Help me debate!!!

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Exmly
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Help me debate!!!

Post by Exmly » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am

Recently, I've become friends with this guy in my class because of our common interest in philosophy. He is very opinionated and his main issue with me is that he believes it is unfair that I judge him for something I think is wrong based on "faulty logic".

He is very anti-utilitarian and I don't think his view will ever change. So I don't think to make any kind of utilitarian based argument, like the Singer philosophy, will get me anywhere. I don't know enough to be able to argue a utilitarian opinion as opposed to a deontological one. Even though both philosophical views have their flaws, I'd like to stick to deontology since its something he agrees with.
To refute my beliefs, he claims that animals should not be given rights or any kind of moral consideration. He says this is because they do not possess the capacity for moral agency and that to have rights, one must have the capacity to behave morally. He does not think that the capacity to feel pain is not sufficient to gain right. In his view, humans are granted rights for 4 reasons:
1. higher cognitive capacity
2. the ability to reach that capacity (children)
3. being human/a disability ( the knowledge of the fact that if it weren't based on the disability it would have formed these capacities)
4. the fact that they are of the same species.

He says he's not a speciesist, but in my understanding, he's a clear definition. If so, help me refute his speciesism, please!!! He says it's not his argument and he prefers to argue in terms of capacity and potential capacity. He agrees that a speciesist argument is not one that is valid.

I ask him why he thinks that humans without moral agency deserve rights and he doesn't have an argument to refute. But, this obviously isn't enough for him to change his point of view. I need something stronger to argue. He told me that if I presented him a coherent, concrete, deontological argument for animal rights, that he would consider it. So maybe that's where you guys can help me out. If there's already a thread like this, please show me. It would mean the world to me for a response. :D :D Thanks anyone who replies!!

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Lay Vegan
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Post by Lay Vegan » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:15 pm

Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
He told me that if I presented him a coherent, concrete, deontological argument for animal rights, that he would consider it
I’d avoid using deontological/Kantian ethics to argue for veganism. Many of them require a dogmatic adherence to non-exploitation and can backfire on you (deontological veganism followed consistently would result in either freeganism or possible suicide). Check out the problems with arguments like “Name The Trait” here; http://philosophicalvegan.com/wiki/index.php/NameTheTrait

Here's the difference between rational and irrational vegans:
A rational consequentialist vegan wrote:Eating animals causes animal suffering, which is bad. Therefore, I refuse to eat animals to reduce harm.
A deontological vegan wrote:We have a rule that says ‘no eating animals!’ and everyone should follow it (regardless of context).
It’s this sort of strict all-or-nothing kind of veganism that’s counterproductive to cause of animal rights.

The definition of veganism essentially follows a utilitarian/consequentialist philosophy.
The Vegan Society wrote:Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism

You can help change his mind by exposing the inconsistency of his own argument. If you can get him to register here on the forum to present his own argument that would be great.
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
He does not think that the capacity to feel pain is not sufficient to gain right.
I’d set the criterion at the ability to experience subjective reality, since it’s the only morally relevant difference. The ability to feel pain is essentially irrelevant (lots of humans have rare medical conditions and can’t feel pain).
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
He says this is because they do not possess the capacity for moral agency and that to have rights, one must have the capacity to behave morally.
Right away this excludes many of the people he probably has moral concern for. Including the severely mentally impaired and those in comas. If he wants to be consistent, he’d exclude the mentally impaired from the scope of moral concern.
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
In his view, humans are granted rights for 4 reasons:
1. higher cognitive capacity
What does this mean? Higher cognitive capacity relevant to whom? What if I set benchmark for “higher cognitive ability” at an IQ of 120? Would he be satisfied with this? He’s also assuming that every person has the same level of capacity, though it’s abundantly clear this isn’t the case.

Moral consideration is significant, so selecting such a broad criterion for consideration is silly at best, and stupid at worst.

Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
2. the ability to reach that capacity (children)
So children’s rights are contingent on the ability to grow and achieve a cognitive/mental capacity? Where else have I heard strange arguments about the intrinsic value of children and children’s rights? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WPNIHZtv7Y What of severely mentally impaired children, who are unable to grow and achieve this higher capacity? Are they to be stripped of their rights? His view would justify child abuse, so long as the abuse is infrequent and not severe enough impede on the child’s ability to grow and achieve this “higher cognitive ability.”

This is just plain morally wrong.
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
3. being human/a disability (the knowledge of the fact that if it weren't based on the disability it would have formed these capacities)*
Not sure what this means. Also, he still hasn’t defined what “these capacities” are. Not all humans are capable of the same mental capacity.
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
4. the fact that they are of the same species.*
Okay, so we’ve got to the root of the problem. He’s self-admittedly a speciesist. All the while claiming that your argument is flawed.
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
He agrees that a speciesist argument is not one that is valid.
Then he agrees that his own argument is not valid. He is self-admitedly appointing moral consideration to the mentally impaired based on an arbitrary criterion (species). Why not make the criterion race, nationality, or gender? Or bipedalism, or the ability to use echolocation or walk up walls?

If I decided that only the black mentally impaired deserve moral consideration, or that only mentally impaired Canadians deserve it, I’d love to hear how he would respond.
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:25 am
So maybe that's where you guys can help me out.
I’d use the Socratic method to draw out his hidden presumptions regarding moral consideration. His faulty argument is masquerading as “logical” but it would only take a few questions to have him stumped. Ask how he can justify speciesism but not racism.

Then I’d argue to him that the only morally relevant distinction for moral consideration is the ability to perceive subjective reality. All other traits are equally arbitrary.

Argument from relevance: http://www.animal-ethics.org/argument-relevance/

I'd steer clear of using deontology to get him to go vegan. Some vegans on the forum may disagree with me.

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Post by carnap » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:38 pm

I'm not vegan so I'm not going to help try to refute his argument but rather I will do the opposite, I will help strengthen the argument given by addressing what you think is one off the key issues with it:

"I ask him why he thinks that humans without moral agency deserve rights and he doesn't have an argument to refute. But, this obviously isn't enough for him to change his point of view."

To deal with this one can invoke the nation of indirect rights. So its not that a severely mentally retarded human has rights themselves but instead that they derive indirect rights by having a relationship with a human society. Animals can also gain indirect rights by having relationships to people, for example, a pet dog has certain "rights" that a stray dog does not. See here for more information:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/anim-eth/
I'm here to exploit you schmucks into demonstrating the blatant anti-intellectualism in the vegan community and the reality of veganism. But I can do that with any user name.

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Post by carnap » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:48 pm

Lay Vegan wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:15 pm
I’d set the criterion at the ability to experience subjective reality, since it’s the only morally relevant difference. The ability to feel pain is essentially irrelevant (lots of humans have rare medical conditions and can’t feel pain).
You can assume anything you wish, but to be convincing you'd need to explain why the ability for "subjective experience" is morally relevant and also why its the only morally relevant characteristic that is different. Humans have a variety of capacities not seen in the vast majority of other animals, for example, the ability to reason abstractly about ethics as is being done in this thread (this is likely unique to humans).
I'm here to exploit you schmucks into demonstrating the blatant anti-intellectualism in the vegan community and the reality of veganism. But I can do that with any user name.

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Post by Exmly » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:20 pm

Thank you so much!!! How can I make a utilitarian argument though? Because many assumptions of utilitarianism can be very problematic (like self-sacrifice) and I'm not going to make a consequentialist argument if I'm not 100% in belief with the philosophy.

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Post by Exmly » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:23 pm

Wouldnt he just be able to refute my whole argument by claiming the inconsistencies and problems associated with utilitarianism? Because that's what he's been doing.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:26 pm

carnap wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:48 pm
and also why its the only morally relevant characteristic that is different.

Did you mean why it is the only morally relevant characteristic? Does race, gender, or sexual orientation somehow seem morally relevant to you? If so, how do you justify this?

To morally regard an individual means to take its interests (desires) into consideration. When making moral decisions, rational people should only take into account relevant factors. Consequentialists regard those who can be benefited or harmed, and when making decisions attempt to increase well-being and reduce harm.

Animals are sentient, thus can experience reality subjectively and can be benefited or harmed (harm in the sense that its interests can be violated and cause it to suffer). http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf. Therefore, animals should be morally regarded.

Chipping a table is not “harm” in the moral sense. A table has no interests, and it cannot suffer.

Granted, not all beings can be benefited or harmed to the same capacity, so we can consistently regard some beings with more concern than others. Crazy deontological vegans might think flies are equal to humans, but a rational vegan would not consider this to be true.
carnap wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:48 pm
"I ask him why he thinks that humans without moral agency deserve rights and he doesn't have an argument to refute. But, this obviously isn't enough for him to change his point of view."

To deal with this one can invoke the nation of indirect rights. So its not that a severely mentally retarded human has rights themselves but instead that they derive indirect rights by having a relationship with a human society. Animals can also gain indirect rights by having relationships to people, for example, a pet dog has certain "rights" that a stray dog does not. See here for more information:
This doesn't "strengthen" his argument, it makes it look more stupid.

Why shouldn't pets be granted their own intrinsic value? Why are humans given their own value? Or do you think that "regular" adults also only value by the nature of their relationship to society? By what rationale are you making these assertions? And more importantly, do you agree with Exmly's friend that children are only to be given rights by virtue of their relationship with "human society" i.e. their parents? If so, why??

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Post by Lay Vegan » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:42 pm

Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:20 pm
How can I make a utilitarian argument though?
Take a look at Argument from Relevance I linked to you.
http://www.animal-ethics.org/argument-relevance/
Lay Vegan wrote:
To morally regard an individual means to take its interests (desires) into consideration. When making moral decisions, rational people should only take into account relevant factors. Consequentialists regard those who can be benefited or harmed, and when making decisions attempt to increase well-being and reduce harm.

Animals are sentient, thus can experience reality subjectively and can be benefited or harmed (harm in the sense that its interests can be violated and cause it to suffer). http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf. Therefore, animals should be morally regarded.
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:20 pm
Because many assumptions of utilitarianism can be very problematic (like self-sacrifice)
Not sure what you mean by this. Consequentialists assert that the morality of self-sacrifice depends on the sum of consequences it yields. It may or may not lead to a “greater good.” All factors would have to be considered, and the benefits and harms weighed against each other.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/conseque/
Exmly wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:20 pm
and I'm not going to make a consequentialist argument if I'm not 100% in belief with the philosophy.
You may or may not agree with consequentialist ethics, but it wouldn't make your argument any less valid. In that same sense, many of the deontological/Kantian arguments for veganism fall short and backfire on its user, regardless of whether or not they agree with that school of thought.

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Post by carnap » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:10 pm

Lay Vegan wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:26 pm

Did you mean why it is the only morally relevant characteristic? Does race, gender, or sexual orientation somehow seem morally relevant to you? If so, how do you justify this?
There are two issues you'd need to establish. Firstly you'd need to show that "subjective experience" is in fact morally relevant and secondly you'd need to show that it is the only morally relevant characteristic. Not sure how asking me about race, gender, etc addresses either of these issues.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:26 pm
To morally regard an individual means to take its interests (desires) into consideration. When making moral decisions, rational people should only take into account relevant factors.
Why is that? You seem to be repeating the views of Peter Singer as if they are somehow established facts but they are rooted in a very particular interpretation of a particular moral theory. Also its not clear what it would mean to take "interests" into consideration, how do you evaluate the "interests" of an animal?
Lay Vegan wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:26 pm
Animals are sentient, thus can experience reality subjectively and can be benefited or harmed (harm in the sense that its interests can be violated and cause it to suffer).
Firstly sentience is rather poorly understood so any moral theory built on it is going to be like building a home on water. Now its true that some animals are likely sentient (by no means all) but you'd need to argue why the mere ability for sentience would lead to the entity being morally relevant. An ability for sentience doesn't tell you how exactly an animal experiences the world and which experiences they may have.

Lay Vegan wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:26 pm
This doesn't "strengthen" his argument, it makes it look more stupid.

Why shouldn't pets be granted their own intrinsic value? Why are humans given their own value? Or do you think that "regular" adults also only value by the nature of their relationship to society? By what rationale are you making these assertions? And more importantly, do you agree with Exmly's friend that children are only to be given rights by virtue of their relationship with "human society" i.e. their parents? If so, why??
"its stupid" isn't an argument. Indirect rights provides an answer to what the OP thought was a key weakness in the argument givien. The link I provided in my comment gives a more detailed overview of the issue. The book "The Animal Rights Debate" provides more detailed arguments both for and against animal rights.

Also you're shifting the topic, the discussion is about rights. You can agree that animals have "intrinsic value" while still denying rights them rights.

Lastly, I'm not expressing my personal view on the topic (I don't subscribe to deontological theories) but instead discussing the argument in the OP. Despite you thinking its "stupid", the topic of indirect rights is a key topic in theorizing about animal rights so the OP should be aware of this possible answer to their objection.
I'm here to exploit you schmucks into demonstrating the blatant anti-intellectualism in the vegan community and the reality of veganism. But I can do that with any user name.

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Post by Exmly » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:13 pm

I will read the link.
As a vegan, I don't think I can make a utilitarian argument trying to convince him to be vegan and then say I don't follow the philosophy. This is because I'm trying to explain to him what compels my actions.
I don't understand how that wouldn't disprove my argument? If he believes that utilitarianism is flawed, and I also agree for many reasons, then I can't just say I only agree with consequentialism in this case. He will never agree to this inconsistency. If you agree with a philosophical view, it has to be universal or your argument doesn't hold up. You can't really have a concrete argument and then be inconsistent with your ethical stance. I'm searching for another angle to take.

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