banning live export of cows, and killing them on our own soil be something in accordance with animal rights philosophy? How does this single issue campaign necessarily help other animals as a general matter?

 

Alex Melonas:

I'm always skeptical of deceptively simple questions, but on this issue...Perhaps as an empirical matter, because of the live transport, there is more suffering involved, but the efforts of "Animals Australia" to work against that by slaughtering cows in Australia is completely antithetical to the end of helping animals as a general matter.

 

It is the primary problem with poorly thought-out single-issue campaigns, to wit, it simply normalizes everyday exploitation by making it THE standard against which we judge the non-everyday stuff like live export. 

 

We must proceed from the premise that use per se is wrong; not this or that use. That's important for two reasons. One, if abolition is the goal, then clearly we can't (further) normalize everyday exploitation by setting it up (by our comparison with the non-everyday stuff) as the normative standard; moreover, it isn’t clear how even a consequentialist can fit the (square peg) commodification of animals into a (round hole) non-speciesist position.

 

And two, it just seems silly on the face of it to largely base your defense of exploitation on the place (“we’ll just kill him here, and then that’s okay”) that the exploited victim meets his/her most violent end. I think Francione’s right: you don’t have to be a vegan to recognize the inconsistency in, on the one hand, rationalizing away suffering and death for “taste,” while, on the other hand, making a federal case of avoiding the extra (small bit, I imagine) of suffering involved in live export.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Alex! May I ask a quick follow-up, please?

 

Alex Melonas:

Please

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Alex. Do you believe it’s possible that a campaign to end live exports may be organised in such a way so as to make it vegan education, whilst those involved refuse to use the word vegan?

 

Alex Melonas:

Again, that’s deceptively simple. Using the word “vegan” is crucial. (I’ll discuss this more below.)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I agree with you, thanks again, Alex!

Roger Yates would like to ask the next question. When you're ready, Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

Hi Alex. I believe that you describe your philosophical position on human-nonhuman relation as involving “consequentialist intuitions.” You also state that, “there must be some deontological constraints built into any ethical system but only for consequentialist reasons.” Can you please expand on what you mean? 

 

Alex Melonas:

In an interview, Karen Davis (United Poultry Concerns) writes about Singer’s position: “Regarding all other species including the great apes as far below humans in cognitive capability, Singer subscribes reflexively to the notion of a cerebral hierarchy among the world’s animal inhabitants.Thus he writes in Animal Liberation that of all the animals currently eaten in the Western world, ‘the pig is without doubt the most intelligent’ What Davis highlights here is liberalisms (a tradition Singer finds himself in) blind-spot to “power.” As Davis argues, we simply cannot assess “intelligence” along a single criterion, i.e., there are many different “intelligences.” Singer presumes that we can objectively make these comparisons; indeed, consequentalism builds this assumption into its system. However, as Davis writes, citing Malcolm Gladwell, “Rankings are not benign. Who comes out on top, in any ranking system, is really about who is doing the ranking.” I think we have to acknowledge partiality, those lapses in neutrality. It seems to me, then, that we need to build-in deontological constrains that prevent us from harming significant interests because of this bias. We might call this a form (or an application of) the “precautionary principle.”

 

One such constraint would be a prohibition on painless killing, to wit, despite my misgivings about the assertion that death is a harm (although I think I’ve changed my mind recently), it seems to me that that interest is so potentially significant vis-à-vis the consequences to the person killed that we shouldn’t allow consequentalist considerations into the discussion. Singer believes he’s being objective in his treatment of this issue (when he distinguishes between persons and non-persons), but, like his problematic treatment of “intelligence,” I’m skeptical. But it is important to notice that I am not founding the “right” against being killed on anything other than the (or what I believe to be the likely) consequences. In fact, it isn’t clear to me how theorists who assert that “rights” are founded on interests do so without back-dooring consequentalist insights. How do we decide which interests to protect with a “right”? The answer is: the one’s that, if they weren’t protected, would result in bad consequences – we aren’t going, e.g., to put a “fence” (called a “right”) around my, evolutionarily speaking, interest in defending my racial in-group. (Although one version of Francione’s argument escapes this problem.)

 

Roger Yates:

Thankyou for that thorough and thoughtful answer I agree with you on “Singer’s pig,” as it were – and I think Francione tried to get at that when he talks about observing “his” dogs and their interactions with one another and the world in general.

 

It seems that human animals have a problem in thinking that things and experiences valuable to them (or all humans generalised) are the only things and experiences that matter. On the “who does the ranking,” I agree that there is an issue of bias here. Sociologists often talk about power relations and one element of that is the gaining of power in terms of imposing definitions and criteria I think that may result in more than “lapses in neutrality.” And be expressed in systematic instrumental acts I think your point about the foundation of rights being partly based on consequences is quite a challenge to the rights-based position – or at least the latter must factor in the former, which I think is your claim. However, if we see rights as social constructs (as I do), then your racial claim would be subject to social discourse and assessment and you would need to justify the claim to create the right. Can you say more about the Francione argument you refer to and put it into context for the sake of the transcript!!??

 

Alex Melonas:

Sure...

 

First though, my general claim re: “rights” is that they cannot be foundation-less. I.e., you need a normative standard on which to ground them that is independent of the “rights”-claim itself. This is (my) formal version of Francione’s argument. It proceeds in three stages. In the first stage of the argument, we show that animals are "persons," which means they have some kind of intrinsic value (so that's the first moral binary b/n "persons" and "things"), i.e., they have some kind of basic entitlement granted to, say, you and I, an entitlement that human slaves, for instance, lacked. And from here, we see that in the second stage of the argument animals are excluded from the range of potential property, because property (however you define it), by definition, lacks that basic entitlement – property has instrumental value only. And then we can move to Francione's third stage, which is the moral wrong of institutionalization, i.e.,

a) since animals are "persons" and have some kind of basic entitlement because they aren't "things,"

b) which means they are excluded from the range of potential property b/s if I am "property" that means you have an entitlement to control me in some way for your own use, which means that I lack that basic entitlement attributed to "persons" in the first stage,

c) which means the institutionalization of my "property" status is morally unjustifiable because it is predicated on me being a "thing" in the first stage of the argument. This grounds the "right" against use per se.

 

Roger Yates:

Many thanks, Alex.

Next up is Brooke Cameron - Brooke.....

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Roger. Hi, Alex!

You commented on a blog post, "Vegans React: Arson in the Name of Animals"  [http://letthemeatmeat.com/post/863040364/vegans-react-arson-in-the-...], saying: "I for one FULLY support the use of “violence”, be that property destruction or physical aggression, in principle, to stop a moral wrong" in July 2010. Do you still support the use of arson, and if so, how do you defend the intentional killing of innocent lives by this action (birds, mice, rats, insects)?

 

Alex Melonas:

I don’t believe I specified arson; that blurb was taken from another comment thread in which the topic of property destruction generally was being considered (you might be reasonably interpreting “property destruction” broadly though). But let me contextualize a bit.

 

My argument was in response to those criticizing the use of violence for “animal rights” ends. I argued that I suspect that most people will sometimes agree that the use of “violence” as a response to what they believe is a grave injustice is justified. The point, then, is that the use of “violence,” for most people, including the critics I was challenging, falls into two moral categories: one is justifiable (see anti-colonial violence, e.g., or Nazi resistance in pre-war Germany as often cited examples) and the other is unjustified (for these critics, animal liberation efforts). Therefore, I concluded, basing the challenge to the use of “violence” on the grounds that IT IS “violence” doesn’t respond to my challenge that most would probably agree with the use of “violence”...just sometimes. In other words, these kinds of challenges beg the relevant moral question. But as I said: in principle, I agree that the use of “violence” is sometimes justified.

 

I’ve come to that conclusion for consequentialist reasons, although, take arson for instance, the principle (or doctrine) of “double-effect” might justify the harm caused to the innocent. War and maybe self-defense could not be justified unless we accepted this principle. I would also suggest that “violence” is justified by the internal logic of “rights,” to wit, having a “right” seems to imply an additional “right” to defend that “right” when it is being infringed. I think the case of bodily integrity is a prime example. Holding to the principle of non-violence seems to put too much emphasis on the character of those pursuing a course of violence.

 

Perhaps non-violent resistance worked for Gandhi against the already largely crippled British Empire but I’m certain that Hitler would have simply stomped Gandhi into the ground. And the current war against nonhuman animals falls into the latter category. I think, on this point, Steven Best is right. To borrow from Audre Lorde: “the masters tools will never dismantle the masters house.” 

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks Alex. Could I ask a follow-up, please?

 

Alex Melonas:

Please

 

Brooke Cameron:

In my opinion, whether violence is justified, depends greatly on the extent to which nonviolent alternatives have been explored, I don’t think we’ve explored these alternatives nearly enough. Do you think this is true, considering that we’re trying to change thinking which has dominated our culture for thousands of years?

 

Alex Melonas:

Good question. On my reading, most non-consequentialist defenses of violence hold, as a necessary condition, exhausting non-violent alternatives (e.g. Regan). My position is consequentialist, which means, that my defense of “violence,” in practice, turns on the costs and benefits. But, in principle, nothing is ruled-out a priori (although my argument about deontological constraints complicates this) But I take your point re: the dominant (violent) paradigm (I take this to be Francione’s, too). I’m just suspicious of the argument because, in the final analysis, the principle of non-violence seems to be the claim that one is willing to stand by while another suffers when that suffering could be stopped/mitigated/etc. And it seems to me that that violates an obligation we have to stop preventable suffering and death when we are able to do so. 

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Alex!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Alex! Tim Gier would like to ask you a question next, thanks, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

In your essay “Is Killing Painlessly Okay?”, published on Aug. 29, 2009, you wrote about the question about who, if anyone, has a right to not be killed.You considered the positions of Tom Regan, Peter Singer and Gary Francione. You write that “Regan argues that because the potential life experiences for nonhuman animals are qualitatively not-as-good as those for human animals, the death of the latter is objectively worse.” However, Regan (in The Case For Animal Rights)says “Now, the harm that death is, is a function of the opportunities for satisfaction it forecloses” and from that he asserts that death forecloses opportunities for satisfaction for humans in a way that would harm them more than death would harm, his example, a dog. It seems to me that Regan could be talking about either the quality of the opportunities for satisfaction, as you suggest, or, he could be talking about the number of opportunities for satisfaction, which is a different thing. What do you think?

 

Alex Melonas:

If Regan’s argument is essentially the empirical matter, viz. how many different opportunities are open to me as compared to, say, the raccoon living in a tree behind my house, then that seems quite weak. It’s plausible to argue that I have, empirically, many more opportunities for satisfaction open to me than someone living in impoverished north Philadelphia, but it isn’t clear to me how it then follows that death, because of that empirical matter, is a more significant harm to me than the north Philadelphian. (In fact, I’m not even sure how to make such an empirical judgment.) It seems inevitable that I would have to begin building in evaluations about the quality of those opportunities. Regan suggests this when he brings in the issue of "sophistication" and "complexity" of experiences. 

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks, this follows-up on that question: In an interview he gave to Claudette Vaughan (originally published in Vegan Voice in 2001) Regan said: “The basis I use views the harm of death as variable. Everyone who dies loses everything in terms of the life they had before them, because everybody loses every way of relating to and being in the world. But some individuals who die lose more than others. For example, the young child loses more than the comatose or senile person. I believe the same would be true if we considered the deaths of a profoundly retarded child and a bright, healthy dog. In death, the latter loses more than the former. Of course some people might offer a different appraisal and use a different general principle. This is to be expected.” Does this later statement of Regan’s change your appraisal of his position.

 

Alex Melonas:
No. It isn’t clear to me how the dog loses more, objectively? For both the child and the dog, they are situated such that the opportunities open to them are appropriately fulfilling for them; moreover, they are equally (I suspect) meaningful to them. This gets to my challenge that we simply cannot know what the life of a cow is to that cow. Perhaps as I am situated, the opportunities open to me seem numerically greater (to me!) than those open to some of the poorer and marginalized students I teach in Philadelphia. But from the first moment that seems to be an evaluative claim pretending to be an empirical claim.


Tim Gier:

Believe it or not, I have an additional follow-up on this that has come to mind, if that's okay, Alex?

 

Alex Melonas:

Of course.

 

Tim Gier:

If you were on the lifeboat faced with the choice of saving only either the profoundly retarded child or the young, healthy dog, who would you choose and on what basis?

 

Alex Melonas:

Can I pass? J/k

 

Tim Gier:

:-)

 

Alex Melonas:

This gets to the harm of death, I think (remember: it’s just “I think”)  Death is a harm when the following conditions obtain Or rather, the argument runs:

 

A) experiencing happiness or a good quality of life is good;

 

B) the death state is permanently neutral (because positing an afterlife is not logically defensible);

 

C) good is better than permanently neutral; and

 

D) therefore when one is forced from a good state to a permanently neutral state, one is harmed. Ergo, death is a harm sometimes. Now the question here is this: Is the severely retarded child “happy”? I suspect he is, which suggests a coin-flip. And with that evasive, but long non-answer: done!

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Alex

 

Kate:

Great answer Alex. :-)

 

Alex Melonas:

Thank you Kate

 

Kate:

Thank you Alex

 

Tim Gier:

There's one more question based on that essay, here goes... You write that Francione considers sentience as an evolutionary means to the end of life. Assuming that is a correct statement of Francione’s view, how can it be that sentience, which I take to mean conscious phenomenological experience, is the means to the end of life when life arose prior to sentience? Beings which were alive while lacking sentience evolved into beings who possessed sentience. Life, it would seem, is the means to the end of conscious phenomenological experience, and not the other way around. Am I missing something?

 

Alex Melonas:

Francione writes (“The Vegan,” Spring ’07): “Sentience is means to the end of continued existence; sentience is a characteristic that has evolved in certain beings as a mechanism to facilitate continued existence.”  I suppose I used “life” as shorthand for “continued existence.”  But it is important to note that I was wrong in that essay because, in response to Singer, Francione seems to ground the interest in continued existence on this teleological claim about the purpose of sentience.

 

But that doesn’t follow because Singer is talking about a subjective interest in continuing to live. It isn’t clear, in other words, (if this is even accurate?) how a bee’s teleological interest in continued existence is the same as my subjectively experienced interest in not wanting to die. The former seems mechanical, like the desire to procreate, while the latter is consciously, I don’t know, acknowledged/thought of/etc. (i.e., it isn’t a “will to live,” but the desire to get my PhD and teach political philosophy sometime in the future).

 

I may be wrong about the empirical claim that a bee doesn’t also subjectively experience the desire to continue living, but Francione’s argument certainly doesn’t work. But I hasten to add: Singer, on this point, isn’t right either for two different reasons I can think of. I can elaborate if anybody would like me to.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks for all your answers, now here's Carolyn with the next question.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Tim! Are you sure you're done, Tim?

 

Alex Melonas:

Hah!

 

Tim Gier:

I'm never really done Carolyn, you know that

 

 Carolyn Bailey:

There are claims that the regulation of animal exploitation, in itself, is responsible for an increase in the consumption and use of other animals, as the philosophy of animal welfare/regulation allows people to feel comfortable about their exploitation. Do you believe this to be true, and is there any evidence that regulation causes the increased use of other animals?

 

Alex Melonas:

I’m of two minds, as it were. I have an intuition that the argument is sound, and some anecdotal evidence to support it. But writ large, I simply do not know. But if it is true, then, as Francione make’s clear, welfare reforms have the ironic effect of prolonging the injustice that initially instigated some groups (e.g. PETA) to push for the reform in the first place.

 

Is the reverse true, though? That is, given the wide availability of information about ongoing torturous animal exploitation, the size of the “new welfarist” movement, and the occasional media outrage at examples of abuse, shouldn’t we see more people abstaining from animal exploitation? But I’ve been to both factory and “humane” farms, and, as an empirical matter, there is less suffering in the latter. (Of course “humane” farms are being co-opted, but I’ve been to those ones too, and there is still less suffering…) And it seems to me, as I will discuss below, that ethics is ultimately about improving the welfare of sentient beings.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks for your thoughtful responses, Alex!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Sky will ask the next question, when you are ready, Sky!

 

Sky:

Do you believe that conservationist groups like Sea Shepherd provide a positive force for animals and/or towards eventual abolitionism, or do you think they are counter productive?

 

Alex Melonas:
In a criticism of the argument that “triage,” as a method of vegan activism, takes place after the harm has already happened, and is therefore incapable of dealing with the cause of that harm, I argued that there are different fronts to any social movement that aims to abolish something: some will respond, in various ways, directly to the harm (e.g., direct action) while others will respond to it indirectly by criticizing, in various ways, the premise, say, that X is justified in causing harm to Y in the first place. I think, then, that the Sea Shepherd is uniquely placed to engage this issue on one front. And Will Potter, for instance, is engaging the issue on another front, just as you and I are, or just as Steven Best is, or the ALF.

 

But because this all proceeds from a shared commitment to end speciesism and all its manifestations, we have a standard by which to judge these efforts. So, if empirical evidence was produced showing a dramatic negative reaction to the Sea Shepherd, say, the demand for whale flesh was up 100% or something, and this increased demand was somehow linked to the Sea Shepherd’s direct action, it stands to reason that those activities should stop.

 

Those who see the Sea Shepherd’s as “crazy” do so pre-reflectively. I hardly think that that pre-reflective emotion contributes to consciously exploiting more animals. I haven’t seen any evidence; in fact, speaking of the ALF, for instance, it seems to me that they’ve had a negligible negative public opinion effect vis-à-vis the end(s) we seek. This suggests that those activities should continue because the front they are engaged in has to do with immediately ending suffering and causing economic damage, which they are very successful at. Although it is plausible to argue that their actions have provided a ready-made justification for the animal industry to attack the civil liberties of animal activists more generally, which hurts activism. This is worth discussing, but I am optimistic that this push against civil liberties will ultimately result in alliances between animal and non-animal advocates (e.g., the ACLU). Will Potter has persuaded me that this method of counter-attack to our advocacy, while frightening, should be less of a concern than it is often made out to be. Another concern here, in the US at least, is the fetishizing of property, which direct action campaigns blatantly disregard. This is very problematic. As someone interested in political theory, I’m concerned that American liberalism is too fixed to the idea that property is a natural right – both a necessary condition for, and the ultimate expression of, freedom – to be adaptable to fit the “animal rights” position. Robert Garner’s work on this issue is very good. 

 

Sky:

Thank you Alex :-)

 

Jason Ward:

Next up with a question is Roger Yates - go ahead Roger

 

Roger Yates:

You once asked the question [ http://news.change.org/stories/can-a-rights-violation-be-ethically-... ] can rights violations be ethically acceptable or required? Can you give some examples, eg, do you regard the “desexing” of pets to be a case in point?

 

Alex Melonas:

The situation I discussed in the essay involved using an animal as a "therapeutic tool" for the mentally handicapped and the abused. This involved light, hand walking (that is, leading the horse from the ground while someone rides), and some interaction with the participants. The situation, I reasoned, was justified given the consequences to the horse of not violating what I assumed, for the sake of argument, was his "right" not to be used. (Side note: the basic entitlement that distinguished human slaves from their slave masters should probably be one of those deontological constraints I mentioned above. That would be one of those interests, I suspect, that, if disregarded, will result in bad consequences. The version of Francione’s argument I explicated above is another good defense of protecting this interest with a “right.”) At that time, it was a straightforward consequentialist calculation, which is to say, I wasn't sincere in my use of "rights." What I was really suggesting is that "rights" qua "rights" should not be a moral concern – i.e., we shouldn't fetishize them. "Rights" are a means to an end. And that end is improving the welfare of sentient beings. It just so happens that we do this through a defense of "rights" (instead of, say, obligations of care, for example) given the dominant paradigm.

 

"Desexing" is an interesting example though. As a straightforward matter of interests, it seems that this would fall under the category of "bodily integrity," but we trump that for consequentialist reasons. Or we try to rationalize the "rights" violation away by arguing that the underlying institution of "pets," or of domesticated animals more generally, produces a series of no-win scenarios where we are forced to simply do the best we can. And, I suppose, not "desexing" an animal isn't the best we can do because, in the final analysis, it just prolongs that unjust institution. But I’m skeptical of that argument; it seems sophistic. The consequentialist line of reasoning is far stronger.

 

Roger Yates:

Indeed, Gary has argued that sometimes we need to be utilitarians. Just goes to show that things are never as easy as we’d like them to be!, But it does make it interesting that you were booted out of his forum when you appear to be more conversant with his ideas (and their scholarly context) than others there! 

 

Alex Melonas:
One thing...

(That’s very kind.) Ethics IS complicated. Francione’s argument is not. But, Francione’s argument is an ethical argument. Therefore, I’m suspicious. In that essay you cited, however, Francione did respond with objections in the comment thread.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks again Alex.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Alex! Luna Hughes would like to ask the last question in the formal session for today, after which I’d like to open the chat up to other members who wish to ask Alex any questions. Please feel free to send a provate message to an admin if you’d like to address Alex at any time. Thanks, Luna.

 

Luna Hughes

Thanks Carolyn. Hi Alex!

 

Alex Melonas:

Hi

 

Luna Hughes:

As an abolitionist vegan, I find a lot of opposition to abolition amongst other vegans. Many suggesting that abolitionists, in general, are argumentative and on a purist pursuit, wanting to prove their ethical superiority. Do you encounter similar objections in your advocacy, and if so do you have any suggestions for explaining how important it is to advocate with consistency, without sounding condescending?

 

Alex Melonas:

This is a difficult question. Please forgive me if my answer isn’t satisfying. I do encounter those objections. They most often take the "purity" track. But that challenge comes from the less thoughtful (I suppose they're called) "new welfarists." The more thoughtful amongst them, however, don't challenge abolition per se – as an end goal – but they challenge the premise that welfare reform is useless, or worse yet, harmful, to that end goal.

 

I think that that is mostly an empirical matter, and I don't have an answer to it. But those I've encountered in that latter group are very good vegan advocates, and if they prefer to advocate for "vegetarianism first," say, they have a clear rational. I mean they are, strictly speaking, abolitionists. Francione has just done a good job (with a kind of fallacy of persuasive definition) of convincing us that they aren't, although he equivocates on that. Maybe I don't accept their justification for “vegetarianism first,” but it isn't a matter of inconsistency around principles. I'm finding this to be a difficult question to answer though, because I only have these disputes with people online, and it is usually with so-called “abolitionists.” I suppose I've surrounded myself with proper vegan advocates.

 

But on the question of using the word "vegan," for example, to have some reference point here, I think we can't budge, even if we are regarded as "extreme," etc. We need to normalize veganism. In fact, it seems to me that the so-called "new welfarists," by setting themselves up as the standard (implicit or otherwise) – and so veganism is extreme by definition – are quite clever. The only way to challenge that is to consistently establish veganism as the explicit standard by, first and foremost, using the word in our advocacy. 

 

Luna Hughes:

Thank you ALex

 

Alex Melonas:

I know it is a bad answer.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Alex, I think it’s an excellent answer, and I agree! This concludes the formal session of Alex’s chat for today, and I’d like to sincerely thank Alex for his thoughtful, insightful replies to some excellent questions from ARZone members.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Applause

 

Will:

:-D


Carolyn Bailey:

I’d like now to open the chat up to other members who wish to engage Alex on any topics, and would like to ask Tim Gier (sorry Alex!) to ask the first question.

 

Tim Gier:

WTOL, a TV station in Ohio reported today “The nation's top advocate for animal rights spoke out last night in West Toledo against people who own exotic animals.” They were referring to Wayne Pacelle, President of HSUS. Now, I have little doubt that Pacelle is one of the US’s top advocates for animals, but do you see it as a problem that he’s called an “animal rights” advocate? I could ask the same question about PeTA.

 

Alex Melonas:

First off, I’ve never understood why people write “PeTA” or “P*TA” or whatever instead of “PETA.” Can someone explain that to me?

 

Roger Yates:

I can.

 

Alex Melonas:

Please

 

Roger Yates:

It is because they italicise the "e" in their name - I had this conversation with criminologist Piers Beirne years ago too! I think the "8" is for more "critical" reasons.  "*"

 

Kate:

Alternative answer - Their logo used to (or still does) have the "e" in lower case, which seems ironic (and perhaps accurate) as it stands for ethical.

 

Roger Yates:

:-D

 

Kate:

:-D

 

Roger Yates:

It could be that they are over paid!!

 

Will:

They only care about treatment not use

 

Alex Melonas:

I see. So a welfare position isn’t ethical? 

 

Will:

A killing position aint.

 

Sky:

A sexist position isn't.

 

Tim Gier:

A welfare position is ethical. Who would be opposed to treating others well? My only question was about whether it confuses the issue to refer to HSUS as an animal rights organization

 

Sharni Buckley:

A welfare position may be ethical, but I don't understand why they claim to be a "rights" org.

 

Alex Melonas:

I’m not sure Will:. But to Tim’s question: yes and no. I put the scare quotes around “animal rights” because it isn’t clear to me what “animal rights” even means. Francione’s position has largely overdetermined how we think about “animal rights” today, in these circles, that is. But, to me, “animal rights” could mean ending speciesism, or perhaps including animals in ethics (Similarly: what does “human rights” mean? To be sure, it’s a liberation struggle, but beyond that…) So I suppose HSUS is an “animal rights” organization. As I suggested above, the rhetoric of “rights” is a mainstay in American liberalism. That, then, is the “no” to your question Tim. And now to the “yes”..

 

Roger Yates:

I'd suggest AR means that the social construction of rights is an important means for protecting vulnerable persons - as individuals. I think the latter point- individuals -as the focus - is important to rights-based positions.

 

Alex Melonas:

I reject HSUS’s form of “animal rights” because it ISN’T a liberation struggle  It is, rather, inherently inconsistent with that end because no matter how “animal rights” is understood, commodifying animals is inherently speciesist. And challenging speciesism (like challenging the racism underlying human slavery) is a necessary condition for liberation. @Roger So “rights” are a means to the end of protecting vulnerable persons, which is normatively good. But if that end could be realized, given the context, through different means, perhaps even violating those “rights,” would that be justified?

 

Sergio Tarrero:

Quickly: "Human rights" has been codified in international law. It may be imperfect, or incomplete, or we can't enforce it properly, but there is a definition, which could in theory, evolve, expand, add new rights, or be properly enforced I don't see a proper definition of "animal rights" anywhere. Human rights may include the right to health (universal health care, in its widest sense), education, etc. Should AR include animal universal health care, for instance?

 

Alex Melonas:

@Sergio: I think the relevant philosophical question here is not the CONTENT of “human rights” but the FORM of the argument itself. 

 

Sergio Tarrero:

But the content is important indeed.


Alex Melonas:

Yes, I agree. E.g. “rights” discourses reject consequentalist calculations, which often trump rights. So if “animal rights,” as I’m suggesting, is founded on consequentalist concerns, is it a “rigths” discourse at all?

(I say “yes.”)

 

Sergio Tarrero:

Does anyone know if anyone has attempted to codify a Charter of Animal Rights, using as a starting model the Charter of Human Rights text? Maybe that would be a good exercise.

 

Alex Melonas:
What I said above might not be clear: my concern, which I take to be Francione’s as well, and Roger’s too, is that Singer’s position, which is called “animal rights,” isn’t a “rights” discourse. My position could be similarly criticized. But what I’m suggesting is that “animal rights” need not be about “rights” per se; just as “human rights” need not be about “rights” per se. 

 

Sergio Tarrero:

But we are quick to codify "human rights", "rights of the child", etc. Eventually, enforcement may come. However, I guess we must admit, within our moral antispeciesism, that there is real difference in what regards to the human species, in that we can get an education, for instance. However, we should strive for some form of normalization of a Universal Declaration of Animal Rights-type thing, that we could support.

 

Will:

Can you say what that last thing means Alex?

 

Tim Gier:

So Alex, what you are saying, if I understand you, is that we invoke "rights" only in order to protect interests which we determine are worthy of protection on consequentialist grounds. Yes?

 

Roger Yates:

Uncaged Campaigns have a Universal Declaration of Animal Rights.

 

Alex Melonas:

That seems to be my (ever evolving) position. But more broadly, I’m suggesting that “animal rights” could reasonably mean many things.

 

Tim Gier:

These are not easy questions to answer.

 

Sergio Tarrero:

The Universal Declaration of Animal Rights could include humans. But then we have other rights too, as humans, since we can get an education, for instance.

 

Alex Melonas:

What’s clear is that “animal rights” is a liberation movement that is predicated on challenging (and ending) speciesism.

 

Roger Yates:

Sergio - my position on that is to regard our basic rights as our animal rights.

 

Tim Gier:

What are your thoughts about the liberation movement as a broader social justice movement to eliminate (what seems to be) the exploitation of others inherent in capitalism? In other words, veganism, as a refusal to take part in the consumption of other animals, can be viewed as treating the symptom and not the underlying cause. 

 

Alex Melonas:

@Tim: that’s a very strong argument. The animals-as-property paradigm is implicated in the logic of capitalist exploitation, i.e., commodification (of animal labor; of animal bodies) and the constant pursuit to extract surplus value. Moreover, the Marxist critique of bourgeois liberalism and its “tools,” and the role of ideology is also relevant. But I’m not sure: Marxism, in my view, is necessarily a (vapidly humanistic) closed-system. And it’s not clear how “animal rights,” without going outside of the Marxist paradigm, can be advanced. 

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Alex!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Alex! Mangus O'Shales would like to ask a question next, when you're ready, Mangus.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Alex if there were 19,000 people being slaughtered in the US every minute, wouldn't we all think that nonviolent alternatives weren't working? (This isn't an attack on your positioin)

 

Alex Melonas:

I think so. I suggested this above re: how non-violence depends too much on the character of those pursuing a course of violence. Moreover, “power” depends on the maintenance of a “public sphere” that avoids direct challenges to its interests. Marxism is clear on this point, but so are the feminists, e.g I think, in the end, and respectfully, non-violence is a privileged position.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Thank you.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Hi Alex, this question is from Kate, who is busy transcribing at the moment. Given that animals are sentient and plants are insentient, if we could be confident that no animal would be harmed, would you advocate killing carnivorous plants?

 

Alex Melonas:

I love this question. The correct ethical choice vis-à-vis the carnivorous plant and the animal who is killed is to intervene on behalf of the sentient being. However, it is plausible that those plants fill an important ecological niche.  Now, as David Pearce’s argument suggests, interventions that alter some ecological system is not a priori wrong because “nature” doesn’t have inherent value. So, as a practical matter, perhaps non-intervention is the right choice (b/c of unforeseen consequences, e.g.), but, theoretically, intervention to alter that ecological system, thereby removing the need for those carnivorous plants,  is perfectly justifiable. (I, like David Pearce, am concerned with reducing suffering; that’s the implicit standard I am using.)

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Alex, do you have time for another question? 

 

Alex Melonas:

Sure

 

Tim Gier:

Great, thanks. Would you briefly explain what you mean by Francione’s teleological claim about sentience and why it might be a problem?

 

Alex Melonas:

To be clear: it isn’t teleology in the Aristotelian sense. Darwin put the nail in that coffin. We have to distinguish between “ultimate” and “proximate” causation. The ultimate cause, as Steven Pinker argues, is why something evolved by natural selection, e.g. sex and procreation The proximate cause is how that something works in the here and now (e.g. sex and relationship, or desire, intimacy)  So, Francione’s claim that, as I put it, ‘Sentience is a means to an end. And that end is life’, is teleological in the ultimate causation sense. It serves that evolutionary purpose. But the relationship between that teleological claim and the proximate manifestations is the part of the reasoning that is problematic.

 

It seems to me that Singer is emphasizing a highly subjective form, let’s say, of that proximate cause a form that probably turns on a certain level of cognition, e.g., I have a preference to continue living because I want to publish a book in the field of political theory sometime in the future. And it is there that Singer seems to ground his claim that “persons” have an ADDITIONAL interest (or preference) that non-“persons” don’t have: to continue living. And so Francione’s counter-argument, which seems to stop at ultimate causation, doesn’t follow. It doesn’t ground the interest in continuing to live in the way Singer’s does. I suppose we could be charitable and argue that Francione is simply not responding to Singer. (But we know he is.)

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Alex!

 

Sergio Tarrero:

To follow up earlier discussion, briefly.. Prompted by Maynard S. Clark, I have now noticed and been reading up on what's on the Internet about universal animal rights declarations. Mainly, 2 things:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_on_Animal_Welfare and http://www.dr-belair.com/dic/Medicine/Veterinary/Declaration-en.htm The first one is more formal, and being discussed for possible adoption at the UN and its member nations. The second one has nothing to do with the UN, but it looks like it's been around for over 20 years (and it's probably more than sub-optimal). Finally, I notice this http://www.uncaged.co.uk/signudar.php which is short and pretty informal, but less speciest than the older long declaration, it seems. (expliciting that use as food is not cool)

 

Tim Gier:

Alex, for those lifeforms which are not sentient, is life an end in itself?

 

Alex Melonas:
That seems to presume a “self” capable of experiencing something, and it is genuinely difficult to understand how non-sentient life “experiences” anything. Any “ends,” therefore, for non-sentient life is imposed by sentient life.

 

Tim Gier:

Ok, thanks!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Alex! I'd like to thank you most sincerely for your articulate, insightful and very helpful replies to our questions today. It's been a real pleasure, and ARZone thanks you very much for being here!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Thanks Alex, this has been an amazing chat, full of great information!

 

Alex Melonas:

Thank you for having me.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

You're very welcome!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks Alex, great chat!

 

Tim Gier:

I agree, this has been very good. I'll be reading the transcript closely! Thanks Alex.

 

Sergio Tarrero:
Thank you Alex.

 

Sadia::

Indeed a beautiful converse, Thank you Mr. Melonas!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Yup! Another good one. Thank you Alex.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Alex!

 

Barbara DeGrande:
Thanks for the thoughtful responses!

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Alex

 

Sky:

Good stuff

 

Adam Little:

Very engaging!

 

Kate:

Thank you Alex for many great answers. It's been a really interesting chat. :-D

 

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after a chat by starting a forum discussion or by making a point under a transcript.

 

 

 

 

Views: 410

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Animal Rights Zone to add comments!

Join Animal Rights Zone

Comment by Alex Melonas on June 20, 2011 at 23:50

Hi Tim, this is a persuasive argument re: the grounding of a "right to life." I think our intuition that it is wrong to bring a being into existence who is certain to suffer due to some genetic complication strongly suggests that we don't hold the principle that life per se is an end in and of itself. Life, then, has a different value; an instrumental value is a good candidate. ("The asymmetry" doesn't complicate this view, to wit, it might be wrong not to bring a being into this world who is certain to be happy. However, it isn't wrong because life per se is an end in and of itself, but because we are denying that being intrinsically valuable goods -- life is a necessary condition to realizing those goods.)

But it still isn't clear to me how death is a harm on this account. Life might be appropriately valued on this account, but if we end a life, then the person who would have realized those intrinsically valuable goods no longer exists to be harmed by the thwarting of that end. So how was that being harmed, in any substantive sense of the word? Perhaps if my identity (my self) existed beyond my physical death, I am harmed by death in the relevant sense. But since that isn't the case, it seems that we impose on me (who no longer exists) a harm that I don't actually (by definition bc I'm dead) experience.         

Comment by Tim Gier on June 19, 2011 at 5:58

Alex, thanks for responding so thoroughly and thoughtfully to all of our questions. Like Brandon, I agree with much of what you say.


I am particularly interested, as others obviously are as well, with the question What is the harm in death? When I asked you in the interview about Francione's position on the evolutionary role of sentience, I was trying to get at that deeper issue.

From our discussion in the interview, I believe we agree that non-sentient life cannot be an end in and of itself. How is it then that life can become an end for that life which has the additional property of sentience? The property of sentience cannot create in life the fact of life being an end in and of itself; life is either an end in and of itself or it is not, irrespective of other properties.

Paolo Cavalieri, in her book “The Animal Question”, assesses arguments made by Rachels and DeGraza and finds that life is valuable to a sentient being only insofar as it enables the experiences of the experiencing subject; life itself has only instrumental value as the means to the end of sentience. Death, on this view, is best considered an indirect harm.  (2001:104)


As Cavalieri puts it (summarizing Gregory Vlastos’s account): “...the right to life ensues from the fact that continued existence is a prerequisite for enjoying the rights to welfare and freedom. But if being alive is the necessary requirement for benefiting by welfare and freedom, the right to life is rooted in the instrumental value of existence. On the one hand, this rules out the appeal to the possession of the desire to go on living, or of the ability to value life, as prerequisites for such right, in clear contrast with positions that draw a line between beings that are able, and beings that are not able, to conceive of themselves as entities endowed with a past and a future. And on the other, a value that is instrumental with respect to goods that have equal intrinsic value cannot but be equal, with consequence that the right to life cannot vary in strength according to to the structural capacities of the being.” (2001:134)

Rather than considering life as an end in and of itself, considering life in these terms of its instrumental value avoids the problems in Singer’s view of valuing life in only those beings who want to continue to be alive, or who have a sense of their own future. Also avoided are the qualitative or quantitative assessments of the opportunities for future satisfaction which cloud Regan’s view. (Unavoidable are the problems inherent in conflicts between rights holders.) What do you think?


Comment by Brandon Becker on June 16, 2011 at 5:07
This was a really informative interview and I think my own positions on all the issues discussed are very closely aligned with those expressed by Alex Melonas.

In the chat, Sergio Tarrero talked about a declaration of animal rights. I'd like to add that the animal rights organization Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA) recently drafted a Bill of Animal Rights: http://www.rpaforall.org/billofanimalrights.html
Comment by Kate✯GO VEGAN+NOBODY GETS HURT Ⓥ on June 14, 2011 at 12:26
Hi Roger. Thanks for asking for the link to this essay. I'm sorry that my decision to begin this excerpt at that point may have caused you some frustration. I contemplated providing the link to the essay with the excerpt, but I didn't want to seem to be diverting the conversation to discussing Oscar's work in case that may not be welcome in that context. I had found that when I did a search by submitting the title of the essay the search result took me straight to it - so I thought that may be good enough. Additionally I had assumed that if anyone wanted the link to the essay they may assume that I'd be happy to provide it. I now think I should have provided the link with the excerpt to save any possible frustration. I live and learn. Here is the link to the essay as it appears on Oscar's website - http://masalladelaespecie.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/question-of-prio...

or to go straight to the pdf
http://masalladelaespecie.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/questions_pri...
Comment by Kate✯GO VEGAN+NOBODY GETS HURT Ⓥ on June 13, 2011 at 12:37
Hello. I'm interested in this discussion about how death is a harm. In case it may be considered useful here, I will offer this excerpt from a paper by Oscar Horta. 


Questions of Priority and Interspecies Comparisons of Happiness.

3.3. A Conception of How Things Go for Individuals throughout All Their Lives

  In light of what we have just seen, it seems that option (i), i.e. direct experiential well-being, could be considered the best unit to be taken into account when it comes to comparisons of fortune. Note, however, that in order to compare the fortune that different individuals have it would be partial to look only at something like their synchronic well-being. Rather, we need to take into account how well or ill they fare throughout their whole lives. Perhaps the term “well-being” (as diachronic well-being”) could be appropriate to call this. I will nevertheless use a different word, “happiness” to name it, in order to distinguish it from the well-being we experience synchronically, or, at least, during short periods. I will do this to avoid problems of intertemporal aggregation of value. It is not clear that how good or bad our lives as a whole are for us is something equivalent to the sum of well-being which there is in them. Some may claim that the time at which we experience some well-being alters how good or bad a life is as a whole (20). At any rate, for the sake of simplicity, in this paper I will assume that the level of well-being of individuals will be flat. This means that the calculus I will carry out here will not be affected by our views on how an intertemporal aggregation of value should be carried out (21).
  Note, also, that in our analysis we not only need to consider the quality of life. In order to capture the value that lives as a whole have, (22) we also need to consider its length. Being able to live a longer life, if it is worth living, contributes to being more fortunate in the overall. This provides us with a response to Epicurus’s claim that death is no evil since it is not experienced. (23) However, this can be understood in many different ways. We may assume that death is an extrinsic harm which can be assessed by comparing the life we have if we die at some time t  with the life we could have if we went on living after t. (24) However, the question remains as to what life we would have after t. Note that we may regret that we have a short life if we die at t.  But we may then wonder what is a short life: short with respect to what? And the same happens regarding the quality of our possible future life. We need to have some referent against which we can compare our actual lives to consider the extent of the harm that dying at t may be. One possible referent could be the one defended by the maximum intrinsic potential account. I have presented several arguments to reject this view and assume instead the maximum potential (in the event of radical enhancement) account. However, in case those arguments have not been convincing, in what follows I will take into account the maximum potential account in the event of radical enhancement. But I will claim that they will still be valid if we assume the maximum intrinsic potential view.

  Now, according to this double analysis, the harm of dying at t would be the difference between the happiness that the one who dies at t has achieved and the maximum happiness she could have achieved minus the happiness she had failed to achieve because of reasons different from her death. But we need not carry out this particular analysis, because we are concerned with the overall fortune someone has. This means we not only need to consider death, but also the rest of the reasons why one life can be less happy than it could. So I will try to assess the difference between the actual happiness and the two maximum potentials I have referred to.

Comment by Alex Melonas on June 13, 2011 at 9:28
Hi Erin, it's not clear how striking "preference" and replacing it with "future potentiality" resolves the issue. To wit: in one nanosecond, there exists a me with a future potentiality, and, as Singer argues, I have an interest/preference in realizing that, and then the next nanosecond, I die, thus, there no longer exists a me to be harmed by the loss of my -- who no longer exists to experience the loss -- future potentiality. So unless thwarting "future potentiality" can be harmful despite not being connected to any actual experiencing person, it's still not clear how death is a harm (on this account).
Comment by Erin on June 13, 2011 at 6:37
In reply to Roger, Alex says that 'it isn't clear how death is a harm, on Singer's reasoning. Death, he argues, thwarts a preference to realize future plans. But, strictly speaking, when I die there isn't a "me" any longer to experience the thwarting of that preference. It is difficult, then, for me to understand how I am harmed by death.'

 

The event of death itself may not harm the person to whom it occurs, but what about the person's potentiality?  Doesn't death deprive the person of his/her future potentiality, thereby harming him/her?

 

 

Comment by Alex Melonas on June 13, 2011 at 6:13
I think Francione is wrong. If you read "Writings on an Ethical Life," cover to cover, it isn't clear which nonhumans are and aren't "persons." On my reading, pigs, cows, among others, and perhaps some birds, Singer suggests, anticipate the future in a way that suggests the criterion Singer is describing. But to Mchahan's point: I think he is wrongly interpreting Singer. Singer's claim is that "persons" have a preference to continue living, which is different than saying that death is a harm if what actually happens in the future is "good." That preference per se is what's relevant, I think, not what might happen in the future.
Comment by Alex Melonas on June 12, 2011 at 23:27
P.s. that latter argument is Dale Jamieson's, from NYU.
Comment by Alex Melonas on June 12, 2011 at 23:23
@Roger: briefly, it isn't clear how death is a harm, on Singer's reasoning. Death, he argues, thwarts a preference to realize future plans. But, strictly speaking, when I die there isn't a "me" any longer to experience the thwarting of that preference. It is difficult, then, for me to understand how I am harmed by death. Moreover, in distinguishing "persons" from non-"persons," Singer posits this preference. He goes on to argue that because they do not have this preference non-"persons," who exist in the here and now only, are replaceable, i.e., if I kill my dog, presuming he isn't a "person," and replace him with a dog who is equally happy, then, it seems, I've done nothing morally wrong. However, "persons" aren't similarly replaceable. But it isn't clear why this is so if the relevant preference here can't be considered just another interest. And so, if I killed Roger, and replaced him with another "person" (or potential "person") who is going to be similarly happy, then, on the aggregate, how have I done something wrong? To wit: the net balance of happiness hasn't been reduced.

Videos

  • Add Videos
  • View All

ARZone Podcasts!

Please visit this webpage to subscribe to ARZone podcasts using iTunes

or

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Follow ARZone!

Please follow ARZone on:

Twitter

Google+

Pinterest

A place for animal advocates to gather and discuss issues, exchange ideas, and share information.

Creative Commons License
Animal Rights Zone (ARZone) by ARZone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.arzone.ning.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.arzone.ning.com.

Animal Rights Zone (ARZone) Disclaimer

Animal Rights Zone (ARZone) is an animal rights site. As such, it is the position of ARZone that it is only by ending completely the use of other animal as things can we fulfill our moral obligations to them.

Please read the full site disclosure here.

Animal Rights Zone (ARZone) Mission Statement

Animal Rights Zone (ARZone) exists to help educate vegans and non-vegans alike about the obligations human beings have toward all other animals.

Please read the full mission statement here.

Members

Events

Badge

Loading…

© 2017   Created by Animal Rights Zone.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

Google+