Sunday, October 29, 2006

Keeping Morality within Limits

One of the reasons I believe it’s really difficult to come up with the right morals for eating is that, in general, it’s very difficult to come up with the right thing to do. I tend to think that morality should be more piecemeal than not. I believe strongly in that every claim (moral or not) has a limit beyond which lies insanity. It’s never good to have more of the same, to have the same theories to explain everything, or to cover every single case. This is something I learned from Pereda’s metaphilosophy.

In any case, I think Sam’s last comment is a very good example of how easy it is to take insane claims out of our theories. I thought we were getting into an agreement, but now I think not. This is what Sam thinks

“the principle is that given any paradigm, eating vegetables is always at least as preferable as eating meat. (i want to say more preferable, but i expect some weird counterexamples.) and by that i don't mean only eat vegetable or only eating meat, but for every eating decision.”

I think this is insane. First, no moral claim can stand given ANY paradigm, just like no scientific theory can stand given ANY paradigm. Think of the paradigm in which we find a way to feed cows with less environmental cost than to produce fungi and plants, then it makes no sense AT ALL to encourage eating fungi and plants. This is just insane.

Second, it’s supposed to be true for every eating decision. This, again, is a sign of insanity (boundlessness). There are clear boundaries in life. Making absolutists claims like ANY paradigm and ANY decision, is just insane. What if I have a peculiar disease that doesn’t allow me to eat vegetables or fungi. According to Sam’s boundless claims, it’s still preferable for me to eat vegetables of fungi. Or take another case, what if my surroundings are packed with cows and vegetables that I can’t digest, and I there are no other sources of nutrients. Is it sill preferable to eat the indigestible? This is just insane.

Things get worse when Sam joins his two limitless claims. He thinks he has a theory that is useful for any paradigm, and any decision, and which “exhausts all possibilities”. I think all these three properties, being true for any paradigm, being good for all decisions, and exhausting all possibilities, are probably the paradigmatic features of the worst possible theories. Good theories are characterized for lacking all three of them. Sam doesn’t agree. He goes as far as claiming that he’s happy to have a vegetarian moral theory that covers everything in an exhaustive manner.

Having good theories is difficult. Recognizing their limits is a virtue. Moral theories in particular have to take into account environmental dynamics to make their claims. To fix the content of a claim to any particular object within the environment (e.g. vegetables and fungi) would be seriously disadvantaged given that change exists. That is what vegetarianism wants to do, which Sam extrapolates, and what makes it a seriously disadvantaged theory (if not insane).