Unformatted text preview: Organizational Information The second assignment is due in The Discussion Section tomorrow, Dec. 4th Discussion Reading for next time: “War and Reading Massacre” by Thomas Nagel Massacre” The final exam has been scheduled for The 12/17 at 8:00. 12/17 Review What’s the difference between normative What’s ethics and practical (or applied) ethics? ethics Moral permissibility and how we can define Moral lots of other moral concepts in terms of it. lots The Shallow Pond Case and The Letter Case Is there a moral difference between them? If so what is it? If not, then do Donald and John both act morally If permissibly, or do they both act morally reprehensibly? reprehensibly? Obligations to Those in Desperate Need The Quite Plausible Assumption (QPA) Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are Suffering very bad. very If it is in someone’s power to prevent something bad from If happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, then she morally ought to do it. moral If it is in someone’s power to prevent something very bad from If happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, then she morally ought to do it. then They do not take distance or proximity into account. They make no distinction between cases in which one is the only They person who could prevent the bad thing from happening and cases in which one is merely one among many who could prevent the bad thing from happening. thing The Strong Principle (SP): The Weak Principle (WP): Two things about SP and WP:
1. 2. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Distinguishing SP and WP. What is it for X and Y to be of comparable moral significance? X and Y are of comparable moral significance if and only if and comparable the degree to which the having of X (the lacking of X) makes one’s life better (worse) is equal to the degree to which the having of Y (the lacking of Y) makes one’s life better (worse). having What is it for X to be “of moral significance” at all? X iis morally significant if and only if the having of X (the s morally lacking of X) in one’s life makes one’s life to a significant degree better (worse) than one’s life would be if it lacked (had) X. (had) Obligations to Those in Desperate Need What are the implications of SP and WP in the What following cases: following
1. The Shallow Pond Case - It follows from SP that you ought to save the child and It dirty your pants dirty - It follows from WP that you ought to save the child and It dirty your pants dirty 2. The Runaway Train Case - It follows from SP that you ought to stop the train and lose It your legs - It does not follow from WP that you ought to stop the train It not and lose your legs. and Obligations to Those in Desperate Need
Singer’s Strong Argument 1. If donating half of what I own to Oxfam will prevent If a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought to donate half of what I own to Oxfam. to 2. Donating half of what I own to Oxfam will prevent a Donating tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring. occurring. 3. Therefore, I ought to donate half of what I own to Therefore, Oxfam. Oxfam. 1,2 MP Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Justification for premise 1: If SP is true, then I morally ought to Justification prevent something bad from happening if I can do so without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance. Sacrificing half of what I own is not of comparable moral significance to the death of another person. So if SP is true and donating half of what I own will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought morally ought to do so. do Justification for premise 2: It just is a matter of fact that given Justification what I have, donating half of it would prevent a tremendous amount of suffering and death. amount Obligations to Those in Desperate Need
Singer’s Weak Argument 1. If donating everything I would spend on leisure If items to Oxfam will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought to donate everything I would spend on leisure items to Oxfam. to 2. Donating everything I would spend on leisure items Donating to Oxfam will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring. death 3. Therefore, I ought to donate everything I would Therefore, spend on leisure items to Oxfam. spend 1,2 MP Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Justification for premise 1: If WP is true, then I morally ought to Justification prevent something bad from happening if I can do so without thereby sacrificing anything of moral significance at all. Leisure items are not of any moral significance, so sacrificing what I would have spent on leisure items does not count as sacrificing something of moral significance at all. So if WP is true and donating what I would spend on leisure items will prevent a tremendous amount of death and suffering from occurring, then I ought morally ought to do so. ought Justification for premise 2: It just is a matter of fact that given Justification what I have, donating everything that I would spend on leisure items would prevent a tremendous amount of suffering and death. death. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need What’s the upshot of Singer’s arguments? Singer’s Strong Argument - that we morally ought to donate Singer’s half of what we own to Oxfam half Singer’s Weak Argument - that we morally ought to donate Singer’s what we would spend on leisure items to Oxfam what NB: The conclusions are not that it would be a good not thing for each of us to donate. (No one (or not many, at least) would disagree with that.) The conclusions are that we morally ought to do so; or, in other words, morally it would be morally wrong not to do so. morally Obligations to Those in Desperate Need “The outcome of this argument is that our traditional moral categories are upset. The The traditional distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn, or at least, not in the place we normally draw it. Giving money to the Bengal Relief Fund is regarded as an act of charity in our society. The bodies which collect money are known as “charities”. These organizations see themselves in this way - if you send them a check, you will be thanked for your “generosity.” Because giving money is regarded as an act of charity, it is not thought that there is anything wrong with not giving. The charitable man may be praised, but the man who is not charitable is not condemned. People do not feel in any way ashamed or guilty about spending money on new clothes or on a new car instead of giving to famine relief. (Indeed, the alternative does not occur to them.) This way of looking at the matter cannot be justified. When we buy new clothes not to keep ourselves warm but to look “well-dressed” we are not providing for any important need. We would not be sacrificing anything significant if we were to continue to wear our old clothes, and give the money to famine relief. By doing so, we would be preventing another person from starving. It follows from what I have said earlier that we ought to give money away, rather than spend it on clothes which we do not need to keep us warm. To do so is not charitable, or generous. Nor is it the kind of act which philosophers and theologians have called “supererogatory” - an act which it would be good to do, but not wrong not to do. On the contrary, we ought to give the money away, and it is wrong not to do so.” On Obligations to Those in Desperate Need
An action, A, is morally supererogatory if and An morally only if only
(1) (2) (3) Performing A is morally permissible, Performing A would have better consequences Performing than not performing A, and than It would not be morally wrong not to perform A. The ordinary language phrase for an action The that is morally supererogatory is “act of charity”. charity”. Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Note that Singer’s argument has no implications for a world in which Note no there is no suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care. medical So, if all of these evils were eradicated, Singer’s argument would not have the So, conclusion that we are morally obliged to give to those with less. conclusion “It follows from some forms of utilitarian theory that we all It ought, morally, to be working full time to increase the balance of happiness over misery. The position I have taken here would not lead to this conclusion in all circumstances, for if there were no bad occurrences that we could prevent without sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, my argument would have no application. Given the present conditions in many parts of the world, however, it does follow from my argument that we ought, morally, to be working full time to relieve great suffering of the sort that occurs as a result of famine or other disasters.” result Obligations to Those in Desperate Need Thomas Aquinas: “Now, according to the natural order instituted by divine Now, providence, material goods are provided for the satisfaction of human needs. Therefore the division and appropriation of property, which proceeds from human law, must not hinder the satisfaction of man’s necessity from such goods. Equally, whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. So Ambrosius says, and it is also to be found in the Decretum Gratiani: “The bread which you Decretum “The withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked; and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.”” is Obligations to Non-Human Animals Singer believes that the time has come for a Singer new kind of “liberation movement”. new “One should always be wary of talking of “the One last remaining form of descrimination.” If we have learnt anything from the liberation movements, we should have learnt how difficult it is to be aware of latent prejudice in our attitudes to particular groups until this prejudice is forcefully pointed out.” prejudice Obligations to Non-Human Animals “If we wish to be avoid being numbered among the oppressors, we If must be prepared to re-think even our most fundamental attitudes. We need to consider them from the point of view of those most disadvantaged by our attitudes, and the practices that follow from these attitudes. If we can make this unaccustomed mental switch we may discover a pattern in our attitudes and practices that consistently operates so as to benefit one group--usually the one to which we ourselves belong--at the expense of another. In this way we may come to see that there is a case for a new liberation movement. My aim is to advocate that we make this mental switch in respect of our attitudes and practices towards a very large group of beings: members of species other than our own--or, as we popularly though misleadingly call them, animals. In other words, I am urging that we extend to other species the basic principle of equality that most of us recognize should be extended to all members of our own species.” be Obligations to Non-Human Animals The principle of equality that Singer argues should be The extended to non-human animals is equality of consideration. consideration. The equality that people usually claim for all human The beings, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, etc., cannot be based on some actual biological or physical equality. physical If it were, we would have to accept that if one race were If biologically and physically superior it would be morally justified to discriminate based on race. Obligations to Non-Human Animals
The No Physical Basis Argument
1. 2. 3. If moral equality is based on physical equality, then if If one race were physically superior to another, then it would be morally permissible to discriminate against the physically inferior race. physically It is not the case that if one race were physically It superior to another, then it would be morally permissible to discriminate against the physically inferior race. to Therefore, it is not the case that moral equality is based Therefore, on physical equality. 1,2 MT 1,2 Obligations to Non-Human Animals Justification for premise 1: If the moral equality did depend Justification on physical equality, then it would have to be the case that if different races were not physically equal, then there would not be moral equality between those races and so premise 1 would be true. premise Justification for premise 2: Moral Intuition. It doesn’t seem Justification true that if some race was physically (or intellectually, etc.) superior to another race that would mean that moral discrimination against the physically inferior race would be morally permissible. morally Obligations to Non-Human Animals “[I]t would be dangerous to rest the case against racism [I]t and sexism on the belief that all significant differences are environmental in origin. The opponent of, say, racism who takes this line will be unable to avoid conceding that if differences in ability did after all prove to have some genetic connection with race, racism would in some way be defensible. be It would be folly for the opponent of racism to stake his It whole case on a dogmatic commitment to one particular outcome of a difficult scientific issue which is still a long way from being settled.” way Obligations to Non-Human Animals “There is no logically compelling reason for assuming There that a factual difference in ability between two people justifies any difference in the amount of consideration we give to satisfying their needs and interests. The principle of equality of human beings is not a description of an alleged actual equality among humans: it is a prescription of how we should treat humans.” humans.” Obligations to Non-Human Animals The Principle of Equal Consideration The interests of A do not count, morally, for more than The similar interests of B in determining how we should act. similar Singer notes that though the very principle of equality Singer that many contemporary philosophers advocate as being a basic moral principle applies to members of species other than our own, many such philosophers don’t seem to recognize it. don’t Obligations to Non-Human Animals Bentham, Singer notes, did not fail to recognize it: The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those The rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally sufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? reason nor, talk but, suffer Obligations to Non-Human Animals The Principle of Equal Consideration is a principle about the The interests of beings and how they should count in our calculations about what to do. calculations No being’s interests should count for more than another being’s No similar interests. similar What it is to have interests? That is a difficult question, but being able to suffer pain and to That enjoy things is enough to have some interests. enjoy “The capacity for suffering and enjoying things is a prerequisite for The having interests at all.” having Obligations to Non-Human Animals
The reason why a dog has interests The and a stone does not: and Nothing one can do to a stone can make Nothing it’s “life” go badly because it cannot suffer. it’s But there are many things one can do to a But dog to make its life go badly; this is because the dog can suffer, and causing it to suffer will make its life go badly. to Obligations to Non-Human Animals “If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for If refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering…of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account. This is why the limit of sentience is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary way. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color?” choose Obligations to Non-Human Animals The racist gives greater weight to the interests of The racist members of her race in determining what to do. members The speciesist gives greater weight to the interests of The speciesist members of her species in determining what to do. members Singer claims that the racist and the speciesist Singer equally violate the principle of equal consideration. equally Obligations to Non-Human Animals Singer asserts that most human beings are Singer speciesists. And, he claims, a number of our practices show this. practices The food industry: “For the great majority of human beings, especially in urban industrialized For societies, the most direct form of contact with members of other species is at mealtimes: we eat them. In doing so we treat them purely as means to our ends. We regard their life and well-being as subordinate to our taste for a particular kind of dish. I say “taste” deliberately--this is purely a matter of pleasing our palate. There can be no defense of eating flesh in terms of satisfying nutritional needs, since it has been established beyond doubt that we could satisfy our need for protein and other essential nutrients far more efficiently with a diet that replaced animal flesh by soy beans, or products derived from soy beans, and other high-protein vegetable products.” derived Obligations to Non-Human Animals “It is not merely the act of killing that indicates what we are It ready to do to other species in order to gratify our tastes. The suffering we inflict on the animals while they are alive is perhaps an even clearer indication of our speciesism than the fact that we are prepared to kill them. In order to have meat on the table at a price that people can afford, our society tolerates methods of meat production that confine sentient animals in cramped, unsuitable conditions for the entire duration of their lives. Animals are treated like machines that convert fodder into flesh, and any innovation that results in a higher “conversion ratio” is liable to be adopted. As one authority on the subject has said, “cruelty is acknowledged only when profitability ceases.” “cruelty Obligations to Non-Human Animals “[O]ur practice of rearing and killing other animals in order to eat [O]ur them is a clear instance of the sacrifice of the most important interests of other beings in order to satisfy trivial interests of our own. To avoid speciesism we must stop this practice, and each of us has a moral obligation to cease supporting this practice. Our custom is all the support that the meat-industry needs. The decision to cease giving it that support may be difficult, but it is no more difficult than it would have been for a white Southerner to go against the traditions of his society and free his slaves: if we do not change our dietary habits, how can we censure those slaveholders who would not change their own way of living?” slaveholders Obligations to Non-Human Animals Another common practice betrays the fact that we are Another speciesists: speciesists: Biomedical research Some people try to appeal to an idea of a distinctive human Some dignity, that other non-human animals fail to possess in order to justify our restricting the principle of equal consideration only to members of our own species. But what could this dignity consist in? dignity “Philosophers frequently introduce ideas of dignity, respect, and worth at Philosophers the point at which their reasons appear to be lacking, but this is hardly good enough. Fine phrases are the last resource of those who have run out of arguments.” out Obligations to Non-Human Animals Again, you might try to find some characteristic of Again, human beings that grounds the restriction of the principle of equal consideration only to human beings. beings. But for any human characteristic you try to base But restricting the principle of equal consideration on there will be humans who lack that characteristic. there Obligations to Non-Human Animals 1. Argument Against The Capacity to Reason As A Argument Justification for Restricting the Principle Justification
If the capacity to reason is a justification for restricting If the principle of equal consideration, then it is permissible to raise human imbeciles for food and scientific experimentation. scientific It is not the case that it is permissible to raise human It imbeciles for food and scientific experimentation. imbeciles Therefore, it is not the case that the capacity to reason Therefore, is a justification for restricting the principle of equal consideration. consideration. 1,2 MT 1,2 2. 3. Obligations to Non-Human Animals Justification for Premise 1: Human imbeciles do not Justification have the capacity to reason. In fact, their cognitive capacities fall well short of those of many “higher” noncapacities human animals. So if reason were a justification for human restricting the principle of equal consideration, it should be permissible to treat human imbeciles in the same ways in which we treat non-human animals, i.e., raise them for food and experiment on them. them Justification for Premise 2: It just seems obvious that it Justification is not permissible to do these things to human beings, even if they are imbeciles. Obligations to Non-Human Animals Singer argues that a similar argument Singer could be run for any plausible candidate characteristic of human beings that one might try to offer to justify restricting the principle of equal consideration. principle Is Singer right about all of this? ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/12/2010 for the course PHIL 100 taught by Professor Jeremy during the Spring '08 term at UMass (Amherst).
- Spring '08