absolute morality and killing sentient beings
What is right for human behavior is determined by human nature. … So if humans are natural omnivores, then you can’t say it is wrong for humans to eat meat.
As far as I can make out, there are two ways of looking at life. The first is that a god made our existence with humans (usually men) at the pinnacle of its creation – shaped and programmed with ‘morals’ by this creator deity. The second is that life has evolved naturally and that our current human state has been shaped by the whatever survival characteristics brought us to this point.
If you believe we have been programmed with morals by a creator deity, you also probably believe that your creator deity made you prone to overriding your moral programming because you’re essentially created to be evil. It’s a compelling argument.
If you believe that our sense of what is right and wrong is determined by the basic understanding of empathy and co-operation that has been so essential to our survival, you probably acknowledge that these instincts are subject to cultural, historical and circumstantial changes. Because if you are not completely devoid of any understanding of history or other cultures, you are probably aware that there are no fixed or absolute morals that have reigned supreme throughout the history of the world.
I think it’s fair to say that it is ‘wrong’ for humans to consume the flesh of any sentient beings. Most of us eat animals because we grow up in societies where everyone else eats meat. We eat meat because it’s cheap and it tastes good. It’s not wrong because it has always been wrong, and it’s not wrong because a god is transmitting magic morality instincts to us. It’s wrong because animals are thinking, feeling and fascinating creatures who don’t ever need to suffer on our behalf. And if you don’t understand that, you’ve probably got some evolving to do.
Completely agree. I think the main issue is awareness. True awareness. I don’t think most people that eat meat truly understand the conscious capabilities of animals, such as the wide spectrum of emotions from love to suffering. This disconnect prevents many from making the change.
Thanks for your comment. That’s a great point that people aren’t truly aware of just how much animals feel. Or they’re aware but try not to dwell on it. Adhering to cultural norms is a strong instinct.
In vitro meat will set our mammalians brothers free
I think a lot of people will feel uncomfortable with it. But I guess if big companies like fast food outlets can generate meat in a cheaper fashion they’ll go for it, which would cut down down the numbers slaughtered significantly.
In our last correspondence, I hinted at my increasing sense of alarm over the moral relativism trend in your writing. It is indeed tragic (and in many cases horrifically so) that other freethinkers, rightly rejecting the arbitrary “ethics” spouted by the villains of religion touted as “absolute morality”, throw out the baby with the bathwater by rejecting what IS absolutely right and wrong. It is my impression that you have fallen under this anti-intellectual shadow, and it physically and emotionally sickens my senses to read the things you say.
“If you believe you don’t deceive, steal or hurt other people because you have chosen to be a ‘moral’ person, you are wrong. If you believe that a god, or your own superior personality, enables you to avoid raping or murdering while other people do, you are wrong. We are all the product of our environment. If everyone around you is murdering and you have realised it is not a positive or useful action, your realisation is a result of the environmental factors you have been exposed to – not because a god is helping you control sinful urges, or because your powers of reasoning are superior to those around you.” https://violetwisp.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/identity-crisis (a post you released shortly after your other readers and I chastised you for abandoning ethics the previous time).
One of the most disgusting rape apologies I have ever suffered myself to read. It is downright insulting to all humanity to think let alone suggest that a man cannot help but rape women because he lives in a rape-y culture. Outrageous! Men simply don’t know better than to murder and rape those around them? Because someone else is terrifying and abusing people first? Seriously? To excuse the violation of another human being’s person on account of what anyone else does is so unthinkably abominable, I truly cannot comprehend how you could go through with even writing a paragraph like this one.
In a world of wholesale slaughter of human beings and daily denials of their rights, I simply cannot honor those who reject absolute morality, much less the indisputable reality that people CHOOSE to do the right thing or the wrong thing. I am taking an indefinite break from your blog.
Rejecting absurd supernatural deities is only half the journey, violetwisp. Choosing reason and volition over faith and fatalism is your next step.
In love of liberty.
Tiffany, before you take your leave, would you care to tell us what you accept as ABSOLUTE MORALS and why you they are absolute. That will be all
Hi Tiffany, thanks for your comment. I hope you stick around to explain your thoughts in more detail this time. I’d be interested to hear your answer to Makagutu’s questions. Also, some of this line of thought in recent posts came up because a South African blogger had raised the issue of the horrendous levels of child rape in his country. If this kind of behaviour isn’t due to cultural indoctrination what is it due to? Let me know if you have any posts on these kind of topics.
As the South African in question I might as well try to answer this.
While it is true that the rape of old women and small children/babies/virgins could well be put down to cultural indoctrination (urban myth more likely) it was by no means a universal belief among the indigenous population.
That such an act may be perceived by some as a cure for HIV/AIDS doesn’t excuse this as morally excusable or suggest the perpetrators considered it so either.
While many that were caught genuinely believed what they had done was in the interest of self preservation by all accounts they were still aware that their action was morally wrong.
This whole thread – the idea that I’m somehow justifying horrendous behaviour by suggesting that people are influenced by the society they live in – is utterly ridiculous. I personally think that you and Tiffany have been so seeped in a Western/Christian culture that you are unable to think logically about how choices and responsibility fit with the inevitability of people’s behaviour being shaped by the environment they live in. You’re just not thinking about behaviour logically. Grumble, grumble, I’m going to do another ranty post, for my own satisfaction because clearly no-one listens to me … 🙂
I understand perfectly what you are trying to say, however you are tacitly implying that because of culture, morality goes hand in glove, and this does come across as if you are justifying abhorrent behaviour.
Maybe you have a point? I am not a sociologist. What about societies where cannibalism was/is practised?
If everyone thinks its okay to eat Uncle Fred and even Uncle Fred accepts it, is it wrong?
I would likely say ”no.”
But in the case of the rape of children/babies and the perceived cure for AIDS, something is taken by force…obviously, otherwise it would not be considered rape, and is morally reprehensible.
But you are correct that as we climb up the evolutionary ladder to enlightenment our behaviour is generally reflected in our empathy.
That’s another issue that comes up about ‘morality’. Obviously our sense of what’s right and wrong can be applied to history – but that doesn’t mean if we were back there we would know any differently. It’s ‘wrong’ given the evidence and understanding we have today, and we assume it will continue to be ‘wrong’ in the future. Doesn’t mean it will. We have no way of knowing how our understanding of life will unravel (or detract) in future years.
On a cultural level we see some connection between monotheism and what you call absolute morality, but I do not think it is necessary. Kant for example was agnostic, but a moral absolutist. My own thought, that the point of departure for human morals is human nature, actually comes from Aristotle, a pagan Greek.
If human nature is the point of departure, then the existence or non-existence of God is probably not relevant to basic ethical questions like the one discussed here.
The appeal to cultural diversity does not trump moral claims: reading the Iliad you will see rape and sex slavery treated like normal behavior, which it most surely is not. It was not right in bronze age Greece, and wrong today; it was always wrong, but warrior cultures had a harder time understanding that.
You yourself base your ethical claims on your understanding of human nature: the human capacity for empathy and community, which you think should be extended to animals.Then you insist that we cannot appeal to nature, only to human culture. Then you think the culture should change. Sorry, you cannot have it both ways: either nature is normative of culture, or culture has no norms, in the latter case you have no ground on which to criticize the eating of meat.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I don’t think I was insisting we appeal to human culture, I was pointing out that our sense of morality is normally rooted in our culture. That’s why, for example, suicide is generally seen as morally responsible in Japan, but is considered at best a tragedy and at worst in sin in most western cultures where Christianity has influenced our morals. I don’t think cultures ‘should’ change, I think it’s indisputable that our sense of morality does change as we are faced with evidence (such as studies that demonstrate the capacity for emotion that animals have) that challenge ignorance or misconceptions (or any other influences) that have shaped our current moral standards.
I see where you were going with your post yet have to disagree.Abstaining from meat is a lifestyle choice – to put it in perspective, I doubt malnourished third world persons would turn away meat on moral grounds. Do they have some evolving to do? The choice not to eat anything with eyelashes because it has feelings too is a product of a society, not evolution.Mankind rests comfortably at the top of the food chain. The day may come when natural selection rids us of our incisors, changes our metabolism, and nutritional needs so we can all live on quinoa. What would you like an Inuit or northern aboriginal to eat? Do they have some evolving to do?
Saying those who eat meat are less evolved is just plain silly. Lifestyle choices such as religion and diet are personal matters.I see an attack on values by the “meatless” just as offensive as and attack on the “Godless”
I understand your point of view. Just to clarify, this isn’t a holier-than-thou attack on other people’s lifestyle choices or cultures. I have nothing to be holier-than-thou about. But I do think it’s obvious to state that when society reaches a point where meat is not required for any nutritional value, and studies are proving that animals think and feel to a much greater extent than ever imagined, it is natural for empathy-driven creatures at this point to re-evaluate their cultural stance on the consumption of meat. I think it’s logical, and it’s also inevitable that societies that have the luxury of choice along with access to the pertinent information will move, albeit slowly, in a meatless direction. All matters relating to ‘morals’ are personal choice, but they are all driven mainly by our upbringing, and it’s always useful to question them in light of evidence available.
I hope this doesn’t offend you, because I’m a big fan of your posts, but I think to suggest that societies that live hand to mouth existences can’t be described as less evolved is just plain silly. It doesn’t mean that societies that have large-scale industries behind all forms of consumption are in any ‘better’ but they are clearly more evolved. There’s not always a better in worse in terms of evolution, it’s just something that happens.
It takes much more than this to offend me:) That said, I’m taking exception to your comment that we don’t need to eat meat. Animal protein is an important part of a healthy diet, providing nutrients not found anywhere else.
I realise we wouldn’t have developed into humans without the boost that meat eating gave to our brains, but I don’t think that’s any reason to continue the trend when we understand what we do about other animals. I would still say we don’t need to eat meat – we can live long and healthy lives without it, even our brains might be slightly less agile. (I expect this isn’t helping my argument but I’m a poster girl for the poorly conducted vegetarian diet – teeth falling out, numb toes and a terrible memory. It makes me think I should have investigated my nutritional needs a bit more carefully, but I still don’t think I could fairly balance these inconveniences against the lives of animals).
I would argue that it wasn’t a meaty boost that made us into what we are today. People are mammals who happen to be at the top of the food chain.Sorry but your response has me scratching my head – the poster girl for a poor vegetarian diet might just have needed a steak or two. Our species needs meat in our diets!
It doesn’t make the slightest difference to me what another person chooses to eat.My knickers get twisted when they defend their choice with convoluted reasoning – at that point it starts to sound like a tiresome religious debate. Just say you don’t eat meat because you’re ethically opposed – don’t try to argue humans don’t need meat protein for optimum performance – the truth is we do, your numb toes know that. I respect that a lot more 🙂
I think it’s fairly established the role that meat had in our development:
I did stress that my bad vegetarian diet is my fault – through ignorance and laziness I didn’t investigate a sensible meatless diet. I think it’s perfectly possible for vegetarians to live a completely healthy life. It’s more difficult for vegans. But I would have to agree that for optimum performance some form of dead creature is required now and then (but not at the levels currently indulged).
My folks have been vegetarian (on ethical grounds) since the early 80’s, and are soon going to be in their eighties and both are fit as fiddles.
They drink wine with meals (not all the time) but neither of them smoke.
Both exercise regularly, walking their dog twice a day on a two and a half mile route -.according to my mother – ( weather permitting)
They have never reported any negative health issues due to any lack of animal protein in their diet.
Yeah, I think I crumbled too soon in my argument. There’s no telling if my minor health issues are related to my (badly balanced) meatless diet or some other genetic issues. And I think most other vegetarians are aware of potential nutritional deficiencies and are a bit more thoughtful about what they eat. Your parents should start a healthy living vegetarian poster campaign. 🙂
They are the type that prefer to keep themselves to themselves in this regard.
But when guests come over for dinner they do not serve meat.
When I was regularly running marathons I was a lot more conscious of what I ate and was told/read that there are certain trace elements that cannot be synthesized and can only be obtained from red meat.
Funnily enough, I never investigated that claim thoroughly but if my folks are typical examples of vegetarians then it could be regarded as a moot point.
All the studies that ‘prove’ we need meat to remain healthy may well be funded by McDonalds …
“La la la…I’m Loving it.” Ralph….
Agreed, so lets agree to disagree on the finer philosophical points 🙂 If you read my post last night you will understand why I was so grumpy about it 🙂
Ha ha, I did read it. I guess people with strong opinions on food are are a particular irritation for you.
You have no idea 🙂
Where did the quote come from? You know the bee in my bonnet, mi duck- I would love to see what they had to say about homosexuality.
It was a comments discussion with dpmonahan (above). I’d be interested to hear too. The link is here:
It is not entirely objectionable. I left a comment. http://truthandtolerence.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/neither-winning-friends-nor-influencing-people-comments-on-chick-fil-a-and-gay-marriage/comment-page-1/#comment-226
I think I quite like his/her posts, even if I don’t agree them. It’s an interesting and readable presentation anyway.
A lot of this debate would change if the terminology used were different. It would eventually alter our perspective.
Your mate,dpmonahan, who is a Christian by the way, also likes to hunt.
He shoots squirrels etc; maybe because this animal is not served at his local takeaway or at his local butcher? I detest this form of morality.
While those who defend eating sheep, cow and pig etc, many of these individuals would likely be the first to freak out because certain Asians eat dog or a host of other animals that ”we” would likely throw up at the mere mention of as a culinary alternative to roast chicken
There would be an national outcry if a cooking program hosted by Nigela, Gordon fucking hell Ramsay or Jamie Oliver were to feature the best way to prepare roast Cat.
It is because domesticated animals such as pigs, cows and sheep are not regarded in the same sense as we regard a dog or cat or other even a hamster that eating them can be justified. And if this still poses a moral dilemma for some, the bible gives a fairly comprehensive list of Eats and Do Not eats for the discerning human carnivore.
I think there would be a lot more vegetarians if people were required to kill every animal they wished to eat.
Furthermore, if Viagra has proved to be a much better alternative to the baseless claims of ground Rhinoceros horn to inducing an erection then evolving humans can and probably will choose to eventually not eat animals.
Although I wouldn’t be averse to animals eating certain humans.
Where did dpmonahan come from? I have no idea why I’m following, and when I went to the About page I saw your argument. I really like his (?) posts though, and he adds interesting thoughts to discussions.