Friday, October 27, 2006

Anti Principled Agreements

I believe we’ve come to an agreement. We both agree that principled forms of Vegetarianism (what Sam, a bit misleadingly, calls moral Vegetarianism) make no sense. Something pretty similar should be said of any other Principled moral for eating, like Animalianism.

We also agree that, based on the same inflexible paradigm of monoculture farming, principled Vegetarianism destroys the rainforest less than a principled Animalianism. We disagree, however, in that I think this relational property of principled Vegetarianism doesn’t make it good. That way of reasoning has two problems.

First, it presupposes that ‘harming less than’ is equivalent to ‘doing something good’; but this is, clearly, a mistaken inference. Take, for instance, two different ways of torturing someone. I can torture someone by slowly chopping off his limbs and making sure he dies not because of the chopping but because he bleeds to death. I can also torture someone by just cutting off his pinkie. The latter does less harm to the person. Does that make it good? I believe not.

Second, it makes it seem like we only have two options from where to choose; but there are many options here. It’s not true that the only options available are:

V2 Eat soybeans by principle (conditionalizing on the paradigm).
A1 Eat cows by principle ((conditionalizing on the paradigm).

Sam’s morals for eating, for example, are neither Vegetarian nor Animalian. I mistakenly labeled it as ‘lower caloriesm’. He’s right in that it seems more like cheap (low cost) environmentalism, or environmental economics. As you can see, it allows for the ingestion of meat to take place. That makes, to my mind, a more sensible view. I must say, however, that I don’t endorse it. This is owed to my conviction that it is very difficult to come up with the right morals for eating. And, I believe, we haven’t done enough research to work this out. This, however, goes beyond the limits of this post. So I’ll present my reasons for believing this, in a different post.

As an ending note, let me correct Sam’s interpretation of the Harvard analogy. My claim is that in having a policy of admissions that effectively results in picking up only upper class, white, and Christian students, Harvard University is endorsing a racist policy. I didn’t mention anything about the student that accepts such an offer.

I believe that things get fuzzier when it comes to the consumer of the racist practice. It is clear to me that if, as the consumer that benefits from that practice, you also endorse it then you are also morally wrong. It is not clear to me what happens when you just benefit from it without endorsing it. I tend to think that if taking the offer has the consequence that the racist practice is nurtured an maintained, then it is morally wrong to do so; and that is so even if you don’t endorse the policy in question. Of course, there is an important problem here about negligence, and what is expected to be known by a student who accepts the offer. I’ll leave it like that.