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Animal ethics


Could anyone really be as stupid as Peter Singer claims to be?
Koenigs and his team must be right. Its gotta be brain damage.

I mean I know he’s a really nice guy and he donates heaps to good causes and says nice things about pigs.
By all accounts he’s unfailingly openhearted to things fluffy and slimy alike.
Even defective things like me.

And when it came to the crunch, he didn’t kill his mother after all.

But he also runs for parliament and cheerleads for those racist morons who pretend to be saving whales.

Worst of all, he promotes the most arrant nonsense imaginable as a system of individual and communal morality!

Its like watching Mr Magoo.
Someone suffering a crippling disability only he is too blind to see running around telling everyone else how they should see things.

Except that lots of people seem to believe him.

Well, I shouldn’t say they actually believe him.
That’s a bit strong. They’re not complete idiots.

Its not like they’ve started living their lives as per the dictates of Singer’s utilitarianism.
Any more than Singer himself slipped his mum a Nembutal cocktail.
They just cherry pick him to smugly justify their own attitudes and behaviors.
Like the neoliberals with Adam Smith.

What’s wrong with Peter Singer’s thinking?
Jeez, where to start?

Well, for thousands of years there’s been two sides dominating the moral philosophy comp.

There’s the “Do unto others” mob, the Principlists.
They’ve got God on their side and are heavily tipped, despite the obvious fact that God is a criminal psychopath.

The “Ends justify the means” team – the Consequentialists – get, ahem, ‘Corporate’ backing and are big favourites with the armed forces.

Before I’d read Koenigs I just couldn’t understand why Pete would barrack for the Consequentialists.
But if you’re missing the bit of your brain that tells you how people feel, you’re a bit lost with “Do unto others”.
If you can’t feel it you have to try to work it out instead. To quantify it. Calculate it.  Its a geek thing, so I should know.

I guess Singer’s mind sort of made up itself. Just like the rest of us.

I’m not suggesting the professor’s possibly atypical neurology makes him inferior or anything like that.
I don’t think he should be denied medical resources. Or that it would have been right to kill him at birth.

Diversity is not a defect you know.

In fact I admire him for taking on his handicap toe to toe.
Watching Peter Singer doing ethics isn’t really like watching Mr Magoo.
Its more like the Paralympics.

Consequentialists always have an eye out for the chance to sacrifice one person to save four others.
So you should never tell a consequentialist that you’re number one.

A difficulty Consequentialists have is that they think they can make moral decisions by weighing their effects.
They’ve got the cart before the horse.

You can never really know the full consequences of any moral action. They spray out in all dimensions and  go on forever.
Cause and effect is like that.
And the predictability of those consequences decays so rapidly that you don’t know much  about what they’re gonna do even seconds, much less eons from now.

Peter, no-one can really know whether the fat man’s corpse would have derailed the carriage.
Or whether one of the workers on the track was a drunk driver.
Or the head of the corporation on a site visit.
(Ever stop to ask why an out of control carriage was careening towards them?
Maybe another utilitarian further up the track calculated that by killing five track workers he would save 500 rail passengers).

So you’ve got to set a cut off point for evaluating consequences because you can’t deal with eternity.
And you’ve got to make it real close because soon some butterfly is going to flap its wings and destroy your models.

And its arbitrary.

Do guns kill people? Do people?
Is it bullets? Or trigger pressure?
Hemorrhage? Heart failure?
Arms manufacturers? Slack gun laws? Bad medication regimes? TV shows?

I blame society. And my Mum.
I won’t kill her though.
I promise.

Consequentialism was just the entry drug for poor old Pete though.
Pretty soon he was on the hard stuff.

Utilitarians reckon you can take these arbitrary and speculative ‘consequences’ and turn them into quantities.
Then you pile them up against each other and go for ‘the greater good’.
Or lesser evil.

The big problem with quantifying moral action is that moral action is people.
Its actually what we are.

And so pretty soon you get triage.

Sick people worth less than healthy people, fat people less than thin, crazy people less than sane people, Jews less than Gentiles.
You know how it goes. Its not like we haven’t been here before.

Utilitarians attempt to hide some of the chaos in their system by further narrowing and objectifying the human condition.
You are worth your pleasure. Or your happiness. Or your aspirations.

Looking at those parameters I don’t fancy the exchange rate for me.
And I don’t want  my purpose defined by the professors’ metrics.

Utilitarians also deal poorly with transfinites.

You see there is always someone around who can imagine the greatest utopia or the worst dystopia.
They’re called Millenarianists.
Or are those the ones who make hats?

Anyway, their ideas aren’t just worth the lives of a few railway workers.
They’re worth the lives of millions.

I mean, if the consequence of not confessing is the certainty of eternal damnation then nothing the Inquisition did could be too much.
Why stop piling up the bodies if you’re helping to drive historical inevitability and the worker’s paradise is just over the next rise?

But that’s only fanatics right?
Crazy people like me.

Don’t kid yourself.

Be honest now.
Look deeply into yourself.

Don’t you have just one ideal that you’d die for?
One that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for other people to die for?

Especially people you don’t like? Who are different to you?

Like, say, Margaret Thatcher? Or Adolph Hitler?

Do you start to see the scale of the problem?The Greens didn't like my ideas for euthanasia campaign posters

We’re all like Margaret Thatcher or Adolph Hitler.
Except for Bob Brown.
He’s more like Joseph Goebbels.

So we don’t share meaning and purpose and we’re all fanatics and we all want to rule the world.
The parameters of Utilitarianism are arbitrary and the data impossible to even gather much less analyse.

So who gets to call the shots?
Who does the calculations?
Who gets to set the expiry date for karma?
The value of human lives?
Who gets to say what the outcomes will be?
The consequences of agreeing with them?
Or of disagreeing?

Who the fuck do you think?

Its the same old, same old.
Margaret Thatcher and Adolph Hitler again.
Even if everyone in the world knows they’re lying and stupid and wrong.

That’s how you wind up looking for WMD in the desert.

What? You say you don’t want to rule the world?
It’s only me again?


OK then, there’s one thing I want to make clear about my lack of morality.coke-ad-hitler-crop

I don’t kill babies. Really. I just don’t.

That’s not because I think killing babies is inherently wrong or because I want to avoid the consequences or because I’ve done the calculations and this one’s a keeper.

I’ve just never found myself in a situation where killing a baby seemed an even remotely appropriate thing to do.
Who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Anyone need a sitter?

Honestly Pete, I don’t know if my life is worth more than yours.
Or someone with Downs Syndrome.
Or a pig’s.

But it seems to me that my life is worth everything.
I’m a transfinite too.

Still, everyone tells me I’m a wanker so maybe I’ve overdeflated my currency.
I don’t think I’d be able to hold a value like that on a floating market.

But I just kinda assumed that everyone and everything thought that of themselves as well.

Even if they don’t think they think.

Maybe even the mung beans and the animals killed by their footprint.
And Mormons and disco fans.

And so I act accordingly.
I do my best to not cause them death, pain or suffering, but sometimes I fail.
Umm. Maybe more than sometimes.
Alright. Mostly I hardly notice them.

But sometimes I upset them and sometimes I hurt them and sometimes I kill them.

Sometimes I eat them.
Life’s like that.

But I don’t try to weigh them and add them up.
Unless the recipe calls for it.

The important thing is to exercise moral agency and you’re not doing that if you’re busy following someone else’s commandments, conditioning or calculus.
Or your own for that matter.
Without free moral will you’re not being human at all.
You’re being a pre-programmed android.
Or if you’re an Objectivist, you’re being a Randroid.

Moral agency exists in every decision you make.
And decision exists in every moment of your life.
Unless you aren’t paying attention.

Every instant of existence is infinitely complex and utterly unique.
You can’t pin it down in a rule book or tote it up on a computer.
If you try, you’ll miss it.
And you’ve got to be in that moment if you’re going to have a hope of reacting morally to it

Every moment is the exception.
There is only the moment.
There are no rules.

All decisions are moral.
Your only possible freedom is your capacity to do what you feel is right.

But you can’t act morally.
You can only be moral.

You don’t need Peter Singer to tell you how to be a moral being.

You already are one.
Its all you are.
Its all you can be.

So how do you avoid embarrassing incidents if you’re feeling peckish and someone walks by with a particularly plump baby?

You act in the moment with compassion.
You just be yourself.
Love and do as you will.

Problem is I hate everyone.

Alright, alright.
Maybe I don’t actually hate Peter Singer.

But when I’m really down. When the despair closes over.
When compassion fails me and my life is unworthy of life.
When despite struggles and practice I don’t have it in me to treat everybeing as me
When I just can’t find my sympathy for another damaged sentience …


One Comment
  1. I’ve never been a Christian
    Or a Satanist
    Or a Mouseketeer.

    But I may be the anti-ACIM.


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