I think that I grasped Chapter 6 "Past Harms and Special Obligations" relatively well. It did, however, leave me with a few questions that, to my understanding, were not considered. One thing Palmer did not discuss was the amount weighted to animals vs. humans in possible reparation efforts. Suppose a man was driving and accidentally hit a coyote with his car. The coyote was in a lot of pain and suffering, lets say 10 units of pain. The man happened to be a veterinarian and knew the coyote had no chance to live. Lets say for whatever reason, he only had these two options. Option one would be to put the animal out of its misery by killing it, but in the process, the animal would bite him in an artery or something causing the same amount of pain overall the coyote would suffer had he just let it die, but the animal suffering would have stopped. Or option two would be to get back into his car and drive away. Could the man be held morally accountable for not wanting to suffer as well? Or perhaps same situation, only he saw the animal get hit by a car by someone else driving. Same two options. Well it seems clear to common sense and I'm sure Palmer would agree that one is not required to give oneself as much pain in order to relieve another of that same amount of pain--and this is true even if the recipient was a human.
Another scenario I wonder about is if he was driving and again, hit the coyote and it had no chance to live. But, the two options presented are as follows. He can put the coyote out of its misery by killing it, but somehow his son would sneak out of the car and get hurt in the process by the coyote or even the father, accidentally. Or he could not get out of the car and drive away. His son would suffer lets say 5 units of pain compared to a total of 10 units to the coyote. Which is he more morally responsible? The problem with this sort of interesting example is that it does not really help us think about our obligations/duties to animals, becasue what we should do in these cases is not even clear when it is just humans involved.
Or lets say the son would suffer some sort of psychological damage at a young age seeing his father kill the animal, or even seeing the animal in such pain and suffering. Another coyote reparation situation I was thinking about was if the coyote was with its baby and he hit the coyote. If he got out of the car, and brought the coyote to a veterinarian to save its life and relieve suffering, the baby would run away into the forest and get eaten by a wolf. Or, if he left the coyote to die, the baby would stay a little longer and avoid being eaten by the wolf, and would live a long and normal coyote life.
The last coyote situation I was left wondering was if a development company decided that it wanted to clear a coyotes habitat. So, they gathered all the coyotes in that habitat and sterilized them so they couldn't reproduce. The coyotes had no idea this occurred, did not suffer any pain at all, and the development company waited for them to live out their coyote lives in their entirety. Or the development company cleared away half of their habitat now, causing suffering to the entire coyote population and half of them dying as a result, but they could still reproduce and continued their coyote generations on half the land. This case raises questions about obligations to species versus obligations to individuals and it is not clear that Palmer accepts obligation to species..
The last scenario I was thinking of concerned the dumpster kittens. What if a guy was walking down the street and saw a sign that said there is a 50percent chance of kittens having been left to die in a dumpster the sign was referring. Does the man have a moral obligation to make sure that there aren't any kittens in the dumpster? Would it be wrong of him to just keep walking and not check? Would his moral obligations change with the probabilities of the sign? Matt: Better to focus on a couple of examples and then explore how you think Palmer would resolve them and/or how you would--than to multiply examples w/o analyzing them.
In Chapter 4 of Animal Ethics in Context, Palmer stresses the difference between domesticated and wild animals and she provides a clear distinction between the two. She claims that a domesticated animal is one that is "bred in captivity, in a human community that maintains complete mastery over its breeding. This distinction is clearly understood, yet, I had trouble fully comprehending her implication of wild animals. She explains that wild animals can be categorized in three different senses (locational, dispositional, and constitutive), but it became unclear where to draw the line when she brings about the point of human-animal relations in the 'contact zone'. I think there is no clear line but a bunch of inbetween cases, more or less wild in all those senses
She suggests that these relations are between humans and animals, however, animals that are "not fully wild, nor domesticated". She attempts to clarify these types of relationships by "using the language of mutualism, commensalism, and contramensalism." In the first both groups (humans and animals) benefit from the interaction. The second suggests that animal benefits yet the human remains neutral after the association. The third entails that the animal benefits from the relationship with the human, but at the expense of that human. I was able to follow this somewhat after reading her example of the squirrel and human relationship but I was left with a few questions. What does it mean to 'benefit' from the association? A rat might benefit from food left around the house and the shelter the hourse provides. And how would the squirrel benefit from the mutualistic relationship with the small child? Perhaps the child feeds it?
Here is my critical question for today- Ch 3 Palmer--Teresa
In the section, “Contractual Relations,” Palmer addresses the issue of whether or not the supposed contracts between humans and animals can be broken. First, I think the obvious answer to this question is yes. Palmer thinks that it is unclear how animals could break the contract (if it is to be domesticated...) Thus, a more appropriate question would be “should the contract be broken?” But in answering the former question, Palmer refers to
several philosophers to outline what (I think) are her views. Palmer thinks the notion of a domesticated-animal contract is is "fatally flawed."
According to Budiansky” the contract is broken if domesticated animals are worse off, in terms of shelter or protection, than they would have been in the wild” (pg 58). Palmer follows up this claim that this is a “problematic comparison”. What I think Palmer means by this, and as she later says, is that a domestic animal could be nothing other than domesticated (it is by nature, domestic). Thus, to ask if it would’ve been better off as a wild animal is not a real question; it is like asking if a dog would’ve been better off as a person. I agree with Palmer on this. This is an excellent explantion of her point!
However, according to Larrere and Larrere, the contract is broken if we put domestic animals back into the wild, if
we fail to protect them or if we treat them poorly. My issue with
Palmer in regards to this question is that she doesn’t make normative or ethical claims about the contract being broken; she only makes descriptive claims. In failing to do so, it is almost as if she is saying that is acceptable for the contract to be broken on any terms. The idea is that if two individuals agree to do certain things for each other and in fact empiricially fails to perform, that means the contract has been bronken and the other is relieved of his/her obligations under the contract.
Furthermore, in response to L & L, pets are often harmed by their owners, but this does not “free” them from the contract and the abuse. (Might it free the dog from its "obligation" under the contract not to bite the owner?)
In a contract between two human parties, if one party violates the terms of the contract, the other part has the right to back out of the contract. But this is not the case for animal-human “contracts”. The animal is still stuck with the abusive owner. It might have the right to back out, but it is unable to exercise that right as the owner dominates the animal.
While I feel that LFI's requirement of a context (domestication) is a particular strength that allows it to escape ridiculous requirements such as supplanting nature at large with "justice," (I think what is crucial for Palmer is the relation between the human and the animals--that's the contextual feature that is key) my main concern with LFI, at least to this point in the reading, is that it seems to ignore possible human interventions with regard to the wild as a context in and of itself. What actions are justified when we have to weigh good and bad within the wild itself,--I think, but am not sure, that Palmer believes with Reagn that this is "none of our moral business"--we should not do this weighing...--when their outcomes may have implications toward the domesticated world?--I guess I'd say that if these wild interactions have implications for domesticated world (e.g., an animal eating all of a bush that has cancer curing properties or a wolf attacking our dogs) this is not longer a stricly "wild" context and the LFI intuition does not apply. While I realize that this is strictly an animal theory, environmental and aesthetic concerns toward the wild inevitably effect animals that are of value. Utilitarianism provides a basis to judge possible choices regarding animals in terms of overall good, while rights and capabilities theories approach the human interaction with the wild as justice issues (Regan's rights view thinks humans harming animals is a question of justice, humans failing to provide assistance to them is not a question of justice or rights). However, by not allowing some form of calculus for decision-making between interests within the wild, LFI seems to treat the boundary between human-animal interaction as static, with a solid line between domesticated moral concerns and the untamed wild. However any human activity has moral dimensions, and at this point in the reading LFI seems to lack the ability to weigh the interest of one endangered species against other species, for example. It is a good question what Palmer's LFI intuition implies about preventing the extinction of animals species going extinct on its own.
Sorry if this question doesn't dig too deeply; much of this chapter was a review of the past couple of weeks and I couldn't find much with which to take issue here.
2 November 2011
Animal Ethics in Context
In the beginning of chapter one, Palmer sets the stage by discussing how the majority of people have a natural urge to sympathize with domesticated animals, such as the “Amersham horse”, and that we do not hold wild animals, such as the wildebeest, to the same standards. Palmer claims that when domesticated animals are mistreated, people get very angry, upset, and etc., but when horrible things happen to wild animals, we claim that it is merely nature, and that we as humans, cannot do anything about their safety and well-being (Palmer calls this the laissez-faire intuition). The "laissez-faire intutions" (=LFI) is not that we cannot, but that we should not help them. Opposing this intuition, is the belief that it does not matter if the animals are domesticated or wild, we should consider these animals the same. The opposing intuition is that if animals have the same capacities, they should get the same treatment. Palmer goes on to discuss our moral responsibility to animals, and that if they contain “certain keystone capacities, capabilities, and attributes, then there are therefore morally considerable.”
Although I have only read the first chapter of the book, some concerns and questions that I already have, are that yes, we can “generally” group animals into either a “wild” or “domesticated” group, but I feel like this generalization may lead an individual to use it as an excuse for not sympathizing with one animal, while doing so with a different animal. (So you reject the LFI?)
Also, I believe it will be problematic to assume that since one animal may demonstrate “keystone capacities, capabilities, and attributes”, more than others, are we to morally consider them more than animals that do not demonstrate them at all? (For Palmer, if they lack these capacities, interests, well being, its not that the count less, but they don't count at all--at least not for own sake, as they have no sake of their own.) For example, Palmer claims one of these metal capabilities as an animal’s ability to feel pain. She states, “first our everyday interactions with animals are fundamental in shaping our general intuitions about what animals are like, including their ability to feel pain”. Also, understanding an animals ability to feel pain may help us understand why it is so important to treat these being ethically, it may also cause us to favor animals that we encounter daily, over those animals that which we rarely, or do not ever encounter. (Is this because we can't recognize pain in these unfamiliar animals?)
Whether you are inclined to agree with Martha Nussbaum’s approach to animals depends on two factors. One, if you are inclined to agree that her ‘capabilities approach’, which is Amartya Sen’s ‘capabilities approach’, is a viable political construct to implement here today. And two, you agree with her reasoning behind assimilating this rights approach to animals.
She asks two questions in this latter half of the chapter; who takes part in the consensus about animal’s rights? And, is it ‘reasonable’ to hope that the rights of animals can be the object of an overlapping consensus? She concedes on the first point that, although we cannot ask what animals would reasonably agree to, we can ask, “What would a guardian appointed to protect the entitlements of such creatures reasonably agree to, on their behalf?” She supports this by saying that although the animals are not involved, they are still the subjects of the theory of justice. I have a problem here. On one hand I completely agree with Nussbaum – I think that we should establish laws that protect animal’s rights – but she gives me no reason why hypothetically assigning “a (human) guardian” to speak on behalf of animals justifies them to qualify for the capabilities approach. This misconstrues what the purpose of assigning a guardian is. It is not to prove that animals have capabilities whose support is a question of justice. She's already argued for that. Rather the guardian's job is to help us figure out what is importnat flourishing in an animals life. She completely side-stepped the deeper metaphysical issue here; precisely why should we assign rights to animals. She does not delve into this issue. She is not addressing that question in this particular section. She has been arguing throughtout this chapter that if you accept the capabilities approach (=justice requires we support and not undermine basic capabilities), given that animals have capabilities for flourishing, they should be included in the realm of justice (as beings with entitlements=rights).
Her second question, one revolving around an overlapping consensus (a fundamentally crucial element to her capabilities approach) (Can you explain why? I don't really understand why), she deals with in the same way. As far as achieving an overlapping consensus, she is anticipating arguments about both the conceptions of animals for one another and also human conceptions. Regarding animals and how they conceive of one another, she sums it up by saying “…if we do not persuade the tigers to change their mind, so to speak, we can always control them.” Ok, true. But isn’t the overlapping consensus the foundation on which the capabilities approach is built as a legitimate theory of justice? This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book, and reading this chapter now only reiterates what I initially thought – she has produced (added on to) a legitimate contemporary liberal theory for justice in the past, one that generally works in the framework of society. Yet when she is forced to include the fringes; the disabled, the foreigners, the animals -- she follows the predictable trend in the scientific process of denying the outlier contradictory evidence, and simply stretches her inadequate theory to cover the margins.--For this criticism to have power, it needs lots and lots of supporting details: What is the contradictory evidence exactly? Why is her theory inadequate (is it because you reject the capabilities approach)? Need specifics.
The truth in my opinion is that the capabilities approach just isn’t good enough. Not for humans, and certainly not for animals. Can you provide some reasons for why you think this? It is precisely because of factors like animals and the disabled that prove too problematic for the capabilities theory to function properly on its own. I worry that you are running togehter the capability approach with contractarianism. These are very different and it is clear why contractarianism has a problem with the mentally disabled and animals (they can't make a contract). But these beings have species specific capabilities and so the capabilities approach can include them in the realm of justice and it is natural for it to do so. And it’s not even that we disagree on the ends, just the means.
Dr. Ned Hettinger
PHIL 301 – 001
1 November 2011
Martha Nussbaum’s Beyond “Compassion and Humanity”
Nussbaum discusses the views of Singer and Bentham regarding pain towards animals. Non-sentient animals, such as crustaceans and mollusks, do not have the ability to foresee their own death; thus, there is no harm in killing them. The capabilities approach has problems saying this, for these creatures have capabilities that one might blight or tward the flourishing of. However, what about the case for sentient animals, such as foxes and wolves? These conscious animals, under the infliction of prolonging pain, can foresee their own death and take “conscious interest in the continuation of life.” That itself is bad. On the other hand, if they were to be killed painlessly, such as a deer shot down in surprise, then there is no harm done. This is not Nussbaum's view: For her, the deer has capabilities that we have obligations not to blight. What difference does it make though, whether an animal experience vicious or painless death? In the end, animals meet their fate, and the pain ends there. I'm not sure I understand the last two sentencse. Replace "animal" with "human animal" and ask what differnce does it make whether a human experiences a very painful or painless death, for once dead the pain ends. Many worry that their loved ones (including animals) have end of life experience that are not filled with pain.
It seems to me that Singer and Bentham would say such things due to empathy. We would not feel as bad if an animal is painlessly killed rather than have the animal go through a more terrible pain. Although it would be nice to have an animal die painlessly and quickly, it has not always been the case, especially what was shown in the “Witness” documentary. In the video, we see the various ways that an animal may die. For example, one is an apparatus that electrocutes the animal; quick and painless. Another is placing the animal in an enclosed box and releases the carbon monoxide; slow and painful. Why perform the former and rather than the latter? Again, I'm thinking this has an obvious answer: Because pain is bad and we should avoid inflicting it when we can.
Martha C. Nussbaum
Beyond “Compassion and Humanity”: Justice for Nonhuman Animals
In “Beyond ‘Compassion and Humanity’ Nussbaum argues the extent of intelligence in many nonhuman animals and rejects the idea that only those who join a contract as rough equals can be primary, nonderivative subjects of a theory of justice. (Good, Nussbaum rejects social contract theory of justice/obligations.) She endorses a capabilities approach with Aristotelian ingredients, claiming the inalienable rights of man and the notion of freedom should be extended to animals, and that all creatures ought to be given the right to live a dignified existence regulated by justice. The idea that there should be justice served for nonhuman animals is no longer a foreign idea. Whether we have duties to nonhuman animals is another matter. If animals are in the sphere of justice, it necessary follows not only that we have duties to them, but that they are entitled to (have rights to) certain treatment. But to seek to extend the capabilities approach to nonhuman animals is clearly odd. If capabilities presuppose the individual administration of personal freedom towards personal well-being and goals, it is difficult to see how this relates to nonhuman animals.
However, to Martha Nussbaum this translates into ensuring dignified existence which allows nonhuman animals to flourish by exercising their type of capabilities (p. 326). Moreover, it follows that nonhuman animals have rights to entitlements that can secure a dignified existence. With regard to the social contract, Martha Nussbaum's theory runs into problems, for obvious reasons. Although Rawls promoted moral rights of compassion and humanity for nonhuman animals, he realized that the parties to a contract would have to possess the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. I agree. Nussbaum attributes this view to the inability of John Rawls to imagine the intelligence of nonhuman animals. Nussbaum rejects the social contract theory and with it the idea that to have rights and be fully part of moral community one must be part of a social contract that creates those rights and moral community.
“The sphere of justice is the sphere of basic entitlements”, says Nussbaum. Yeah, obviously. She claims that if we are to think of animals as active beings, entitled to pursue the good then we can better conceptualize that the damages we ensue upon them are unjust. Sure, but then Nussbaum takes this too far for me. She claims that the capabilities approach views animals as an agent and as a subject—a creature who is itself an end. Thus, she claims that though compassion overlaps with the sense of justice, compassion in itself is too indeterminate, and that what is required is a special sort of compassion that focuses on wrongful action and sees the animal as an agent and as an end. Its not so much that she wants a special sort of compassion as something other than compassion for animals, but justice for them, to see them as beings who are owed respectful treatment and can be wronged (and not just creatures toward whom we show compassion). I don’t see why this is necessary. We do have laws that protect the rights of animals and punish those who inflict wrongful harm and neglect upon animals, though they can and should be strengthened by our judicial system, they nevertheless were implicated because of our compassion and reverence for animal lives and we do recognize that wrongful actions must be and will be punishable by the law, and therefore such actions are required as unjust. As ingenious as her efforts may be in extending a social contract theory to include animals, (she rejects this view of how morality/justice originates, rather than trying to extend it to animals) I do not think that animals can adequately be viewed as autonomous agents, consciously projecting an image of themselves in accordance to their own free will towards the future (this is well put and might well be true for even the most sophisticated animals. But this is not what she thinks is necessary for inclusion in spheres of justice). I’m going to have to agree with Rawls—we do have certain moral duties to animals, those of compassion and humanity, and that the fact that animals feel pleasure and pain imposes such duties; nevertheless, the social contract theory is not the basis of such duties.
20 October 2011
Critical Questions on Korsgaard
I found it difficult to actually combat anything that Korsgaard had to say about Kant’s ideas. I actually agree with most of what Kant has to say regarding animals. Kant's main idea is that we have no direct duties to animals; they are merely tools for human benefit. Is this what you are agreeing with? The animal friendly arguments in this article are Korsgaard's claim that Kant did not see the implications of his own argument; that it provides grounds for direct moral consideration of animals. One thing I did find issue with is Kant’s conclusion that killing animals is a human right (Korsgaard, 89). Even though Kant adds that the killing itself must be quick, painless, and non-sporting, it seems too strong to say that killing animals is our right. Kant doesn’t actually say what a suitable reason for killing would be, so it is assumed he means for use as food. I still don’t feel like we have the right to kill animals, even with this reason. I’m not saying that it is unforgivable. Instead, I believe determining whether or not killing would be justifiable is case-specific. For instance, if you were lost in the woods for days, and had no knowledge of the local flora and what was safe to eat, killing an animal in order to survive may be (or would be?) justified. Even if it were, I do not believe it is our right to do so. It is justified, we may do it, but it is not our right to do it? Explain. Similar to Kant’s idea, I also feel like there should be a certain level of appreciation for the animal itself. Do you mean Kant's ideas or Korsgaard's extension of Kant? It seemed strange to me that Kant would say that we had the right to kill animals in certain situations, since this seems oddly utilitarian. A deontologist like Kant can say circumstances matter to our duties, but not that the conseqences do. This is an important difference.
Critical Question #2
“The Rights of Animals and Demands of Nature”
In this article, Jamieson discusses the issue of speciesism and how we relate ourselves to other animals and nature. He advocates the position of anti-speciesism, promoting that animals and humans both belong to nature and humans should not be held to a higher degree than animals. Though he allows that human lives typically matter more (becasue of the quality of their lives, not because human). From this position, he does not believe in eating meat, because justifying the murder and consumption of an animal such as a cow would justify doing the same to a human (at the same consciousness level as the cow).
I found some of that argument troubling. Animals in nature rarely kill and eat within their own species, but they do hunt other species. From that point of view, humans should be able to hunt other species without running into the moral issue of whether it is okay to kill humans as well. Because animals kill and eat other species, it is permissible for humans to kill and eat other species? This seems to assume the premise, that if animals act a certain way then it is permissible for humans to act that way. Is this a plausible premise?
Another point that I found troubling was Jamieson’s talk about killing species for population control. He thinks that the killing of a species for the purpose of population control is not justified because humans are working as nature’s agents and not having to deal with the consequences of being “in nature”. Humans have afforded themselves a place at the top of the food chain, and for that they suffer fewer consequences. While I do not agree with the way that animals are slaughtered for meat consumption, I think it is also hard to say that humans should not kill animals to eat. If humans are in nature just like animals, then they should be able to act as animals do. Here is the premise explicitly stated: If animals do it, its okay for humans to do it (at least if we assume humans are part of nature). We should use animals in nature as our moral guide? It seems pretty clear that we don't want to use how animals treat each other for how we humans should treat each other. Do we want to use how animals treat each other as a guide for how we humans treat animals? The following statement should make us nervous about that too.
As pointed out, when a pack of hyenas kill a gazelle it is not done in a friendly and pain free manner.
Philosophy of Ethics, Aesthetics, and Animals
October 3, 2011
Ethics Aesthetics and Animals
In Peter Singer's article "Taking Life: Animals", he writes in defense of the mass killing of animals for food, by using the replaceability argument, The replaceability argument states that "the loss meat eaters inflict on one animal is thus compensated for by the benefit they confer on the next", In other words, it is okay to kill one pig to eat its meat, because we then are also responsible for the birth of a new pig, that would never have existed, if not for the fact that we want it alive so we can one day eat it.
ONE THING TO NOTE IS THAT SINGER IS A DEFENDER OF ANIMALS. HE ACTUALLY THINKS THIS ARGUMENT HAS MANY FLAWS, BUT IN THE END ARGUES THAT IF ONE TAKES THE “TOTAL VIEW” (RATHER THAN THE PRIOR EXISTENCE VIEW) THEN ONE WILL HAVE TO TAKE SERIOUSLY THE REPLACEABILITY ARGUMENT.
While defending this theory, Singer uses an analogy involving two mothers and their babies who have been born with disabilities. In the second case, a mother knew that if she conceived a baby in the next three months, then the baby would be born with a disability which would substantially less that child's quality of life. However, if this woman were to wait three months, and then conceive, she could bare a perfectly healthy child. When the woman in this scenario does not wait, and has a baby with the defect, her defense to the child that she bore, is that, that child would still not be alive if she had waited three months to conceive. This is because a different set of sperm and egg would have been used to create the second child, and although the child would be healthy, it would not be the same child as the first. I believe that in using this argument, Singer pokes a hole in his replaceability theory all together. To apply this example to a pig, one could say that even though the pig that is eaten is replaced by the birth of a new pig, that is a different pig!
SINGER THINKS THE ARGUMENT WITH THE TWO WOMEN SUPPORTS REPLACEABILITY. REPLACEABILITY SUGGESTS THAT THE WELL BEING OF FUTURE AS YET NON-EXISTENT BEINGS CAN COUNT CONCERNING THE MORALITY OF ONE’S ACTIONS. SINCE IT IS WRONG TO CREATE THE CHILD WITH A DISABILTY WHEN ONE COULD WAIT AND CREAT A NONDISABLED CHILD, THAT SHOWS THAT THE WELFARE OF POSSIBLE BEINGS COUNTS IN THE EQUATION. AND THIS IS WHAT THE REPLACEABLITLY OF ANIMALS WE EAT BY FUTURE ANIMALS WITH A WELL BEING RELIES ON.
And depending on what you believe the cognitive abilities of a pig are, one could argue that the thoughts, dreams and values of that first pig have been shattered by its death, and not replaceable by the birth of a new pig (that will also be slaughtered one day).
WE’LL HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THESE COGNITIVE ABILITIES. SINGER THINKS PIGS ARE SELF-AWARE AND NOT “MERELY CONSCIOUS” BEINGS, BUT I DOUBT HE THINKS THEY HAVE “DREAMS” IN THE SENSE THAT A HUMAN WOULD
Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation
Dr. Hettinger’s argument here can be broken down into a simple concept; that there is an aesthetic justification for environmental preservation, and that animal beauty is a significant part of that justification. He goes on to show how this is neither morally objectionable nor superficial to use beauty in this context, and that predation among animals doesn’t necessary detract from it’s aesthetic value.
Since I agree with basically every argument made here, I will give support to my favorite line of reasoning that Dr. Hettinger uses to defend his thesis. Which in my opinion is using beauty as an objectionable basis for the treatment of animals. He goes on to show how we already do this among ourselves; better-looking people get better opportunities, etc. But given the discrepancy between animals and ourselves, the thought of justifying preservation on the basis of beauty is not superficial. It is actually almost opposite, because we are not relating the animal’s beauty to our own in any way, nor are we admiring the beauty of animals at out of some unwarranted, insecurity issues we might have as individuals. It is safe to say that a (pack?) of gazelles leaping through high grass is objectively beautiful, and it makes perfect sense to me that we should reference this when making policy that affects these animal’s habitats.
Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation
From reading this essay one can gain a better understanding of reasons for protecting nature. At first glance it may be difficult to determine a specific reason for why we wish to protect nature, which leads to many debates concerning this topic. There are those that believe we have a moral responsibility to protect animals in nature. There are others that take the position of the aesthetic preservationist and say that we must protect nature based on the aesthetic appeal of its natural beauty. However, I feel there may be some problems with this position. The viewpoint of the aesthetic preservationist holds great value in the apparent beauty of an animal. By accepting this you are saying that there are some animals that are more beautiful than others, and this may be the case. (Isn't it the case that one could use animal beauty to protect nature, even if all animals were equally beautiful? Though that would not allow aesthetic grounds for discrimination.) Yet, I do not feel as though that the more beautiful animals should receive greater attention strictly because they are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. To refer to the example in the text by Loftis, a doctor should not choose to do surgery on one person rather than the other simply because she is more beautiful. There is more under the surface of the aesthetic value of a human as well as an animal. Just as there have been many aesthetically unpleasing humans that have greatly contributed to society, there are also many aesthetically unpleasing animals that serve a significant purpose in nature. (So you believe some animals are ugly?) Hence, I believe that animal beauty should not be the factor (could it be one of the legitimate factors?) that promotes the protection of nature, but we should focus on the characteristics of that animal that serve a purpose to better nature and those around it. (So the only reason to protect animals is for their instrumental, use value?)
Topics in Ethical Theory
Being big lover and appreciator of nature, I struggled to find many parts of Eaton’s writing, to which I objected. In the first page of this chapter, Eaton mentions that “almost every country has some legislation that has established national preservation zones, regulates waste, punishes littering, and so on [which] refer to what the U.S. Environmental Policy Act of 1969 refers to as ‘aesthetic amenities’” (175). She then discusses how many people enjoy these protected places for their natural beauty. However, I feel that the words she uses can mislead the reader to think that countries create laws, which regulate waste and punish littering etc., primarily for the purpose of keeping these countries aesthetically beautiful so that they may be appreciated and understood in this way, (because this supports the points of her paper).
When I did a little research on the E.P.A. of 1969, my source provided a quote of the act’s purpose:
“To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality."
Although I think that Eaton’s claims about the natural aesthetic beauty of our environment and their value to us, are noble and valid, I wanted to point out that such laws/acts, are/were enacted primarily to promote human health and welfare while maintaining a natural eco-system; And not for the purpose of improving people’s aesthetic experiences, such as “delighting in the smell of a forest interior” (176).
September 15, 2011
Critical Questions: Marcia Eaton, Chapter 7: Aesthetics: The Mother of Ethics
After reading this chapter, I’m still having a hard time understanding the concept of aesthetics being the metaphorical “mother” of ethics. I may be thinking about this concept too literally, but I can’t imagine something beautiful creating an ethical value. If it were true that this could occur, I wonder what this says about ethical values in general if they are based upon something that to me is so subjective and different between people, let alone cultures. I wonder then where a feral child, like “Genie,” would be considered ethically by people fostering this belief, or others physically and/or mentally disabled. Also, I wonder why our ethical values aren’t more diverse if indeed aesthetics shape them?
Note Matt's assumption that aesthetics is much more relative, subjective (and a matter of opinion) than is ethics. This is a widespread opinion. Is it correct?
I do agree with the idea that aesthetics and ethics are distinguishable and inseparable. I don’t agree with the idea of ethics evolving from aesthetics. To me, this would devalue ethics considerably. I think the goldfish example illustrates this really well. I still can’t find a picture of the damn goldfish paintings.
Critical Question 1
Marcia Eaton argues that aesthetic values and considerations are different, but (sometimes) inseparable from moral values and considerations. To argue for this point, Eaton lays out and examines various aesthetic and ethical arguments of various academics. In "Aesthetics: The Mother of Ethics" Eaton examines a claim made by poet Joseph Brodsky in his 1988 Nobel laureate address that says, "On the whole, every new aesthetic reality makes man's ethical reality more precise. For aesthetics is the mother of ethics." Eaton proceeds to examine what exactly Brodsky meant by this.
In addition to the facts Eaton merely shoots down each of the possible explanations she proposes about what Brodsky meant by "aesthetics is the mother of ethics" and that she fails to come to an adequate conclusion of her own, I also think she leaves out a key approach. Eaton's overall aim is to stress the importance of aesthetic considerations; to make it clear that both morality and aesthetics are important to art and to life. I agree with this. However, I think that perhaps sometimes we as a society think that moral values should be more important than aesthetic values; and while, in some cases moral values do take precedent, I think oftentimes, for people who are not "moral saints," (which is most of us) aesthetics trumps ethics. ....I am having trouble articulating what I mean by this!!!
Do you simply mean that in fact people do let aesthetic values trump moral values in their lives or also that this is acceptable? Is it acceptable?
Another approach Eaton could have taken is to suggest that perhaps aesthetics judgments can be still be made without a moral code, but moral judgments cannot. If I was the only person ever on earth, I could still make aesthetic judgments about the beauty of nature but I could not judge things from a moral standard because there would be no moral and cultural norms imposed on me. Also, perhaps, even when we are making both aesthetic and moral judgments about the same object, we still make an aesthetic judgment first.
Even with the goldfish painting, the first think the viewer sees is the form, colors, and shape. This is not a cognitive response like the moral judgment about how the painting was made is. Eaton's example of seeing the horse and the shape of the horse at the same time suggests that even in perception there is a cognitive component.
13 September 2011
Taking Aesthetics Seriously
Marcia Eaton writes about numerous subjects bouncing from references of Goody Two-Shoes to Gestalt imagery in relation to ‘The Separatist Mistake.’ This mistake, she suggests, is “the mistake of insisting that aesthetic experiences preclude or are isolated from other kinds of experiences.” One issue she touches on briefly is the idea of ‘Admirable Immorality.’ The example she gives is of the painter, Gauguin, who deserted his family in passionate pursuit of painting. To this, she seems appalled that people could admire him as an artist without also thinking of his immorality.
I believe it is not necessarily that people do not consider morality in the case of Gauguin, but more so that their level of appreciation for the aesthetic quality of his artwork outweighs his immorality. People’s admiration towards Gauguin is also interesting to me. It’s not that people think that deserting your family is ok to do, but in this specific case, I feel that people can look past morality as a consideration to admire Gauguin’s passion towards art.
We might consider the possibility that the admiration of his passion for art involves forcusing on--rather than overlooking--the moral fact that he was willing to leave his family for its sake
Eaton, Taking Aes Seriously and the Separatist Mistake
I think the most important part of Eaton's essay was touched upon on page 61 in the discusstion of the overridingness thesis (ie: the great cook). I feel that the existential component of art is supremely important aspect that doesn't necessarily ahere to either aesthetic or moral evalutions. The goldfish example has a direct implication between the moral and aesthetic because the art is literally created through suffering. I feel that there is a different set of implications for Gaugin's story, because suffering occured more as a byproduct of the choice to create art than as a direct component of its physical creation. Is all of his work now morally tainted because Gaugin made an immoral choice at some point in his life?
Would Gaugin's decision be morally deplorable if it were not about the art, but because his wife was a raging drunk who frequently attacked and belittled him? If the belief that his life would be miserable and empty if he were never able to reach the full potential of his creative powers raised a similar feeling of contempt for his family, can it still be said that he made a "wrong" decision?
If individuality can be posed as a "moral" or social value, then I believe its fairly difficult to pose this particular case as a question of immorality. Were people hurt? Yes. Would society as a whole suffer if every person abandoned their family to pursue artisitic ventures? Almost certainly so. But this particular instance reveals the component of the self within art that breaches both the quality of the aesthetic and the social moral implications of the work itself. The projection of the art toward society is not necessarily morally bound to the circumstances surrounding its creation. Essentially, I feel that if Gaugin were a friend of mine, I could easily tell him that it was atrocious what he did to his family, but likewise, I could honestly say that he made the right choice. Taking into account the LaMarque and Olsen discussion toward the end of Eaton's piece, the intended message of Gaugin's work is not exactly an overall endorsement of the unimportance of family (although his actual life may be) as much as it is a celebration of life and individuality.
PHIL 301 – 01
6 September 2011
Critical Questions: Matthew Kieran’s “Art, Morality and Ethics: On the (Im)Moral Character of Art Works and Inter-Relations to Artistic Value”
Matthew Kieran claims that there is a connection between the work’s moral character and its value in art, despite the many arguments out there that are in favour for aestheticism, which claims that there is no internal relation between those two constituents. To support his claim, Kieran argues that in order for the work of art to succeed, it must conjure emotions and feelings from the audience. For example, a tragic film would elicit the feeling of sympathy. If this is so, then the moral character of a work (tragedy, in this case) is relevant to its artistic value.
Now, the problem being is, can the film itself “cross the line,” in terms of eliciting too much emotion from the audience? Let’s take “Irreversible” for example. Alex (played by Monica Bellucci) was anally raped and beaten by a stranger. To avenge for the girl, her boyfriend and ex-lover took the matter into their own hands and tries to find the rapist. Many have said that the film was a successful work of art and breath-taking, despite the horrendous rape scene that took place. The rape scene was necessary to carry on the story. Some, such as my friends, quickly dismissed the film as “utter bullcrap” because the director took this sensitive subject matter way too far. They even suggested that if the director subdues the extremity of the scene, the story-telling and the value of art is still achieved. So, how can one determine that too much is too much?
The Ethical Criticism of Art
In this essay, Gaut discusses the two opposing views of whether art should be considered more “commendable” and more aesthetically advanced due to the moral values it represents, if it should be valued based solely on it aesthetic value, or a combination of both. Gaut discusses whether there is or isn’t a direct correlation between the ethical attitudes a piece of work produces between its aesthetic value. He goes on to discuss that certain works of art may or may not directly influence one to act in a certain way, but may encourage one to hold “unmoral” beliefs, or even act on them. When discussing various narrative works, Gaut stresses the importance of distinguishing between introducing a character and how the piece of work “portrays” that character and its behavior.
One issue that seemed somewhat confusing is when Gaut compares the attitudes of artwork to the attitudes of people based on their behavior. Although, we can closely examine the detail and history of a piece of art, I believed this to be a poor metaphor because we cannot examine the “behavior” of a piece of work. One can assume a piece of work to represent an idea or situation, but it can easily vary from various points of view.
I also strongly agree with the “affective-practical conception of assessment”. This concept holds that feelings, although not acting on them, do play a key role, and may influence later feelings or behavior to become developed. I also found it interesting that Gaut discusses how certain situations in books, movies, etc. may make us approve of wrong behavior, even though we know it to be morally wrong, (Jane Eyre example). We temporarily encourage this fictional character’s behavior due to the emotional connection that we develop with this fictional character.
Berys Gaut’s “Just Joking: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Humor”
After reading Gaut’s article, which attempts to define what classifies as funny, he attempts to define what acceptable humor is and what is not. Unfortunately, I could not truly follow the conclusion derived from his apparent thesis: the puzzling ethics of humor. He begins by attacking the point of view of a moralist; furthermore, it covers how the moralist views humor, or better yet what the moralist believes is funny. He concludes that the moralist identifies humor as that which is completely answerable to “ethical considerations.” Next he introduces the counter theory to the moralist as the anti-moralist, which entails either the view of the amoralist, the immoralist, or an obscure concoction of both.
Here, I have trouble following where Gaut is going with this essay on humor. At one point the essay seems to streamline its focus on the parody existing between the moralist and the anti-moralist; however, midway through the reading, Gaut introduces several other theories and refuses to adequately define what these new theories have to do with the moralist and the anti-moralist theories. Importing the seemingly unassociated theories of Freud’s theory of sexual tension release, Kant’s theory of incongruency, or Aristotle’s theory of supremacy is confusing. Finally settling on the theory of ethicism as the best explanation of why a person finds humor in a joke-token, one is still left somewhat confused.
I firmly believe that this essay did nothing to dwindle down the litany of theories that attempt to define why, how, or when a joke-token should be humorous. He just identified a few varying theories in how one is able to tackle what acceptable humor is, but he does not formulate a solid case to define the ethics or aesthetics of humor
Critical Questions: Berys Gaut, “Just Joking: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Humor”
In this reading, Gaut discusses the different approaches to the aesthetics of humor. He highlights the views of moralists, ethicists, amoralists and immoralists. Moralists hold that jokes that are offensive or express unethical views are not funny. Amoralists see no interaction between ethical attitude and the humor of the joke. Immoralists are the opposite of moralists, stating that unethical views and crudeness add to the humor of a joke. The ethicist, which Gaut views as the most favorable, finds flaw in all of these views and takes an approach that does not hold strict views from one side of the argument or the other. In the view of the ethicist, jokes can be funny if they are crude as long as the joke teller did not hold a bad attitude in the creation of the joke-token. If the author held a bad attitude when deploying the content of the joke, then the humor is flawed. It may still be deemed funny by some standards, but it is wounded by the bad attitude.
The issue that I have with ethicism is that it is hard to tell the state of the mind of the joke teller and we cannot know their intentions for the joke. We may not be able to know if the joke teller had ill intentions for the joke, so it is hard to tell whether or not we should find humor in the joke. Along with not knowing the intentions of the joke teller, people are going to find humor in different things. It is virtually impossible to pick what is acceptable to laugh at and what is off limits. What one may see as being a bad attitude may be seen as ethical to someone else. Personal values are going to change what people find funny. One view on the aesthetics of humor cannot solve the problem, since we do not all share the same values and backgrounds. The amoralist view seems most favorable to me because it disconnects humor and ethics. This way, people can laugh at things that they might not endorse in their views and actions, but still find humorous in the fictional context.
*Also- The term “bad attitude” seemed very vague, and the wrong type of the wording for the material. The connotation that I give to “bad attitude” is not the same as that of “unethical”.
Philosophy 301: Topics in Ethical Theory
August 24, 2011
Critical Questions Surrounding “Beauty vs. Evil: the Case of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will”
1. Devereaux says that to fix this problem of beauty and evil in art we must choose from two options: “We can say that there is more to art than aesthetics or that there is more to aesthetics than beauty and form.” The first option keeps ethics and the “beauty” factor of art separated, implying that something can be beautiful even though may not be “right,” ethically. Devereaux says we should choose the second option because it forces all aspects of the art to be considered in whether or not we find it beautiful. The first option doesn’t work, she says, because it focuses on a feature of art—beauty—that is no longer so important to us. This idea places a distinction between art and beauty that makes us question just how much of art is about beauty. For if art is not about beauty, can something be art and not be considered beautiful? Devereaux mentions several reasons for the importance of the film, one being that confronting its vision “allows us to understand ourselves more fully as human beings.” The film is beautiful superficially (minus our knowledge of historical events) and disturbing once we put it in a larger context. But it becomes beautiful as it expresses the nature of humanity and how complex and dynamic we can become. Can art be beautiful in one way and not in another, or are we to take our view of art and consider its beauty as a whole and complete idea?
2. “Rienfenstahl’s film portrays National Socialism (something morally evil) as beautiful.” This statement pushes me to wonder exactly when Devereaux is talking about when she discusses evil. I assume that the particular aspects of National Socialism that is to be understood as “evil” are the implementations of the National Socialist ideology that resulted in the death and horrible mistreatment of over a million people. It is clear that the film itself does not directly present any of the results of Hitler’s reign that we would consider evil. On the contrary, the film shows a vision of Hitler that is limited and it is our knowledge of Hitler’s evil acts—acts not shown in the film—that makes us view the film as evil. So, to see this film as a conjunction of evil and beauty must require that we look past simply observing the film on its own and observe it in larger context. After all, pride for one’s nation and love for a (seemingly) benevolent and strong leader are not evil qualities. The documentary shows a specific point of view, which chooses to leave certain events and truths out. How does this lack of full truth affect the beauty of the film? Must all art contain full truth to be considered beautiful? At what point does art stop being an expression of point of view and start becoming manipulation?