• Bartricks
    2k
    The philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson devised a famous and highly influential thought experiement involving a violinist. The point of the example was to show that most abortions are going to be morally permissible even if the foetus has a full right to life. Here I wanted to see if it can cast light on the ethics of vegetarianism.

    First, some assumptions (these assumptions should not be questioned - I am exploring their implications, not their truth). I assume that animals - including all of those humans have typically reared for meat - have moral status and thus that they have rights and their interests matter. I assume that in light of this, we have a prima facie moral duty not to kill an animal just in order to eat it. As such I assume as well that the practices of the meat industry are prima facie immoral.

    So, it is not in dispute - not here - that the practice of killing and eating animals just to enjoy eating them is immoral.

    Right, now for the thought experiment (and don't be tedious and quibble about small differences between my version and Thomson's orginal - it's beside the point). There is a person - Mat - who is in a coma and will die unless he has the use of someone else's kidneys for the rest of his life. Not just anyone's kidneys will do, however. It has to be yours. Yours - and you are a total stranger - are the only match and Mat's family (who've done some research) have found this out. And they decide to drug you and kidnap you and hook you up to Mat's kidneys. They do this, and you come around in the hospital bed all wired up to Mat.

    The doctor who did the wiring was unaware of the kidnap at the time, but now knows what went on. So, hte doctor apologises to you and then explains the nature of your situation and offers you the opportunity to unhook from Mat.

    Are you morally entitled to unhook?

    Well, virtually everyone thinks you are. Certainly that's what my reason says about it. It would be generous of you to stay, but you are not obliged to. Mat is innocent, of course, and Mat has a right to life. But Mat's right to life does not give him an entitlement to have the use of your body. And so you are entitled to leave, despite the fact that leaving will mean that Mat will die.

    So far so good. But now imagine that rather than needing the use of your kidneys for the rest of your life, all that's needed for Matt to survive is for you radically to alter your diet for the rest of your life. Christ knows why - but don't sweat the details, just know that, by some strange working, it is if and only if you radically alter your diet that Matt will survive. Furthermore, the radical revision needed involves you foregoing - and foregoing for life - many foodstuffs that you really enjoy eating and that it would be really inconvenient and frustrating for you to forego. Maybe, for instance, you have to forego all sweet things and only eat savoury from now on. Are you obliged to do that?

    My intuition is that you are not. It would be very good of you to do so, but you are not obliged to do so.

    If that intuition is accurate - and if it is widely shared, then it is likely to be - then I am not obliged to deprive myself of food I really enjoy eating for the rest of my life, even if the life of an innocent party - an innocent party with a full right to life - will die otherwise.

    And if that's true of Mat and my diet, then surely it is also true in respect of, say, a cow and my diet? That is, although cows do have a full right to life, and although a cow will die unless I radically alter my diet for the rest of my life, that does not entail that I have an obligation to do so.

    I know there are important disanalogies between Mat's situation and ours vis a vis eating meat. And it is whether and to what extent these plausibly make a different to the ethics of it all that I am seeking to explore here.

    For example, my diet has played no role in creating the situation Mat finds himself in. By contrast, the practice of eating meat inspires others freely to continue to kill animals for money. Perhaps that makes all the difference.

    But I am not sure about that. If others are freely engaging in an immoral practice that benefits me, am I obliged actively to forego the benefits in order to inspire them to stop freely engaging in it? Normally I would say 'no'. It's their responsiblity to stop doing what they're doing, not mine to inspire them to stop.

    So although the practices of the meat industry are, it seems to me, undeniably immoral, it doesn't seem to follow straigthtforwardly from this that we are obliged radically to alter our diet in ways that we would find incredibly inconvenient and unpleasant. It would be very good to do that - I am not denying the praiseworthiness of it - but is it 'obligatory'?
  • Brett
    2.3k


    If there were many, many “Mats” and just as many people like yourself, then I imagine you would come under a lot of social pressure. Without doubt your refusal to go on the diet would be regarded as immoral. You would then have to find a moral defence for your refusal, which you can’t do. What moral position could you use?

    in. By contrast, the practice of eating meat inspires others freely to continue to kill animals for money.Bartricks

    Equally so, the killing of animals is morally wrong, according to your OP, because it’s for money. So is it only the money that makes it immoral, or the numbers, or the way it’s done?
  • Bartricks
    2k
    If there were many, many “Mats” and just as many people like yourself, then I imagine you would come under a lot of social pressure. Without doubt your refusal to go on the diet would be regarded as immoral.Brett

    Well, social pressure is one thing, morality another.

    Let's say in January Mat needs the use of my kidneys for life otherwise he'll die. Well, I am not obliged to go and hook myself up to him and live the rest of my life in a hospital bed beside him, yes? It would be saintly of me to do that, not obligatory.

    So, I don't do it. And Mat dies. Then in February John finds that he needs the use of my kidneys for life otherwise he'll die. Well, if I wasn't obliged to hook up to Mat, surely I am not obliged to hook up to John either.

    So I don't. And John dies. And then come March Mildred finds that she needs the use of my kidneys for life otherwise she'll die.

    Surely it does not matter how long this continues happening, at no point am I obliged to go and hook up to one of these people?
  • Brett
    2.3k


    Yes, I agree with you, you’re not obliged. I’m just trying to shift the experiment over to the killing of animals. At what point does killing animals to eat become immoral? Like I said is it the shear number that’s immoral, or is it just obscene?
  • Bartricks
    2k
    Like I said is it the shear number that’s immoral, or is it just obscene?Brett

    Yes, and I sought to address that point in my previous reply. I was not obliged to hook up to Mat in January, or to John in February, or to Mildred in March.

    Now change the example so that to save Mat's life I have radically to alter my diet. Again, I am not obliged to do so in January, and he subsequently dies. I am not obliged to do so in February, and John subsequently dies. I am not obliged to do so in March, and Mildred subsequently dies. And on and on. It can keep going, can't it?

    Thus, apply it to animals. If I do not radically restrict my diet a cow will die every month. Okay, but if I was not obliged to radically restrict my diet when a person would otherwise die every month, surely I am not obliged radically to restrict my diet if a cow will otherwise die a month?
  • Brett
    2.3k


    surely I am not obliged radically to restrict my diet if a cow will otherwise die a month?Bartricks

    Yes, I agree.

    Second thoughts: what in society would we be obliged to do? How do the two fit?
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    We are omnivores by nature. Oddly, we lack the equipment like fangs, claws, brute strength but our appendix is a vestigial organ. The only explanation for our meat diet is that the brain made up for the absence of predatory features and we became apex predators, outcompeting even lions and tigers. I think omnivores have a better deal at surviving because variety means a larger food source and ergo, our success, if we could call it such, is probably due to the mixed diet of plants and meat.

    Paradoxically, it's this same brain that wants to take us off a meat diet. It's very strange that the most powerful predatory tool, the brain, also holds the seed of compassion that recoils now at the killing of animals, an art it perfected.

    I see a dissonance now between the brain and the rest of the body. The brain has realized that killing animals is not something to be engaged in but our digestive system has, over thousands of years, forgotten how to digest plants efficiently. Perhaps if we all, collectively, turn a new leaf in our recipe books we can change to an exclusviely vegetarian diet in a couple of millennia. Until that happens, we'll have to stick to a diet that has some meat content to prevent disease and death. I wish this isn't true.

    As concerns the purely psychological aspect of the problem there's the meat paradox which claims that people do care about animal welfare but have a preference for meat. Perhaps biology, the fact that our plant digesting capabilities have regressed, can explain the desire for meat and our love of animals is due to our brains acquiring a moral compass.

    What is interesting though is that, despite our biology, meat-eating has been linked to a variety of diseases from worm infestations to cancer; this suggests we control our meat intake. In addition, all nutrients that we derive from meat can be substituted, with some cleverness, by plants. In effect the limitations of our biology, specifically the digestive system, can be overcome with intelligent diet plans.

    It seems our brain has, in some ways, come to its senses about the issue at the right time, a time when it has figured out ways to keep the body well-nourished without causing harm to other animals.

    For the scenario you present, you should stop eating meat and become a vegetarian because the changing your diet is, if you believe me, a trivial affair compared to the untimely death of a cow reared under suspicious circumstances.
  • Brett
    2.3k


    Well, social pressure is one thing, morality another.Bartricks

    But that’s not always how it actually works, is it? Social pressure has been brought to bear on smokers. One of the positions anti-smokers have taken is that it’s immoral to smoke in the company of children. Or it’s immoral not to vaccinate your children because it threaten those who cannot be vaccinated. So these things cross over all the time. Social pressure can be used in the name of morality or to modify a moral.

    The movement against eating animals has gone from cruelty to being immoral. If you take part in a society that you receive benefits from: security, care, support, etc. then you might be obliged to behave in a particular way, to behave according to the morals of that society that gave you those things. Otherwise withdraw, receive nothing and take nothing.

    In the case of many Mats, if you have received benefits from the same system then are you obliged to offer your services when asked for? As in a welfare society, we make payments through taxation to help others; health, education, unemployment,housing, etc. and we can expect the same if we need it. But it only works by people accepting and agreeing to their obligations.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    For the scenario you present, you should stop eating meat and become a vegetarian because the changing your diet is, if you believe me, a trivial affair compared to the untimely death of a cow reared under suspicious circumstances.TheMadFool

    But that doesn't engage with the thought experiment. Am I obliged radically to alter my diet - and to deprive myself of things I want to eat (for a lifetime) if not doing so will result in Mat's death?
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    But that doesn't engage with the thought experiment. Am I obliged radically to alter my diet - and to deprive myself of things I want to eat (for a lifetime) if not doing so will result in Mat's death?Bartricks

    Yes, in my opinion for the simple reason that the only reason to be non-vegetarian and to allow Mat to die would have to involve your own death. Think of how people accept killing in self-defense a weaker version of which would be condoning predatory animals from killing other animals for food.

    Your thought experiment in re eating meat comes nowhere close to any of the two possible scenarios I mentioned above wherein killing is permissible.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    So, if Mat needs the use of my kidneys for the rest of his life, I am obliged to give him the use of them?

    Even if your intuitions say yes, most people's intuitions say 'no'. It would be a praiseworthy thing to do - that is, to agree to be hooked up to him for life - but not obligatory (which is precisely why it is praiseworthy).

    What if he only needs the use of them for 9 months? Am I obliged to hook up?

    No - or at least, that's what most people's intuitions say.

    And this doesn't seem to be a case of self-interest corrupting our intuitions, for our intuiitons say the same when roles are reversed. When I reflect on whether I am entitled to the use of someone else's kidneys if I need them in order to survive, my intuitions say that I am not.

    Thomson's original thought experiment has exerted such an influence precisely because people's intuitions are like this - for the case seems relevantly analogous to cases of abortion and thus to imply that most abortions are morally permissible, even if the foetus has a full right to life.

    Well, it seems to me - and I suspect most people - that I am not obliged radically to alter my diet for life, even if that is what Mat needs me to do if he is to survive.

    I am not arguing that the badness of the meat industry's practices do not generate any kind of obligation for us to alter our diets. It is beyond dispute that it is wrong to kill an animal just for the pleasure of eating its body. And that should not be allowed - that is, states should outlaw it. But does it translate into an obligation for us to forego eating something we've come greatly to enjoy eating? It translates into 'something' - perhaps we should try and eat less meat and put some effort into cultivating alternative appetites. But foregoing it altogether?
  • ZhouBoTong
    837
    And this doesn't seem to be a case of self-interest corrupting our intuitions, for our intuiitons say the same when roles are reversed. When I reflect on whether I am entitled to the use of someone else's kidneys if I need them in order to survive, my intuitions say that I am not.

    Thomson's original thought experiment has exerted such an influence precisely because people's intuitions are like this - for the case seems relevantly analogous to cases of abortion and thus to imply that most abortions are morally permissible, even if the foetus has a full right to life.
    Bartricks

    I am still thinking about the vegetarian aspect of the argument. However, I do not feel the kidney example matches abortion. I bear zero responsibility for the guy with bad kidneys, however, when I get my abortion, I had some role in creating the need for that abortion?? I am not sure if that changes the conclusion, but it certainly implies MORE obligation than if I had no role in creating the need. If someone had punched me in the kidneys, and I die unless they hook themselves up, would I expect it...no. Would I do it for someone I had injured, I don't know. But I would call it the "good" thing to do (purely subjective opinion, but that is all morals for me).

    For the vegetarian portion, to me it comes down to ideal morality versus practical morality (not sure if there is actually such a distinction). I hold all sorts of moral beliefs that I struggle to live up to. IDEALLY, I would sacrifice simple pleasures for the well-being of others. PRACTICALLY, 90% of the time I do what I want before my brain kicks in with any objective analysis of the situation. I like to think I would jump on a grenade that was about to detonate in a room full of people. In reality, I may run away shrieking like a little girl (or boy, but sexist or not I think girls "shriek" more often).
  • Bartricks
    2k
    I am still thinking about the vegetarian aspect of the argument. However, I do not feel the kidney example matches abortion. I bear zero responsibility for the guy with bad kidneys, however, when I get my abortion, I had some role in creating the need for that abortion?? I am not sure if that changes the conclusion, but it certainly implies MORE obligation than if I had no role in creating the need. If someone had punched me in the kidneys, and I die unless they hook themselves up, would I expect it...no. Would I do it for someone I had injured, I don't know. But I would call it the "good" thing to do (purely subjective opinion, but that is all morals for me).ZhouBoTong

    I do not want to get too side-tracked into debating its implications for abortions, as that's not my focus (although I believe we can come up with alternative thought experiments that are more closely analogous to regular pregnancies, and the intuitions remain the same).

    So, sticking to meat-eating - well, 'I' did not create the meat industry or kill the animals whose meat is now on sale to me in shops. And I did not actively cultivate an appetite for meat. So, it is not my fault that animals are being reared and systematically killed for their meat.

    So, through processes for which I bear no moral responsibility, I have an appetite for meat and foregoing it would now require radically altering my diet in ways that will be very inconvenient and uncomfortable.

    That seems relevantly analogous to the Mat situation. It is not my fault that Mat is ill and needs me to forego all sweet food from now on if he is to survive. Am I nevertheless obliged to forego sweet foods from now on?

    I think plausibly not (of course, I accept that as we adjust the case so that it becomes closer and closer to the meat eating case, it may be intuitive that I have an obligation to do 'something').
  • Artemis
    1.9k

    First of all, kudos to your charitably thinking people could stick to the guidelines of the OP to engage the thought experiment. As you've already noticed, it's like second nature to many people around here to skip engaging with the actual question and question the assumptions behind the question instead. (But, just as an aside, being vegetarian is actually very easy and healthy, so not really comparable to sharing your kidneys for life.)

    Anywho: yes, I believe you are now more obligated to stay hooked up to the machine than you had been obligated before to hook yourself up to the machine. The difference is passive versus active moral actions. Before you were kidnapped, you were passively letting someone die, but now, unhooking yourself means you have to actually actively kill him. It may not feel fair, and yeah it sucks, but so does getting kidney disease. Sometimes you get sucky cards and you have to play them no matter what. Upside is that hospitals are pretty cushy nowadays. Downside is that their vegetarian dinner selection is pretty dismal (ironic, eh? The very place that's supposed to make you healthy can't usually make healthy food worth eating).

    The Trolley Problem and its variations explore in depth how different levels of active participation change our perception of the moral permissibility of active and passive actions, i.e., most people would flip the switch to kill one person in order to save five, but most people would not push someone onto the tracks physically to save five others.

    But I also think morality comes in degrees. Even if it does mean you fall on either the wrong or right side, some actions may not be as good as other actions or as bad. If you did choose to unhook yourself, it would be killing the guy, and it would be wrong, but it's obviously not as wrong as kidnapping and murdering a child in cold blood, for example.
  • khaled
    1.3k
    although a cow will die unless I radically alter my dietBartricks

    Does this assume that you can be sure that by not eating meat you are saving the life of at least a few cows? If so I think the situation is radically different from matt's situation.

    In matt's situation it is a choice between helping someone you haven't harmed or not helping them but in this one it is a question between killing a sentient being for your own pleasure or not. You can't just complain that "Changing your diet" is a harm, that's like a serial killer complaining that "Changing his hobby" is a harm. Sure it may be, but in both cases the person in question is the one that developed this habit at the expense of harming others. It would be immoral for them not to try and break it after they recognize the act as immoral.

    In Matt's situation you had no part in causing the illnesss, but in the case for veganism you are clearly the cause that the cow was bred to be killed in the first place. With matt, your diet had nothing to do with his illness, with the cow your diet is the CAUSE it might be killed.

    Let me reword it this way: Say you have a peculiar diet: Eating human kidneys. Your cannibal friends capture Matt and are about to extract his kidneys. Assume you are trying to turn a new leaf and you see cannibalism as immoral now. You can tell them not to extract his kidneys forcibly thus "making a change to your diet". Should you do so? In my mind: Obviously yes.

    Now this isn't a case for veganism or vegetarianism because I believe both of those activities are just excues for people to feel better about themselves. Being a vegan or vegetarian won't realistically reduce the suffering of animals, it'll just increase food waste. Veganism has to be inforced, it can't simply be followed by a handful in a thousand and be expected to make any change.
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    You were comparing the violinist in Thomson's gedanken experiment with a meat-source for our diets, a cow. There's a difference. In the former the violinist isn't in a tight spot because of you and so you're not obligated to do him a favor. In the latter, the cow is being slaughtered because you have a habit of eating meat and so you're responsible for the death of the cow. Now, if it could be shown that the violinist was in fact put into this difficulty because of you, you would be obligated to help him in any way you can. I think this logic applies to the original intent of Thomson's thought experiment which I reckon was directed against the pro-choice side of the abortion debate.

    The fetus doesn't just pop into existence inside the womb; sex is a necessary act. And there's the widely held belief that anyone who performs an act must be sensitive to the consequences of the act and so the people who have sex become accountable for the fetus that resulted from having sex. I'm afraid the violinist is your responsibility and if you are a responsible, moral person you would choose to save the violinist.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    You were comparing the violinist in Thomson's gedanken experiment with a meat-source for our diets, a cow. There's a difference. In the former the violinist isn't in a tight spot because of you and so you're not obligated to do him a favor. In the latter, the cow is being slaughtered because you have a habit of eating meat and so you're responsible for the death of the cow.TheMadFool

    No, I am no more responsible for the cow's predicament than I am for the violinist's. As I've said to others, I did not create the meat industry nor did I take out a hit on a cow and nor did I install an appetite for meat in myself.

    So, though no fault of my own, cows are being killed for meat. If I radically alter my diet, perhaps one less cow - perhaps more - will not be killed. Am I under an obligation to do so?

    Well, again, if I was not under an obligation to forego all sweet food for the rest of my life when it turns out that Mat's life depends on my doing so, likewise it would seem - if the cases are sufficiently analogous - that I am not under an obligation to forego all meat for the rest of my life when it turns out that a cow's life depends on my doing so.
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    nor did I take out a hit on a cowBartricks

    Yes, that's exactly what you did by demanding meat. If you demand meat then someone will butcher an animal. Contrapositively, if you don't want people to butcher animals then you'll have to stop eating meat.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    No, that's silly. If I buy meat, the cow whose meat it is has already been killed.

    Let's say I'm going for a promotion and another person is going for it. My friend misguidedly decides to help me by murdering the other person (not something I asked them to do). Now, am I obliged to forego the promotion? No, of course not.

    And if I accept the promotion, does that mean I am ordering my friend to commit further hits? No, of course not.

    Someone else - not me - has killed the animals. I did not commission them to do so - I am opposed to them doing so. I think it is wrong. Nevertheless, they've done it. And I - through no fault of my own - desire to eat the meat. If I buy it that is not at all - not remotely - equivalent to me commissioning them to kill animals.
  • Artemis
    1.9k
    No, I am no more responsible for the cow's predicament than I am for the violinist's.Bartricks

    You're literally paying for cows to be murdered.

    If I buy it that is not at all - not remotely - equivalent to me commissioning them to kill animals.Bartricks

    That is such twisted logic. Just imagine telling that to the court when you buy child pornography or human kidneys next time. "I wasn't enabling the murderers and child traffickers! I was just paying them for their goods and services! Big dif!"
  • Bartricks
    2k
    No, if I buy some meat I am not thereby commissioning someone to kill a cow. Even if I foresee that someone is likely to do so, that still does not mean I am commissioning it.

    Benefitting from the immoral behaviour of others is not equivalent to engaging in that behaviour, or equivalent to commissioning it.
  • Artemis
    1.9k


    You can only fall back on this argument if you are totally and 100% ignorant of how capitalism and business work.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    No, you seem to be totally ignorant about how intention is an essential ingredient in an act of commissioning and how it differs from foresight.
  • Artemis
    1.9k
    No, you seem to be totally ignorant about how intention is an essential ingredient in an act of commissioning and how it differs from foresight.Bartricks

    *Sigh* if you have the foresight that A->B, then by willfully enacting A, you are willfully causing B.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    No - sigh - completely wrong. Foreseeing something is not the same as intending it.

    If I jump out of a building to escape the heat and flames I foresee that I'll die, but I did not intend to die, did I?
  • Artemis
    1.9k

    If you pull the trigger on a gun and the person it's pointed at dies and you foresaw that it would happen.... it's not your fault?
  • Bartricks
    2k
    Depends.

    Let's focus on one thing at a time. We're talking about commissioning something. That requires an intention.

    If I buy some meat, I am not thereby commissioning a killing of a cow. I may have done something wrong, perhaps. But let's not abuse concepts: I have not commissioned the killing of a cow.

    "Please go and kill me a cow" - that's a commissioning. Buying meat from someone who's killed a cow - even if I know full well it'll inspire them to go and kill another - is not, not, not a commissioning.

    I may be partly to blame for the subsequent killing, I may not be. But it is not a commissioning. And you are quite wrong to conflate intention with foresight. Foreseeing something is not the same as intending it, as my example demonstrated.

    It was true, wasn't it - if I jumped out of the building to avoid the heat and smoke, but foreseeing that in doing so I would die, I did not thereby intend to die, did I? My death was foreseen by me, but not intended by me.
  • Artemis
    1.9k


    I am focusing on one thing. You're the one trying to weasel it to fit your paradigm. It couldn't actually be more simple. Again, if you foresee that A->B and you do A on purpose, then you're causing B on purpose. Even if you wish A-/->B (as in your flight from fire example), you still decided on an action you knew would lead to B. Your wishful thinking doesn't absolve you from guilt. No more than Ted Bundy declaring that he wished strangling his victims hadn't led to their death would absolve him from wrongdoing or having chosen to murder them by strangling them.

    Some scenarios in which you are forced externally to choose A might.... But in those cases you're not really "choosing" A, you are being forced by some external mechanism out of your control.

    But your example isn't a very good one, because really it suggests A-> 99%B, but ~A->100%B, so really by jumping out the window you're choosing A-> 1%~B. But then, it's also a bad example because it involves a split second decision based largely on acute fear and pain and confusion because of fire and heat and smoke and noise.... Not really comparable to strolling through the supermarket.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    I am focusing on one thing. You're the one trying to weasel it to fit your paradigm. It couldn't actually be more simple. Again, if you foresee that A->B and you do A on purpose, then you're causing B on purpose.Artemis

    No, what you're doing is declaring an act to be intentional, when it clearly isn't. As whether an act is intentional or not can often make a radical difference to its morality, we need to get this straight.

    If you foresee that your act will have a certain consequence, X, that does NOT mean that you intended X to occur. It does NOT mean that you caused X 'on purpose'.

    There are countless examples to show this. Foreseeing that your act will have benefits for others is not the same as intending that your act have those consequences. Someone who gives money to charity in order to benefit others is acting in a praiseworthy fashion, whereas someone who gives an identical sum to the same charity simply in order to acquire some tax benefits (merely foreseeing that others will benefit) is either not praiseworthy at all, or at least considerably less so. Someone who jumps from a burning building to avoid the smoke and heat, foreseeing that the fall will kill them, has not intentionally killed themselves.

    Take trolley cases. In the first case you divert the trolley away from the five people into the path of one person, foreseeing that they'll be killed. In the second case you shove a fat man off a bridge onto the rails with the intention that his bulk will stop the trolley in its tracks, saving five.

    Virtually everyone gets the rational impression that the first act - diversion - is right, whereas the second, 'fat man' - is wrong. The acts have the same consequences - one life down, five saved - but they seem different morally. Wherein lies the difference? Both were actions that had the death of one as their consequence. But in one - diversion - the impact with the trolley is foreseen, whereas in the other - fat man - the impact is intended.

    Again and again and again our intuitions confirm that a) there is a difference between whether a consequence was foreseen or intended and b) that the difference is often of the first importance morally.

    Buying meat foreseeing that in doing so others will be inspired to kill animals is not - not - the same as intentionally killing those animals, or taking out a hit on those animals.

    But like I say, you're dug in.
  • Artemis
    1.9k


    I'm going to try to explain it one more time before I move on with my life:

    Even if you wish that consequence B was not a consequence of action A, if you foresaw that A leads to B, you made some calculation that you would prefer A AND B over some other choice. You simply decided that your adversity to B was not worth sacrificing your desire for A, so you decided B was worth A.

    Your charity/tax example does nothing to change that. It merely shows that we can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, i.e., that we can cause the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    And the trolley problem really doesn't prove your point either. Pulling the lever versus shoving the fat man are both directly causing the death of another person. One is just more immediate and physical, which is where our revulsion comes from.

    As to your dig that I'm "dug in".... Well, let's just say it's interesting psychologically when two parties won't budge on their positions, but one party thinks the not-budging only makes the other person seem stubborn.

    But believe what you will. I'm happy to rest my case until you have something new or interesting to add.
  • Bartricks
    2k
    No, it is a well known distinction - it is embodied in the doctrine of double effect - and a foreseen consequence is 'not' intended. No amount of foreseeing and calculating in light of it makes it 'intended'. It was not the goal of the act and one could, in principle, hope that a foreseen consequence not obtain (whereas one cannot coherently hope that an intended consequence not obtain).
    Buying meat to eat is not plausibly an act of commissioning a death. If you think it is, then you simply have a crude position.
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