Friday, March 29, 2019

Fellow Creatures

In his review essay of Christine M. Korsgaard’s Fellow Creatures: Our Obligations to Other Animals (“What We Owe a Rabbit,” The New York Review of Books, 3/21/19), Thomas Nagel offers the following précis of the author’s philosophy: “Humans, with their capacity for language, historical record-keeping, long-term memory, and panning for the future, have a strong consciousness of their lives as extended in time. But because the other animals are capable of learning and remembering, we know that they also have temporally extended conscious lives, not just successions of momentary experiences; what happens to an animal at one time changes its point of view at later times, so that it acquires an ‘ongoing character that makes it a more unified self over time.’” The occasion of the piece is attempt to discuss Korsgaard’s Kantian argument that's being offered to supplant the utilitarian view famously postulated by Peter Singer in his landmark l975 Animal LiberationParenthetically this poses an interesting epistemological question in and of itself. Can one maintain two separate but equal philosophical arguments that yield the same conclusion? Indeed the English philosopher Derek Parfit has attempted to unite consequentialism (of which utilitarianism is a subset) with Kantian deontology. That conclusion, however, will hit you right between the eyes at the end of this brilliant essay when Nagel remarks “when cultured meat (also called clean meat synthetic meat, or in vitro meat) becomes less expensive to produce…I suspect that our present practices, being no longer gastronomically necessary, will suddenly become morally unimaginable.” The experience of reading Nagel’s essay might remind some readers of the feeling they had emerging from the expose Food, Inc. back in 2006. Few viewers were likely to go for a hamburger after witnessing the horrific abuses perpetrated on animals in that movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.