Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lower Caloriesm and Principled Vegetarianism

Sam’s V3 is conditionalized, and so, open to interpretation. If, for example, the world were such that animals were lower in the food chain than vegetables, then V3 would become some form of animalianism. In order to avoid making it an inconsistent view, it’s better to call it “Lower Caloriesm”. I personally do not defend any view. I’m neither an animalian nor a vegetarian. I think it’s quite difficult to come up with the right morals for eating.

I still think V2, the principled vegetarian, is wrongheaded. The case is similar to Kant’s claim that lying is wrong in principle. It follows that if you have to choose between lying and betraying your friend, you should betray your friend. Like Kant, V2 does not endorse that you should eat the rainforest (Kant doesn’t endorse that you should betray your friends); but, also just like Kant, V2 ends up having us (as we do now) eating up the rainforest (like we end up betraying our friends if we follow Kant). To me, this is wrongheaded.

Sam claims that “just because some stuff that some vegetarians eat are produced as a result of deforestation, doesn’t mean that vegetarianism endorses deforestation.” First, it should be said that soybeans are not just some stuff that some vegetarians eat. Soybeans are the main product that all vegetarians eat. That’s why soybeans endanger the rainforest!

Second, similar reasoning to the former would go: just because sometimes your moral principles have it that you betray your friends, doesn’t mean that you should betray your friends. I think this is wrong. If your moral principles endorse action A and B follows as a result, and you know B follows as a result of doing A, then you endorse B as a result of endorsing A.

If this were not the case, then it would be too easy to get off the hook. I could endorse using nuclear plants to generate energy, but just because consuming that energy results in polluting the environment, it doesn’t mean I endorse radioactive pollution; or nuclear tests for sovereignty that don’t endorse the destruction of the arctic pole, or preferential admissions for Lacrosse athletes that don’t endorse racism. That sounds too easy!

Even if V2 does not defend the destruction of the rainforest it endorses a course of action that is destroying the rainforest. It is just illusory to think you can defend V2 just by saying you don’t endorse its bad consequences. Remember, V2 is a moral claim.

I happen to believe that counterfactual reasoning should be informed. It is up to agricultural engineers and ecologists to find out what would happen if this or that change takes place. However, Sam seems pretty confident about his reasoning. The damage to the rainforest would be greater if cows were eaten instead of soybeans,. Furthermore, he claims that we would get more calories if we planted more vegetables where we plant corn for cows. If I were allowed to engage in this a priori counterfactual reasoning, then I would say that we would get lower environmental costs if we found a better way to feed cows. For example, cows would not destroy the rainforest if non-monoculture farming took place.