Palmer, Ch 7

Problems & Questions



         a.      Does no-contact LFI rely on problematic human/nature dualism? (No)

         b.      Does no-contact LFI give no reason to assist strange human beings with whom one has no contact?

                   i.       Palmer argues that humans as a group are related in ways that generate weak duties of assistance to non-contract humans

         c.      Is domestication a relation we should not create (given the vulnerable and dependent states it produces)?

                   i.       Bad kinds of animals? Happy crate pig?

                   ii.      Perhaps creating this relation of domination is morally problematic?

                   iii.     (Palmer’s no-contact LFI compatible with different views on this domestication issue)

         d.      Is painless killing a harm to the individual animals killed?

                   i.       Not clear that animals are mentally sophisticated enough to have the desire to go on living

                   ii.      Whether painless killing of animal is a loss to it of its valuable future depends not only on how valuable that future is, but also on strength of psychological continuity between animal now and in future

                   iii.     (No-contact LFI compatible with different views about the morality of painless killing)

         e.      Does contextual and relational approach of no-contact LFI require too much information thus making moral decision-making impossible? (No)



         a.      Assisting non-contact, no injustice humans

3.      Problem: If no duties to assist no contact wild animals, then no obligations to assist no contact people

         a.      If only have obligations to assist wild animal where they have suffered human inflicted harms (pre-existing injustices)

         b.      Then no obligations to assist non-contact people, where there are not preexisting injustices caused by people

4.      Does Palmer’s view lead to bizarre conclusion duty to help distant starving child, but not drowning child at one’s feet?

         a.      Likely an obligation to assist the distant starving child

                   i.       As his situation plausibly due to injustice from which we are in some way benefitting

         b.      No obligation to assist the nearby drowning child because not due to an injustice, but an accident

5.      Palmer thinks do have obligations (in almost all cases) to assist domesticated animals from “natural threats” (not caused by injustice)

         a.      Because of degree of control we have over their lives

         b.      As their vulnerability, existence, and constitution is likely to be in part due to human origin

6.      Does Palmer’s view say save the dog but not the strange human?

         a.      In lifeboat case where save human or dog

         b.      Her view would seem to entail save the dog (for he is domesticated and his vulnerability and dependency due to domestication)

         c.      But not the human

7.      Palmer argues that moral responsibilities can emerge out of membership in some common group

         a.      And being a member of “the human community” is being a member of a morally relevant relational group

8.      Humans form a single, overall community, because of network of rich inter-human relations

         a.      Mutually recognized communication

         b.      Ability of humans to justify themselves to others

         c.      Reciprocity in economic relations

         d.      Mutual cooperation

         e.      Joint organization of political and other institutions

9.      Generate weak duties of assistance to fellow humans in need or threatened by some natural cause

         a.      Even when unknown, not a victim of injustice, and no causal responsibility for the need

         b.      Community, not capacity generated duties to assist

10.    So no contact LFI has a third consideration

         a.      General duties not to harm (people or sentient animals)

         b.      Special obligations to assist animals harmed or made vulnerable by humans (all domesticated and those wild animals in contact zone)

         c.      **Further obligations to assist based on social relations or global-community membership

11.    Human community relations view avoids concerns about racism/sexism to which group-oriented claims about moral significance are often vulnerable

         a.      How? Because above criteria include all sexes and races of humans

         b.      Also notice that this is not “speciesism”–it is not the mere fact that humans are of the same species that generates the special obligation, but that they participate in these relations

         c.      Leaves marginal case humans in or out?

12.    Domesticated animals also are part of this network of relations

         a.      Some do engage in communicative relations, are deeply bound up in economic relations with humans, are part of human families, have strong social relations with humans



         a.      Is it wrong to create a domesticated animal that is inescapably going to live a life of vulnerability and dependence?


14.    Is domestication in itself a harm? (No)

15.    Not clear how domestication could be a harm on Palmer’s individualistic and experiential definition of harm

         a.      Domestic constitutions aren’t typically such that they cause the animal physical pain

                   i.       (Some forms of specialized breeding do...)

         b.      Psychological problems of vulnerability and dependence that would accompany humans so created, don’t apply to animals

                   i.       They do not experience humiliation about dependence

                   ii.      Resentment at their subordination

         c.      Parfit’s non-identity point shows domestication not a harm to the individual animal

                   i.       Harm makes an individual worse off that it otherwise would have been

                   ii.      “No animal is made worse off by being born domesticated, because if it had not been born domesticated, that particular individual animal would not have existed at all”

                   iii.     Domestication part of animal’s constitution; animal could not have been any other way and still be that individual

                   iv.     It would not have existed but for domestication


16.    Is domestication wrong because it creates inappropriate power relations?

         a.      Deliberate creation of vulnerable/dependent animals shaped for human needs/desires that “bear in their very bodies impression of human power”

17.    Not all vulnerability/dependence is bad

         a.      E.g., vulnerability of lovers to one another

         b.      This is a two-way vulnerability

         c.      Is creation of one-way vulnerability/dependence always bad?

                   i.       And isn’t domestication a one way vulnerability?

         d.      Is creating a permanent child (permanently vulnerable to and dependent on others/parents) bad?

18.    Is creation of vulnerable/dependent domesticated animals a bad kind of vulnerability or one that is permissible, but brings with it special duties to care and support?

19.    Some animal rights advocates (Francione) think creation of domesticated companion animals is wrong

         a.      “They exist forever in netherworld of vulnerability, dependent on us for everything and at risk of harm from an environment that they do not really understand. We have bred them to be compliant and servile, characteristics that are harmful to them, but pleasing to us...humans have no business bringing these creatures into the world

         b.      Might it depend on the kind of vulnerable and dependent being we create?

                   i.       Servile and compliant ones might be bad?

                   ii.      But friendly and loving ones might be good?

                   iii.     Might some types of dependent beings be valuable and some disvaluable (at the very least aesthetically)

20.    Happy crate pig example

         a.      Engineer a sentient pig who is happy/satisfied to live life confined in a crate (no social desires, little desire to move)

         b.      Experiential well being is fine

21.    How object to this?

         a.      1 Unnaturalness arguments are problematic

         b.      2 Non-experiential well being of pig is bad?

         c.      3 Forget well being, focus on human-animal relation of domination–it’s bad?

22.    1. Un-naturalness and species-dignity arguments hard to defend

23.    2. Non-experiential well being of this pig is bad?

                   i.       Palmer thinks this very problematic

         b.      Not talking about well being of already existing creature

         c.      But of creating what the well being of a creature can be

         d.      Claim is some kinds of well-being should not be created (even if they can be fully satisfied)

         e.      If claim created well beings should possess a certain number of psychological capacities,

                   i.       Then it would be wrong to create things like shell fish (as have low level psychological capacities)– not plausible

         f.       Comparative reasons:

                   i.       You could have created this sort of beings (a better being) instead you created a less good being

         g.      Aesthetic reasons: This is just a gross, ugly, pitiful kind of being!

         h.      What if instead of modifying a pig, one creating some meat growing body (with no brain, consciousness)

                   i.       Less problematic?



         a.      What kind of people would tolerate the creation of such relations?

         b.      (Palmer finds this argument more persuasive, but still very problematic)

25.    Our relations to crate pig and some domesticated animals is clearly domination

         a.      Must assume that one doesn’t have to be aware of being dominated in order to be dominated

         b.      So trees/plants could be dominated.....

26.    Domination involves

         a.      Imbalance of power

         b.      Dependency – not free to exist without costs, more costly to leave, more dependent one is

         c.      Absence of rules: even if formal rules exist, no assurance these rules will be followed

27.    Animals in confined feeding operations and lab animals meet these conditions; crate pig even further meets them

         a.      Animals domination is most severe kind

         b.      Power imbalance is extreme

         c.      Exit is impossible

         d.      Arbitrariness high

28.    What does this say about individuals or societies willing to create and tolerate such beings: defenseless, sentient beings whose lives are entirely dominated by human interests?

29.    Virtue ethics way to fill this out

         a.      Even if no harm involved, what kind of person would do this?

         b.      Examples of wrong acts not involve harm

                   i.       Spit on grave of grandmother whose fortune one just inherited

                   ii.      Laugh at news of plane crash

                   iii.     Create totally dominated beings

                   iv.     No harm involved true, but still wrong/vicious

30.    Creating such dominated beings manifests arrogance

         a.      Lack of humility

                   i.       Failure to appreciation of one’s place in the universe

         b.      Human hubris is manifested in drive to create such relationships

                   i.       “Where domesticated animals must wear man’s smudge and share man’s smell”




32.    Painless killing is in practice rare and hard to achieve

         a.      E.g., Death penalty in human cases controversies

         b.      Individual animals rarely killed w/o inflicting pain and distress in industrial abattoirs

         c.      So in most cases of killing, worries about pain and distress are also appropriate and make process of killing harmful, apart from the death itself


33.    One response: Nothing wrong with painless killing

         a.      As killing is not experienced or not experienced aversively

         b.      How object from experiential account of well being?

         c.      Palmer: Extremely implausible (for we think painless killing of humans is wrong! And worse kind of harm.)



35.    Argument: Painless killing wrong as frustrates a desire to go on living

         a.      Animals (some) have a desire to go on living

         b.      What is valuable about desire satisfaction is not how it feels from inside (experienced), but that the desire should be satisfied in some objective sense (even if one never feels the desire frustrated or knows that the desire had been (or will be) frustrated–as is the case with death)


36.    Four possible meanings of desire to go on living

                   i.       See alternate notes here

         b.      One: Actually having the desire to live in that one has capacity to form relevant concepts and understand them

                   i.       E.g., “I,” one is a self, “living,” one is alive and being alive can end, “future”

                   ii.      Need to understand what it is to be alive, to be dead, and must have a sense of self (self-consciousness)

         c.      Two: Having desires about the future that entail having this desire to go on living (e.g., desires to have a career, have and nurture off spring)

                   i.       In addition to above, need an understanding of “the future”

         d.      Palmer response to one and two:

                   i.       Strong evidence for desire to go on living

                   ii.      Require a kind of self-awareness

                   iii.      Few animals have these (Singer thinks great apes do, maybe whales and other mammals)

                            (1)    Fetuses and small infants don’t

                   iv.     Depends on one’s view of animal minds: More sophisticated one believes animal minds are, greater likelihood some mammals have desire to continue to live

         e.      Three: Having any future oriented desire, even if short term (e.g., eat bowl of food under one’s nose)

                   i.       “Any intentional being with goals/wants to achieve them, is the kind of being that wants to go on living” in this sense

                   ii.      No self-awareness required

                   iii.     Response (Palmer/McMahan): Such desires don’t provide strong reason to think death is harm or misfortune

                   iv.     So for these beings the harm/misfortune of killing amounts to the harm of not finishing the bowl of food (taking away the bowl), leaving that desire unsatisfied–that’s a very minor harm.

         f.       Four: Behavioral expressions of resistance to death (e.g., struggling, fleeing, fighting)

                   i.       E.g., animals gnaw off limbs to escape traps

                   ii.      If animals only wanted to avoid short term pain, would not inflict pain on themselves in order to avoid dying

                   iii.     Palmer response: There are other interpretations of why gnawing other than the animals wants to go on living: response to pain in limb, panic at being unable to move, fear at being in particular unfamiliar place



38.    Argument: Painless killing deprives a being of a valuable future

39.    Inadequacy of Singer’s impersonal utilitarian objection to painless killing: Loss of happiness can be replaced

         a.      Wrong as takes away happiness of this being who would be happy in future

         b.      An “impersonal good”; a loss to world rather than to individual killed

         c.      Problem is that such good can be replaced by breeding another new individual with as good overall experience

         d.      So Singer moved to preference/desire view above that protects more psychologically sophisticated beings from being replaced

40.    Irreplaceably destroys an individual’s valuable future

         a.      From Don Marquis argument against abortion

                   i.       Abortion wrong as it is a “Loss of a potential future of value”

                   ii.      Taking away the goods we would have experienced had we survived

                   iii.     By killing fetus you take away all the conscious enjoyed goods of a typical human life

                   iv.     True whether value these future goods now or not

                   v.      Explains why voluntary euthanasia is okay as they have already lost a future that they would value

         b.      So with animals; by painlessly killing them we harm them as they would have valued the experiential goods in their future when they experienced them–whether they value them now or not


41.    Problem of lack of self-identity over time

         a.      “I will or would value those aspect of my future when I will or would experience them, whether I value them now or not”

         b.      But with fetus case the I is not the same now and in the future

         c.      The fetus is quite different from the future human person that will or would exist

         d.      Because there is no continuity of character or belief between itself now and itself as a future person

                   i.       It would remember nothing of its life as an infant

         e.      Much of the loss would be impersonal

                   i.       Loss of future good to the world

         f.       *Like the loss if one fails to conceive a child that would have a good life

42.    With non-conception, no one has been harmed; loss is purely impersonal

43.    With infant/fetus, there is a particular individual, but it is weakly related–in ways that matter–to the good that is lost

44.    Factors determining psychological continuity:

         a.      Memory, desire, intention, belief, character create psychological continuity

         b.      Only rational to care about oneself in the future if the relations between oneself now and onself in the future are strong

45.    “Where relation between oneself now and oneself in future are strong, removal of future is a serious harm”

         a.      Where these relations are weak, it is a lesser harm

         b.      Where no relation between onself now and oneself in future there is no personal harm at all (may be an impersonal loss)


46.    So psychological continuity between animal now and its future self is a key factor in whether we should worry about painless killing

47.    Moment to moment being:

         a.      Imagine a being that lives entirely in the present

         b.      Can’t remember more than a second from past nor anticipate more than a second into the future

         c.      Would not think life of that individual being matters

         d.      Might think it important such pleasant experiences exist

         e.      But not that it is important that this particular life continues

                   i.       For no psychological continuity over time

         f.       Although being might have a future of value

         g.      Good that is lost with painlessly killing of present moment being is impersonal

                   i.       That being is not harmed by being painlessly killed as lacks any psychological continuity over time.

         h.      Missing link between organism that is painlessly killed and future goods lost

                   i.       If not sufficient psychological continuity between being (e.g., fetus/animal) and lost future to say being was harmed by loss

                   ii.      Impersonal loss to world, not harm to that being

48.    *No single answer to whether an animal harmed by being painlessly killed--depends on two factors

         a.      One: How important are the goods that will be enjoyed in future

                   i.       Goods animals can enjoy are relatively limited (compared to normal human)

         b.      Two: How strong is the psychological continuity with future selves

                   i.       With animals continuity is relatively weak (compared to normal humans)

         c.      More goods might be enjoyed and stronger psychological continuity, greater harm of being painlessly killed

         d.      Means that animal death will typically be less of a loss to that being adult human death

49.    “On this view at least some justification is needed in order to kill animals, even if that killing is painless”

50.    Implications

         a.      Less bad to kill older person who has fewer future goods

         b.      Way to justify euthanasia

         c.      Less bad to kill someone who has minimal psychological continuity over time



52.    Objection: By saying we should assist domesticated animals but not wild animals, NC-LFI treats humans influence on “wild” nature as interference, and this assumes we are outside of or distinct from nature

53.    Reply

         a.      NC-LFI accepts degrees of wildness, so not “dualistic” (not sharp dichotomy)

         b.      Her view does not require assistance in the wild, but does not argue it is impermissible

         c.      So not claiming human influence on wild nature is interference

54.    Some argue that native people hunting is permissible because it its natural (wild) as it shares a commonality with other species and so it does not count as human influence on nature

         a.      But this suggests native people are not human, but like wild animals

55.    Palmer rejects this: “Puzzling to suggest some class of voluntary actions that because it is shared with other species is exempted from moral scrutiny in the human case” (some animals kill each other in mating fights, so parallel human killing is tolerable?)

56.    Also rejects native peoples are wild idea

57.    Does Palmer’s idea we have prima facie duty not to harm animals (including wild ones), entails that the lifestyles of native peoples who hunt for their livelihood is unethical?

         a.      No, because the duty is prima facie only and can be outweighed by vital interests of nutrition, warmth and survival of the native peoples (or their cultures)

         b.      Eating meat and wearing fur is not a vital interest of people in industrial societies


Questions on Palmer, Ch 7: Problems & Questions (Assistant to humans, domestication, painless killing)


1.         Clearly explain why Palmer has a problem explaining duties to assist “strange” humans who might be dying at our feet? Why might some argue that, according to Palmer, while we have a duty to save a starving child in Africa and to save our (or the neighbors) drowning dog, we have no duty to save an unrelated drowning child at our feet just as we have no duty to save a wild animal from a natural threat.

2.         How does Palmer respond to the objection in 1 above? Explain in what way Palmer thinks all humans are members in a common group that generates at least weak duties of assistance.

3.         Why might one think Palmer’s move above opens the door to justifications of racism, sexism, or speciesism? How might Palmer argue that it does not?

4.         Is domestication a relation we should not create? Why might one think domestication is problematic?

5.         Is domestication a harm to the individual animal? Does it necessarily cause physical harm? Does it cause humiliation and resentment at being dependent, vulnerable and subordinate? What does Palmer say?

6.         Is the creation of vulnerability and dependence necessarily a bad thing? What is an example of creating vulnerability and dependence that we almost universally think is desirable?

7.         What do you think about the morality of creating a “happy crate pig?” How can live a satisfied/happy life confined in a crate because we have bred out social desires and desires to move?

8.         Is it wrong to create beings with low level of psychological capacities? Consider shell fish.....

9.         Make the argument as strongly as you can that what is wrong with domestication is not the product created (e.g., a being with a diminished well-being or who is vulnerable and dependent), but the relationship that is created.

10.       What is domination? Are most agricultural and lab animals dominated by humans? Why might one argue that domination is a relation that should not be created? What sort of negative traits (vices) might it be argued that people who create relations of domination express or embody? (Consider, arrogance, hubris, lack of humility)

11.       Is it easy to kill something painlessly, according to Palmer?

12.       Why might Palmer’s idea that what matters is experiential well being have trouble with explaining why painless killing is problematic, especially given that one might be able to replace the lost experiential well being with a new being who has such well being.

13.       Evaluate the argument that painless killing is wrong because it frustrates a desire to go on living. What are the four senses of “desire to go on living” that Palmer considers? Which ones require self-awareness and a sophisticated mental life? Why? Evaluate whether or not (some) animals have such a sophisticated mental life.

14.       If the desire to live simply means one has future oriented desires--such as to “eat the bowl of food under one’s nose--why might that suggest painless killing of beings with only these types of desires is not a serious harm.

15.       Consider the argument that painless killing is wrong because it deprives a being of a valuable future it would have had. How might this be used to this justify euthanasia?

16.       Some have argued that this “depriving of a valuable future” argument explains why abortion is wrong. How does Palmer’s discussion of the importance of psychological continuity between the being killed and the being that would have had the valuable future weaken or undermine this argument?

17.       Consider a moment to moment being (that is, a being who has no stable character, no desires that lead into the future, no memories of the past but just lives totally in the moment). How might one argue that painless killing of such a being does not deprive it of a valuable future?

18.       How does this issue of self-identity over time relate to deciding if painless killing of an animal is bad (or how bad).

19.       Does the degree of value in the future of an individual also affect how wrong it is to painlessly kill him/her?