1. Animal Cruelty Industrial farming is appallingly abusive to animals. Pigs. In America, nine-tenths of pregnant sows live in “gestation crates.” These pens are so small that the animals can barely move. When the sows are first crated, they may flail around, in an attempt to get out. But soon they give up. Crated pigs often show signs of depression: they engage meaningless, repetitive behavior, like chewing (...) the air or biting the bars of the stall. The sows live like this for four months. Gestation crates will be phased out in Europe by the end of 2012, but they will still be used in America.1 In nature, pigs nurse their young for about thirteen weeks. But in industrial farms, piglets are taken from their mothers after about ten days. Because the piglets are weaned prematurely, they develop a lifelong craving to suck and chew. But the farmers don’t want them sucking and chewing on other pigs’ tails. So the growers routinely snip off (or “dock”) the tails of all their pigs. They do this with a pair of pliers and no anesthetic. However, the whole tail is not removed; a tender stump remains. The point is to render the area sensitive, so the pigs being chewed on will fight back. Which they do.2 Over 113 million pigs are slaughtered each year in America.3 Typically, these pigs are castrated, their needle teeth are clipped, and one of their ears is notched for identification —all without pain relief.4 In nature, pigs spend up to three quarters of their waking hours foraging and exploring their environment.5 But in the factory farms, “tens of thousands of hogs spend their entire lives ignorant of earth or straw or sunshine, crowded together beneath a metal roof standing on metal slats suspended over a septic tank.”6 Bored, and in constant pain, the pigs must perpetually inhale the fumes of their own waste. These pigs often get sick, and their ill health is exacerbated by the overcrowding. In 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture compared hog farms containing over 10,000 pigs—which is the norm—with farms containing under 2,000 pigs.. (shrink)
Over the last fifty years, traditional farming has been replaced by industrial farming. Unlike traditional farming, industrial farming is abhorrently cruel to animals, environmentally destructive, awful for rural America, and wretched for human health. In this essay, I document those facts, explain why the industrial system has become dominant, and argue that we should boycott industrially produced meat. Also, I argue that we should not even kill animals humanely for food, given our uncertainty about which creatures possess a right to (...) life. In practice, then, we should be vegetarians. To underscore the importance of these issues, I use statistics to show that industrial farming has caused more pain and suffering than the Holocaust. (shrink)
This paper defends the Famine Relief Argument against Having Children, which goes as follows: conceiving and raising a child costs hundreds of thousands of dollars; that money would be far better spent on famine relief; therefore, conceiving and raising children is immoral. It is named after Peter Singer’s Famine Relief Argument because it might be a special case of Singer’s argument and because it exposes the main practical implication of Singer’s argument—namely, that we should not become parents. I answer five (...) objections: that disaster would ensue if nobody had children; that having children cannot be wrong because it is so natural for human beings; that the argument demands too much of us; that my child might be a great benefactor to the world; and that we should raise our children frugally and give them the right values rather than not have them. Previous arguments against procreation have appealed either to a pessimism about human life, or to the environmental impact of overpopulation, or to the fact that we cannot obtain the consent of the non-existent. The argument proposed here appeals to the severe opportunity costs of parenting. (shrink)
What behavior is rational? It’s rational to act ethically, some think. Others endorse instrumentalism — it is rational to pursue one’s goals. Still others say that acting rationally always involves promoting one’s self-interest. Many philosophers have given each of these answers. But these answers don’t really conflict; they aren’t vying to describe some shared concept or to solve some mutually acknowledged problem. In so far as this is debated, it is a pseudo-debate. The different uses of ‘rational action’ differ merely (...) in meaning. I shall defend the following claims: ‘rational behavior’ is used in ethical, prudential, and instrumental ways (section 1); these uses of ‘rational behavior’ are distinct (section 2); they do not represent competing theories of rational behavior (section 3); we should stop using ‘rational behavior’ ethically and prudentially, but we may continue its instrumental use (section 4). (shrink)
Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we honor (...) Jim Rachels, whose final days exemplified his own unselfish morality as well as the “neutralist” ideal we espouse. As an appendix, we include the last original work to be published by James Rachels, in which he criticizes Sidgwick’s most famous defense of egoism. (shrink)
Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we honor (...) Jim Rachels, whose final days exemplified his own unselfish morality as well as the "neutralist" ideal we espouse. As an appendix, we include the last original work to be published by James Rachels, in which he criticizes Sidgwick's most famous defense of egoism. (shrink)
Derek Parfit's combined-spectrum argument seems to conflict with epistemicism, a viable theory of vagueness. While Parfit argues for the indeterminacy of personhood, epistemicism denies indeterminacy. But, we argue, the linguistically based determinacy that epistemicism supports lacks the sort of normative or ontological significance that concerns Parfit. Thus, we reformulate his argument to make it consistent with epistemicism. We also dispute Roy Sorensen's suggestion that Parfit's argument relies on an assumption that fuels resistance to epistemicism, namely, that 'the magnitude of a (...) modification must be proportional to its effect.'. (shrink)
A set of arguments shows that either the Repugnant Conclusion and its variants are true or the better-than relation isn’t transitive. Which is it? This is the most important question in population ethics. The answer will point the way to Parfit’s elusive Theory X.
I defend these claims: (1) 'Pleasure' has exactly one English antonym: 'unpleasure.' (2) Pleasure is the most convincing example of an organic unity. (3) The hedonic calculus is a joke. (4) An important type of pleasure is background pleasure. (5) Pleasures in bad company are still good. (6) Higher pleasures aren't pleasures (and if they were, they wouldn't be higher). Thesis (1) merely concerns terminology, but theses (2)-(6) are substantive, evaluative claims.
I aim to show that (i) there are good ways to argue about what has intrinsic value; and (ii) good ethical arguments needn't make ethical assumptions. I support (i) and(ii) by rebutting direct attacks, by discussing nine plausible ways to argue about intrinsic value, and by arguing for pains intrinsic badness without making ethical assumptions. If (i) and (ii) are correct, then ethical theory has more resources than many philosophers have thought: empirical evidence, and evidence bearing on intrinsic value. With (...) more resources, we can hope to base all of our moral beliefs on evidence rather than on, say, emotion or mere intuition. (shrink)
On ethical egoism, the fact that I would suffer is no reason by itself for you not to torture me. This may seem implausible—monstrous, even—but what evidence can we offer against it? Here I examine several arguments which receive some expression in Thomas Nagel’s work. Each tries to show that a normative reason to end my pain is a reason for all agents. The arguments in Section 1 emphasize reasons that don’t entail agents and thus purportedly apply to all agents. (...) In Section 2, I examine the Argument from Dissociation, according to which my pain seems bad upon reflection, even without reflecting on its relation to me. Section 3 examines the Argument from Inability, which claims that my occurrent pains would seem bad to me, even if I couldn’t think about their relation to me. Finally, I discuss the Argument from Introspection, according to which I seem, introspectively, to have a reason to end my pain, a reason that has nothing to do with the pain’s being mine. All but one of these arguments fail utterly. The Argument from Introspection provides some grounds for rejecting egoism. (shrink)
In Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit cannot find a theory of well-being that solves the Non-Identity Problem, the Repugnant Conclusion, the Absurd Conclusion, and all forms of the Mere Addition Paradox. I describe a “Quasi-Maximizing” theory that solves them. This theory includes (i) the denial that being better than is transitive and (ii) the “Conflation Principle,” according to which alternative B is hedonically better than alternative C if it would be better for someone to have all the B-experiences. (i) entails (...) that Quasi-Maximization is not a maximizing theory, but (ii) ensures that its evaluations will often coincide with such theories. (shrink)
According to Transitivity, if A is better than B, and B is better than C, then A is better than C. We may understand “better than” as short for any of the following: “intrinsically better than,” “all things considered better than,” “hedonically better than,” and “better for a person than.” The same puzzle arises on each interpretation. Transitivity seems entrenched in our conceptual scheme, if not analytically true; its failure implies, implausibly, that some possibilities cannot be ranked in terms of (...) value; scads of three-member sets inductively confirm it; and hypothetical money-pumpers coax its detractors out of house and home by proffering a series of trades—C for A, B for C and A for B (and then repeating the cycle)—for an endlessly accumulating price. Nevertheless, two highly plausible principles entail that Transitivity is false. (shrink)
Unpleasant experiences include backaches, moments of nausea, moments of nervousness, phantom pains, and so on. What does their unpleasantness consist in? The unpleasantness of an experience has been thought to consist in: (1) its representing bodily damage; (2) its inclining the subject to fight its continuation; (3) the subject's disliking it; (4) features intrinsic to it. I offer compelling objections to (1) and (2) and less compelling objections to (3). I defend (4) against five challenging objections and offer two reasons (...) to believe it. Hence, I advocate "Intrinsic Nature," the idea that unpleasantness is intrinsic to unpleasant experiences. (shrink)
This is the fourth chapter of my dissertation, Hedonic Value (Director: Jonathan Bennett), Syracuse University, August, 1998. It is an unpublished revision of my "Is It Good to Make Happy People?" Bioethics 12 (April 1998), pp. 93-110. I systematically lay out and assess all the main arguments on each side and conclude that, Yes, it is good to add individuals to the population who would have lives worth living.
Ethicists and economists commonly assume that if A is all things considered better than B, and B is all things considered better than C, then A is all things considered better than C. Call this principle Transitivity. Although it has great conceptual, intuitive, and empirical appeal, I argue against it. Larry S. Temkin explains how three types of ethical principle, which cannot be dismissed a priori, threaten Transitivity: (a) principles implying that in some cases different factors are relevant to comparing (...) A to C than to comparing A to B or B to C; (b) principles of limited scope; (c) principles implying that morally relevant differences in degree can amount to differences in kind. My counterexamples employ a principle of type (c): pleasures and pains enormously different in intensity differ in kind. Temkin has also endorsed this type of counterexample, using arguments based on earlier drafts of this paper. (shrink)