Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Carninormative Man

first edition of Animal Farm
In his essay on our “carninormative”society “More equal than others” (TLS, 7/22/16), it only takes Julian Baggini one throw of the dice to disarm utilitarianism in general. The title, of course, refers to Orwell’s famous quote from Animal Farm, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal then others," but the idea is that meat eating, like a lot of activities is a complex matter, as is any attempt to determine the consciousness of animals, particularly as they are slaughtered. Baggini says, “Everyone else knows that complicity in wrongdoing—or right-doing for that matter—does not require that your contribution makes a measurable difference. The suicide bomber whose explosives fail to detonate is not let off the hook. And if ten people give what turns out to be more than enough food to someone who has none, the first nine are no more praiseworthy than the last one. If utilitarian thinking cannot make sense of that so much for utilitarianism.” Of course a classic utilitarian issue is the famous Trolley problem and what's Baggini’s solution to that? The decision to turn the trolley in the direction where it will kill only one person instead of say 5 is a no brainer and ultimately utilitarian in its quality—though the problem is talked about so often since it is a perfect illustration of the intersection between ethical and utilitarian judgment. Kant for instance would probably not have sanctioned the sacrifice of one for many since the killing of one is wrong, in and of itself. Baggini concludes his essay thusly, “To live honestly, as creatures of flesh and blood, we need to face these facts squarely. Such realism is often missing in ethical theories that see any kind of human hand in animal death as unacceptable…This isn’t Disneyland and living authentically, as an adult, requires us to embrace fully the bitter-sweet nature of many of our most profound pleasures.” Amen.

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