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Changing times :Royalist or Republican

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Humans of Earth News

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This discussion is for all the great links, pdfs, videos, or general bits of information such as studies, reports, news, about moral philosophy, the science of morality, moral instincts, ethics, etc. that we come across, but that we don't think merits its own separate discussion.


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An interesting paper from Jonathan Haidt, on how different cultures and people with different socioeconomic status judge victimless "crimes" or infractions:


Abstract of the paper:

Are disgusting or disrespectful actions judged to be moral violations, even when they are harmless? Stories about victimless yet offensive actions (such as cleaning one's toilet with a flag) were pre- sented to Brazilian and U.S. adults and children of high and low socioeconomic status (JV= 360). Results show that college students at elite universities judged these stories to be matters of social convention or of personal preference. Most other Ss, especially in Brazil, took a moralizing stance toward these actions. For these latter Ss, moral judgments were better predicted by affective reac- tions than by appraisals of harmfulness. Results support the claims of cultural psychology (R. A. Shweder, 1991 a) and suggest that cultural norms and culturally shaped emotions have a substantial impact on the domain of morality and the process of moral judgment. Suggestions are made for building cross-culturally valid models of moral judgment.


Hat tip to Doone (this one may warrant its own discussion later on).


The Morality Of Conservation

Jerry Coyne expands Richard Conniff's latest riff on the benefit of diversity:

Morality is evolving over time, so that many people now see it as immoral to cause needless pain in animals.  We don’t use chimps in medical research if macaques will do, and won’t use macaques if mice will do.  People are rising up against battery chickens.  It would be nice if we could extend that morality to ecosystems as well, recognizing that they have a simple right to exist because their species are just as evolved as we are.

I was at this lecture by Sam Harris a few months ago at the Center for Inquiry in NYC. If you haven't read the book, you may consider watching this lecture first.


Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

To be nearly entirely simplistic about it, I find it difficult to believe that the debacle(s) of genocide and war are fundamentally linked somehow to the fact that humans eat meat. While it is true, certainly, that most animals are at the mercy of humans, it seems to me that while the situation obtains when far too many humans are at the mercy of other humans, the particular debacle of raising cows and pigs and sheep for food is far less urgent than Mr. Kundera's statement would imply. Is the emergent global food shortage seen to be more dangerous for humans or for animals? We shall, of course, choose to feed the hungry humans before we feed the hungry animals. I doubt if anyone would seriously argue that we should share the resources equally - that we should ensure that as many humans shall starve as shall animals starve, or that we should strive to feed the animals before the humans.
Yes, Kundera is a wonderful writer but one given to hyperboles, sometimes. He is an animal lover and he wanted to point out that our empathy is tested when we raise animals in horrific conditions such as factory farms. It is possible to eat meat and treat the animals humanely. I feel better not eating meat, it's not for me, but I do think humans will never be completely vegetarian, what I hope for is a reduction in the current gluttonous level of consumption in the developed countries, that leads to overcrowding and mistreatment of the animals. I also would never begrudge people in underdeveloped countries their meat consumption, in cases where they clearly depend on it to curb hunger.

As Mohandras Gandhi is believed to have said:

There is enough in this world for everyone but not enough for greed!

That is a great quote!


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