• amirography
    12
    I've tried to analyze the problem myself. However, I face two problems.
    Most utilitarian ethicists believe that we have to vegan as it benefits other animals more than eating meat benefits us. (and the same for goes for pain). That's an obvious conclusion. However, when faced with our other relationships with animals, we face a bigger problem.

    So consider my dog.
    My dog is biologically incapable of not-eating meat. So if I want to keep his meat portion of meal, minimal, he still causes a lot of death amongst other animals. If I say he has the right to eat meat because he can only survive on it, I'm appealing to the "Intrinsic Rights" school of morality which is incompatible with utilitarianism. If I say, I have to kill my dog in order to save other animals, killing my dog would be the easy pill to swallow, as it follows that I'm ethically obliged to kill any animal that causes more death than 1.

    1. We must do what causes the greatest utility for the greatest number.
    2. Animals who eat other animals cause more suffering to the greater number of animals, than if they were not.
    3. By eliminating all carnivors we are causing less suffering than if we were not.
    4. There is no better way.
    5. We must eliminate carnivores. [1-4]


    I personally think that maibe predicate 3 and 4 may be the weakest amongst them. But I'm still not sure. And I don't have much reason to believe that they are wrong, or how could I examine their validity.

    So what do you think? Have I made a mistake? Please only analyze with utilitarianism in mind.
  • mrnormal5150
    23
    I think most utilitarians abide by "ought implies can." If you cannot not eat meat, then the claim that you ought not to cannot govern over you. You would have no such obligation. In your dog's case, you would not have an obligation to prevent him from eating meat either, since what you ought to do for your dog is derived from what he is capable (and not capable) of doing. Perhaps you have other obligations about where you get the meat, etc., but a carnivore's act of eating meat (without a viable alternative) is not one up for moral criticism.
  • mrnormal5150
    23
    If I say he has the right to eat meat because he can only survive on it, I'm appealing to the "Intrinsic Rights" school of morality which is incompatible with utilitarianism.

    I'd also be very careful here. Classic utilitarianism is a view about alternative choices, about what makes one action right over another. It does not necessarily recommend a method of arriving at the right action. A more sophisticated utilitarian may consistently believe that one ought to adopt an "intrinsic rights" perspective because doing so will produce the most amount of good (however it's defined).
  • amirography
    12
    The problem here is that "ought implies can" is only with consideration to the choices one thinks one has, in other words, Maybe my dog cannot make that choice because that's not a choice for him. But I can kill my dog. I have the choice. I can. Therefore it should be considered as an alternative.
  • amirography
    12
    I would agree. However, by giving the intrinsic right of living to all animals, we still face some animals that quantitatively cause an early death to many other animals per year. We also have to justify that making such a "right" would cause more happiness to all that are capable of happiness and vice versa.
  • mrnormal5150
    23
    If the dog can't help it, do you think we would have a moral obligation? (according to utilitarianism of course). It would seem yes. Hurricanes "can't help it" but if we had the technological capacity to curb hurricanes away from cities, I think utilitarianism would say we have an obligation to do so.
    Maybe one way a utilitarian could disagree would be by focusing on the practical results. Maybe a utilitarian could argue that the logistics of rounding up all carnivores and eliminating them would produce more suffering, especially when it comes to biodiversity and ecological stability. But as for your own, personal decision to kill your dog...I need to think about it more.
  • amirography
    12
    I really appreciate your time and efforts.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    Most utilitarian ethicists believe that we have to vegan as it benefits other animals more than eating meat benefits us.amirography

    There is a fundamental problem. Utility presupposes the beneficiary. One cannot consider the benefit of life to a dog, only the relative benefit of one life over another. One can readily reduce the suffering of cows by not eating meat and thereby reducing the number of cows, but by the same logic, one becomes an anti-natalist, and in favour in principle of ending all life.

    You might like to look at Deep Ecology for a better starting point.
  • BC
    13.4k
    Our survival and the planet's ecology supply compelling reasons why we are well advised to at least eat much less meat than we do. Eat less meat, use much less energy, stop making plastic, cease depending on the private auto, stop the great overuse of agricultural chemicals, rely on public transit systems, and many other things. Following ecological and sustainable guidelines will result in the most good for the largest number of creatures.

    Sure, some animals will continue to be eaten, either by predators or by people.

    Dogs do not need to eat a serving of raw meat every day. High quality dog food has a substantial portion of grain and vegetable protein. Some of it is offal -- dried and powdered chicken guts, for instance. Dogs apparently love the smell of dehydrated offal.

    Raising cattle (hogs, sheep, chickens, etc.) need not entail suffering, but it is difficult to raise food animals humanely using industrial methods--but those methods aren't necessary, especially if we reduce the amount of meat we consume.

    Many people in the world accord some degree of family status to dogs and cats. This is not wrong, as long as we remember they are not human beings. Killing a pet to conform to an ethical formula (like one provided by utilitarianism) is a dehumanized decision. Our lives are greatly enhanced by our relationship with pets (particularly dogs) who have been living with us for 12,000 to 20,000 years.
  • Noble Dust
    7.9k
    Please only analyze with utilitarianism in mind.amirography

    Analyzing with anything but utilitarianism in mind, here's a couple dunce thoughts:

    I'm actually very interested in the problem of keeping pets. I have no sympathy for PETA, but I do have sympathy for animals. I think if you want to treat animals ethically, you shouldn't own them as pets.

    Can you stay home all day to give your dog or bird the constant social contact it needs, and are you a bird or dog yourself? No, of course not. Dog's and birds (two of the most social pets to own) require near constant social interaction. How many pet owners can give them that?

    Cats are better pets because they require less social contact; social contact that virtually no pet owner can give. If you want a pet, just get a cat. Philosophical conundrum solved.
  • amirography
    12
    Guys, I really appreciate your inputs. But they are not really what I'm looking for.
    @unenlightened I'm partially familiar with deep ecology. And it would solve some problems and give rise to some others. But that's not really what I'm looking to answer. Inherit or intrinsic rights are completely separate issues.
    @Bitter Crank the thing is that though one can say that doing all those things are doing our best. But when analyzing in a theoretical sense "good enough" for utilitarianism is "the absolute best result possible". So just doing what is intuitively apealing is not neccacerally the right answer. Doing analysis based on a clear principle is not dehumanizing, as non other than humans have achieved such levels of abstraction. It's not dehumanizing, it's just using all faculties of human brain instead of just relying on implicit, intuitive thought.
    @Noble Dust
    Thanks for your input. But changing the delima is not cannot solve the problem. Cats also cause more death than they live. Still that's changing the delima. It's like trying to solve the trolley problem by saying: OK, i will not cross any train rails anymore.
    Ownership is also not an intrinsically bad thing. Nor is it that easy to define and implicate around the edges. So that's whole other story altogether.
  • amirography
    12
    There certainly are ways to justify any actions using different principles. And every principle has itsown unintuitive implications. But as the topic title indicates, I'm specifically looking into analysis of this exact problem, using this exact school of taught.
  • amirography
    12
    I hope I'm not insulting anyone by insisting on utilitarianism. I'm not insisting on utilitarianism because I have negative attitudes towards alternatives. I insist because of the hugely unintuitive implications that utilitarianism have in this situation.
  • Arne
    815
    I like puppies more and people less each and every day.
  • BC
    13.4k
    I'm not an expert on consequentialism (or anything else). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy lists the types of consequentialism:


    Consequentialism = whether an act is morally right depends only on consequences (as opposed to the circumstances or the intrinsic nature of the act or anything that happens before the act).

    Actual Consequentialism = whether an act is morally right depends only on the actual consequences (as opposed to foreseen, foreseeable, intended, or likely consequences).

    Direct Consequentialism = whether an act is morally right depends only on the consequences of that act itself (as opposed to the consequences of the agent's motive, of a rule or practice that covers other acts of the same kind, and so on).

    Evaluative Consequentialism = moral rightness depends only on the value of the consequences (as opposed to non-evaluative features of the consequences).

    Hedonism = the value of the consequences depends only on the pleasures and pains in the consequences (as opposed to other supposed goods, such as freedom, knowledge, life, and so on).

    Maximizing Consequentialism = moral rightness depends only on which consequences are best (as opposed to merely satisfactory or an improvement over the status quo).

    Aggregative Consequentialism = which consequences are best is some function of the values of parts of those consequences (as opposed to rankings of whole worlds or sets of consequences).

    Total Consequentialism = moral rightness depends only on the total net good in the consequences (as opposed to the average net good per person).

    Universal Consequentialism = moral rightness depends on the consequences for all people or sentient beings (as opposed to only the individual agent, members of the individual's society, present people, or any other limited group).

    Equal Consideration = in determining moral rightness, benefits to one person matter just as much as similar benefits to any other person (= all who count count equally).

    Agent-neutrality = whether some consequences are better than others does not depend on whether the consequences are evaluated from the perspective of the agent (as opposed to an observer).

    It would appear that your are arguing for "Maximizing Consequentialism = moral rightness depends only on which consequences are best (as opposed to merely satisfactory or an improvement over the status quo). You will probably find others taking up a different utilitarian position. I need more negotiating room--hence, a... eating sustainably raised meat, b... eating less meat, c... eating a plant-based diet but including eggs and milk, d... eating a vegan diet.
  • mrnormal5150
    23
    Just for clarification, the above list is what a classical utilitarian believes. Other utilitarians have rejected one or more of those claims.
  • amirography
    12
    I think utiliterianism by its nature is a maximizing consequentialism.
    So the first line of wikipedia on utilitarianism is:
    Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that states that the best action is the one that maximizes utility.wikipedia
    also by Bentham:
    The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.' — Jeremy bentham
    But I can imagine a version of utilitarianism that may say: "Do what cause more pleasure than pain." But that kind of principle has the obvious problem of being useless in cases where you have to decide between a bad choice and a worse choice; something that is a deal breaker for most utilitarians I've met (not many, it turns out).
    One of the most serious criticisms towards utilitarianism is that it is too much demanding. I myself found it useful in many situations, but it also takes a lot of time and energy to analyze consequences of my actions. (feeding my dog, being one).

    In any case, even if I don't kill my puppy (honestly that's unimaginable to me.) I would really need to know if I should advocate for such actions.
  • amirography
    12
    Can you explain and give an example? I'm not sure what you mean.
  • amirography
    12
    So one thing I came up with was that there is a possibility that something like in-Vetro-meat becomes such an economically cheap product that we would use it to preserve carnivores without sacrificing the lives of others. in that case, from an intergenerational perspective, we may be justified to let animals continue eating meat (or even provide them with meats from animals that are not endangered) in order to keep them surviving till that day comes.
    I do not have a stance on this justification yet, I just came up with it now. So it may be flawed. Please offer your criticism on where you find problematic.
    ---
    And one other point, I really am enjoying this discussion with you guys. @mrnormal5150 @unenlightened @Bitter Crank@Noble Dust
  • BC
    13.4k
    Bentham:

    The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong
    amirography

    The calculation of the "greatest happiness (or greatest good) for the greatest number" means that everyone will get something less than the maximum. Only if there is an infinite amount of a good and a finite amount of beneficiaries can everyone get the max. Since goods of whatever variety are invariably limited, the greatest possible number will have to make do with less than they would probably like.

    This isn't a flaw in utilitarianism, it is just reality. There are not enough goods to go around. Of course we should try harder. Our own distribution of one good (wealth) is extremely ill-distributed--the greatest good for as few as possible. Very bad.

    Another reality is that everyone doesn't need the same amount; hence Marx's formulation, "From heach according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Some people can produce more than others.

    as non other than humans have achieved such levels of abstraction. It's not dehumanizingamirography

    I am sure you are aware that while people have achieved high levels of abstraction, they are quite capable dehumanizing other people.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    I knew a chap had a large farm - a mountain really, no use for crops. He kept horses and left them wild. The thing about horses is that the dominant male kills his own male offspring given the chance. So you have a herd of one stallion, and any number of mares.
    One might intervene to prevent breeding and let the herd cease to exist, or to save the male foals and keep them elsewhere, or to control the population by killing and eating some to keep the numbers such that they do not starve, or something else.

    I cannot see how the principle of utility even begins to direct one to the greatest good. The farmer is like God, ordaining what shall happen, and utility cannot be God's morality, because He has no need to create at all. Is a horse better than no horse? Or creation better than nothingness? Perhaps goats would be better?
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Utilitarianism suffers from its inability to pin down consequences.

    You've chosen a specific point to stop the utilitarian argument - the cessation of painful death from a predator.

    But the matrix of causation continues indefinitely. Allow me to choose a different point - the point where

    1. Overpopulation occurs due to absence of predators leading to food shortages and death from starvation
    2. Weak and diseased animals survive and pass on their susceptibility genes in the population with the effect of making the whole population weak and diseased
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