Tag Archives: Ethics

Shermer Sticks to Bloodying the Moral Landscape

“I went Vegan once,” mocks Michael Shermer, “it started just after breakfast one day and ended at dinner that night.”[1]Michael Shermer, “Leaving Las Vegas… Rich,” Skepticblog, July 17, 2012, http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/07/17/leaving-las-vegas-rich/. Oh, what a card.

Shermer’s dismissal of veganism is a direct reflection of his ethics and flexitarianism as a skeptic. And yet years later, his take on morality is in keeping with the paradigm set out by Sam Harris in his The Moral Landscape, where the ideal is the maximum “flourishing of sentient beings.” One flaw in Harris’s book noted elsewhere was the glaring omission of the vast majority of most sentient beings on the planet from it, other than some minor asides. • • •

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Dawkins Still Can’t Fully Evolve

One theme throughout Richard Dawkins’ career has been the criticism of apportioning moral concern and worth according to species boundaries. Like writers and philosophers before him, especially after Darwin, he consistently stresses the idea of a biological continuum that implies a moral continuum.

The idea is right there in his first book, The Selfish Gene, when he is deriding the exceptional status some give a foetus over an adult chimpanzee. In that passage he also notes the speciesist bigotries inherent in the ill-treatment of animals:

The only thing more strongly forbidden by our culture is eating people (even if they are already dead).

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An Ethically Upside Down World

In his book Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer observes an inversion of values when it comes to one of the greatest disgraces of the modern world, concentrated industrial farming. The worse the conditions on a factory farm, the better for profit. “In the world of factory farming,” Foer writes,

expectations are turned upside down. Veterinarians don’t work toward optimal health, but optimal profitability. Drugs are not for curing diseases, but substitutes for destroyed immune systems. Farmers do not aim to produce healthy animals.”[1]Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals (New York: Back Bay Books, 2010), 184.

The factory farm is where sick not healthy animals are raise; it is where imperfection is the aim using drugs and genetic peculiarities nature could never abide; it is where perversity at every level now counts as normality. • • •

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Consider the Lobster – David Foster Wallace

A classic essay from a renowned essayist. Originally Published August 2004 in Gourmet magazine.

For 56 years, the Maine Lobster Festival has been drawing crowds with the promise of sun, fun, and fine food. One visitor would argue that the celebration involves a whole lot more.

The enormous, pungent, and extremely well marketed Maine Lobster Festival is held every late July in the state’s midcoast region, meaning the western side of Penobscot Bay, the nerve stem of Maine’s lobster industry. What’s called the midcoast runs from Owl’s Head and Thomaston in the south to Belfast in the north. (Actually, it might extend all the way up to Bucksport, but we were never able to get farther north than Belfast on Route 1, whose summer traffic is, as you can imagine, unimaginable.) The region’s two main communities are Camden, with its very old money and yachty harbor and five-star restaurants and phenomenal B&Bs, and Rockland, a serious old fishing town that hosts the Festival every summer in historic Harbor Park, right along the water. • • •

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If Pigs Could Swim – B. R. Myers

Why our farm animals would be better off on the other side of the Atlantic

George Orwell once wrote that the Spanish are cruel to animals, but he added, “such things don’t matter.” Over the years the second generalization has probably startled more readers than the first. Whether or not Kant was right that hardness to animals causes hardness to people, we tend to think the two go together, and no one wants a matador for a babysitter. But among the eloquent essays compiled by Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum in the new book Animal Rights is one by Richard A. • • •

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Hard to Swallow – B. R. Myers

The gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms

For centuries civilized society took a dim view of food lovers, calling them “gourmands” and “gluttons” and placing them on a moral par with lechers. They were even assigned their own place in hell, and I don’t mean a table near the kitchen: They were to be force-fed for eternity. Not until halfway through the Industrial Revolution did the word gourmet come into use. Those who have since applied it to themselves have done a fine job of converting the world’s scorn to respect. The pleasures of the oral cavity (though we must say “palate” instead) are now widely regarded as more important, more intrinsically moral, and a more vital part of civilized tradition than any other pleasures. • • •

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The Moral Crusade Against Foodies – B. R. Myers

Gluttony dressed up as foodie-ism is still gluttony.

We have all dined with him in restaurants: the host who insists on calling his special friend out of the kitchen for some awkward small talk. The publishing industry also wants us to meet a few chefs, only these are in no hurry to get back to work. Anthony Bourdain’s new book, his 10th, is Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. In it he announces, in his trademark thuggish style, that “it is now time to make the idea of not cooking ‘un-cool’—and, in the harshest possible way short of physical brutality, drive that message home.” Having finished the book, I think I’d rather have absorbed a few punches and had the rest of the evening to myself. • • •

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Ethics and Animals – Peter Singer

Text is from one of the four lectures Singer gave for the 10th Dasan Memorial Lectures, Korea, in 2007

Throughout Western civilization, nonhuman animals have been seen as beings of no ethical significance, or at best, of very minor significance. Aristotle thought that animals exist for the sake of more rational humans, to provide them with food and clothing. In the book of Genesis, man is given dominion over the animals, and only humans are made in God’s image. St Paul asked “Doth God care for oxen?” but it was a rhetorical question – he assumed that the answer was obviously no. • • •

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Vegetarian/Vegan Starter PDFs

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