irrational homocentricity

aroger at ac.dal.ca aroger at ac.dal.ca
Wed Jul 14 20:06:48 EST 1993


In article <9307081245.AA22617 at net.bio.net>, SCHLOSSER at ciit.org writes:

> Yes, I'm homocentric and proud of it.  I think that our moral sense,
> and the fact that we change our actions to satisfy it (in ways that
> probably have little or no impact on our survival as individuals or
> as a species) puts us in a special class to which no other creatures
> that we know of belong.  In fact, animal rights activists are one of
> the best examples of this.  What other species has members who actively
> want to put themselves out of existence for *moral* reasons?

I believe that you may be confusing two very different issues.  You may
be correct in claiming that humans are the only organisms with a moral
sense.  But there is a distinction between this and whether or not these
moral views are appropriately extended to encompass non-humans.
For instance, would you say that humans without a moral sense (perhaps
a severely mentally retarded person) should be excluded from any moral
decisions just because they do not possess the ability to make such
decisions?  If so, then you would have no qualms in making them suffer
pain or frustrating their future desires by killing them.  
This consequence would be repugnant to most people.  
Consider next, a case where a chimpanzee who is the cognitive equivalent
of this mentally handicapped person.  Would it be any less repugnant
to maim or kill such an animal?  The ONLY difference here is the 
species....there are no morally relevant differences.  
This example illustrates that it is the ability to feel pain and have
conscious purposes of a sort that are relevant to moral decisions wrt
animal rights.  
What is also clear is that no plant has even a rudimentary nervous system
to feel "pain" of the sort we wish to avoid (it would be a scary cosmic
coincidence if both animals and plants arrived at the phenomena of pain
independently using a completely different system).  So for all of the
vegetarians out there who think that plants are the next necessary inclusion
into our moral decisions.....YOU ARE BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE!

Andrew Roger
Department of Biochemistry
Halifax N.S.



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