Sampling of opinions on NTT from Reddit

Vegan message board for support on vegan related issues and questions.
Topics include philosophy, activism, effective altruism, plant-based nutrition, and diet advice/discussion whether high carb, low carb (eco atkins/vegan keto) or anything in between.
Meat eater vs. Vegan debate welcome, but please keep it within debate topics.
Post Reply
User avatar
Master in Training
Posts: 945
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:30 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan
Location: North Wales, UK

Sampling of opinions on NTT from Reddit

Post by NonZeroSum » Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:39 am


Original post and replies to initial post below, click the link to further read the ensuing discussion.


QoTW: How do you feel about the “name the trait” argument? Question of the Week
(self.DebateAVegan) submitted 1 day ago * by broccolicat[M] - announcement

[This is part of our new “question-of-the-week” series, where we ask common questions to compile a resource of opinions of visitors to the r/DebateAVegan community, and of course, debate! We will use this post as part of our wiki to have a compilation FAQ, so please feel free to go as in depth as you wish. Any relevant links will be added to the main post as references.]

This week we’ve invited r/vegan to come join us and to share their perspective! If you’ve come from r/vegan, welcome, and we hope you stick around! If you wish not to debate certain aspects of your view, especially regarding your religion and spiritual path/etc, please note that in the beginning of your post. To everyone else, please respect their wishes and assume good-faith.


The argument is often presented as;
Name a trait present in animals, which if present in humans, would justify the treatment proposed by omnivores if applied to a human.
This argument rose to prominence in 2015 after being espoused by vegan youtuber AskYourself, and is a new spin on the Argument from Marginal Cases, which was used and popularized by Peter Singer. The Argument from Marginal Cases has been criticized by vegans and non-vegans alike for being ableist, or for being philosophically unsound.

How do you feel about “Name the Trait”/ argument from marginal cases?

Do you feel it is a good strategic argument for veganism? Do you feel the claim that it is an ableist argument justified, why or why not?

Vegans: Do you personally choose to use this argument? If so, do you find it an effective line of debate? If not, why do you avoid this argument?

Non-Vegans: Do you consider the “name the trait” argument ineffective, and why? How do you feel when asked to name the trait?



Previous r/DebateaVegan threads:
• Name the trait argument
• Some additional thoughts on the "name the trait argument" and the criteria for moral consideration

Previous r/Vegan threads:
• Is the argument from marginal cases ableist?

Other reddit threads:
• CMV: "Name the Trait" is a morally, logically sound argument for Veganism.

Other links & resources:
• AskYourself explains "Name the trait" (Youtube)
• Argument from Marginal Cases (Wikipedia)
• The Argument that Marginalizes (The Vegan Ideal)


shadow_user 25 points 1 day ago*

I prefer the following adaptation:
On the evolutionary chain starting from a single celled organism to a modern day human, at what point does it become okay to kill and eat the being for enjoyment?
There are a few inherent improvements. The first is that by bringing in evolution, it forces the person to not see humans as completely distinct or special relative other animals. The second is that it extends very easily to the marginal case argument.

The15thGamer 10 points 1 day ago

I personally avoid it, because often I simply get the response that it is just because we are human, and as such, even if we have a mental deficiency, we are superior. Also people say that we have to stick together as a species or the like. Of course, you can argue other things from there, but it has seemed less productive to me.

Creditfigaro 8 points 1 day ago

I think it is -the- definitive ethical argumentative framework for veganism, just like it applies to other ethical arguments as a nice intellectual tool.

In terms of dealing with Omnis: many are too uneducated to understand the argumentative framework, much less grapple with it.

Certain, potentially fallacious arguments are superior for arguing against Omnis. Appeals to emotion are effective: woule you x your dog? does slaughterhouse footage make you hungry?

These emotion pumps can be effective at moving people intellectually.

SnuleSnu 9 points 1 day ago

It is ineffective, because it does not necessarily lead to veganism (and in a lot of cases it is shifting the burden of proof). And, as I can see, the presented argument does not make much sense. If i say "not being a human",then that cant be present in humans, because humans are humans. Humans cannot not be humans.

ZombiePestControl 3 points 1 day ago*

It's a very strong argument. I would recommend watching [Isaac's debates]( ... KLMcjKGx3h) . The only people I know who have managed to get around it are Destiny, who claimed that the ability to reciprocate social contracts is the trait (thus condemning any human too mentally disabled to reciprocate social contracts) and JF Gariepy, who claimed that existence matters over well-being (conceding that he would prefer him and his descendants getting tortured horribly over not existing).

As to convincing people to go vegan, I would use something I learned from Gary Francione. First ask people if they agree that it's immoral to cause unjustifiable suffering and death to conscious beings, leaving aside that we disagree what constitutes unjustifiable. If they agree with this, I would talk about how personal pleasure can't be a justification by talking about Michael Vick and getting them to agree that Michael Vick being entertained by watching dogs fight didn't justify harming them. Then I would say that to the other animals, non-vegans are all Michael Vick. The only difference being that Michael Vick harmed dogs for the pleasure of his eyes and non-vegans harm other animals for the pleasure of their tongues.

If someone disagreed with the above proposition, I would use "name the trait".

EDIT: Replaced an offensive word about the mentally disabled with "mentally disabled".

Space_Wolf25 4 points 1 day ago

You have to do a lot of cherry picking and deconstructionism to avoid the "the trait is being part of the human species" response to this. Like we see in this very thread with someone denying the existence of human beings beyond an arbitrary classification people invented. Seems to fly in the face of common sense and rudimentary biology. The easiest response to this is to say that humans can only reproduce with other humans, which demonstrates a distinct and measurable quality of the human species that isnt shared across other species.

That isnt to say "reproducing" is the trait, but just to show that humans are actually a thing and not just some subjective morality ;).

You're trying to deconstruct the concept of human while still acknowledging that humans exist and are quantifiable. That doesnt make sense.

Why dont you just be honest? You know exactly what a human is, you're just making this argument because its convenient to your viewpoint.

If humans aren't a valid answer in this case then what validity is there to make a claim like "humans have moral agency and moral responsibility"?

If we dont even agree on what a human is, or even acknowledge that it exists in any tangible way that is different from other "individuals" then, why should I subscribe to the notion that as a member of a non-existent classification of things I "must" adhere to moral principles or exercise moral agency?

Also your analogy seems weird. If you asked me my favourite country I'd name a country. If you asked me my favourite species I'd name a species. In both cases you'd know what I mean, even though you could suddenly be like, "well countries dont really exist! Name the trait that makes Japan a unique country compared to Norway!" And other such nonsense.

00raiser10 2 points 21 hours ago*

I disagree with premises 2.That there are no trait that separate humans from other animals without excluding some humans.

But there is such a trait.I call it rational nature which is defined as “the telos of a being when fully developed will become a conscious, rational creature”.this trait effectively includes all humans and exclude all non-human animals that we currently know of.

FruitdealerF vegan [score hidden] 16 hours ago

The argument is fine but the autistic way that AskYourself presents and defends it is not.

wiggleswole [score hidden] 14 hours ago

I do use it since I am yet to see a line of reasoning against this argument that does not involve circular reasoning (including the reasons being provided in the comments section of this post. I often encounter reasoning on the lines of 'we are human , because we are, therefore we are human...and so on)

Name the trait has been an effective strategy for me also while debating issues like :

1) paying immigrants lower salaries than citizens of a country ( if the said immigrants are paid less than the citizens in of a country, in the same country: then a trait needs to be mentioned as to why such a practice is occurring)

2) Providing females lesser rights than males (which does occur, legally so in many countries , the reason for which simply is that on account of the entity being a female , it deserves less rights than a male) The inability of the women to have a say in the political environment of a country leads to a scenario where:

The collective pleasure/convenience garnered from oppressing women still currently outweighs the emotional harm done to women, so it should not be considered immoral until that balance shifts to the point where oppressors are causing more harm to women than they are receiving pleasure.

3) Assigning fewer rights to a religious, ethnic minority simply on account of them belonging to one, and not based upon a concrete trait.

semafone [score hidden] 6 hours ago

it's a bad argument for many reasons. it ignores the fact that morality is subjective and moral justifications are internal (the morally relevant traits may not actually be properties of the animals, but instead the disposition of the moral agent), and it assumes that moral considerations boil down to a single trait.

howlin 2 points 1 day ago

I think it is a good inspiration for omnis to scrutinize their ethical principles. The more they look at humans versus other animals, the less clear a moral line can be drawn. However, most omnis lack the modern scientific understanding of animal cognition and sentience. If they don't have the facts and are harrassed by a "name the trait" argument from a vegan, they get defensive really quick. No one likes to be called out on their ignorance, even if it's true.

Pyrobotnik 0 points 1 day ago

not a sound argument at all and it even isn't sound within veganism since people could turn ntt to all the animals that die for vegans modern comforts ( crop production/transport ect)

Space_Wolf25 1 point 22 hours ago

I'll add a new argument to this since my other ones got played out a bit.

Individual traits aren't solely indicative of moral value. This can be exemplified by the following thought experiment: according to veganism, sentience is the primary (possibly sole?) consideration for moral value. Hurting sentient things is bad, hurting non-sentient things is fine. By this metric, an already dead human, dead cat, and a rock all have the same moral value. All three lack sentience, therefore all three are essentially valueless, morally.

Now imagine you saw a neighbourhood kid kicking a rock down the rock. No issue, right? Now imagine if you saw them kicking the dead cat down the road. Appalled? Imagine you saw them kicking a dead human down the road? Mortified?

Clearly there is more to it than the simple measure of sentience (although that is a relevant and important metric). There is also the consideration of moral value in relation to other people's personal thoughts and feelings. A dead human may still have significant value to people who are still alive, and as a result, it is immoral to mess with the dead human, even though it lacks sentience, because you would be offending the sentiments of other people.

This could also be applied to marginal case humans, such as the mentally disabled. Perhaps, objectively, they have less sentience than even farm animals that we eat, but, they still have significantly high sentimental value, and so it is still immoral to harm them.

Now, the obvious response to this argument is to say that harming animals can also indirectly harm animal lovers who have a strong sentimental attachment to the lives and suffering of animals. I think this is an absolutely fair statement. However, it does not undermine the argument in totality. Sentiment exists in a variety of forms. Some people may have a strong sentimental attachment to bugs. Perhaps they are mortified by the thought of fumigating your house to rid it of a bad infestation. Should we refrain from this action to spare the individual an extreme amount of emotional suffering? No, because this would imply that every individual's personal feelings are the absolute standard of morality, which is not a very good system for running a society. It's more apt to consider the majority viewpoint and take into consideration the dominant sentiments of a particular group and society, to ensure that you are promoting the most good and the least harm.

So, vegans can argue from a personal standpoint, but, the collective pleasure garnered from eating meat still currently outweighs the emotional harm done to vegans, so it should not be considered immoral until that balance shifts to the point where meat eaters are causing more harm to vegans than they are receiving pleasure.

So sentience remains an important trait to consider but, so does human sentiment, as well.

upstater_isot 0 points 1 day ago

I'm not sure. Imagine a severely disabled human child who has, and will have for their entire life, language abilities of a three year old. Then imagine a (non-disabled) chimp with exactly the same language abilities.

It's wrong to refuse to teach some (human) language to the human child. Disabled kids have the right to know all the language they can so that they can communicate with other people. But it's not wrong to refuse to teach some language to the chimp. Chimps don't have a right to special education classes.

So even though the two have the same language abilities, we're allowed to treat them differently. Doesn't that mean 'naming that trait' isn't enough to tell us what's right and wrong? Don't we also need to know what species the individual is in? (If it's a human, then you've got to teach it language. If it's not a human, then you don't)

Unofficial librarian of vegan and socialist movements, video and writing culture.

PhiloVegan Wiki:
Vegan Video Library:
Activist Journeys YouTube:

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests