population ethics and the cow that lived a good life

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Gregor Samsa
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population ethics and the cow that lived a good life

Post by Gregor Samsa » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:30 pm

So the issue is whether or not in a hypothetical scenario where 1) a cow lived a life worth living 2) the cow would not exist unless it were to be slaughtered, if killing that cow (painlessly) is then morally justified. I don't think so, but would like to hear other people's thought on how to respond to this challenge. ps This all rests on the assumption that more happy beings in the world is a better world (especially if this doesn't reduce the eudaimonia of beings that already exist), and that this additional set of happy beings (cows) could only practically exist given the condition of eventual slaughter --> eaten.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:42 am

The happier the cow, the more negative the killing becomes. The killing itself is probably the least bad part of a slaughter house as the animals are probably suicidal already. It somewhat evens out, consequentially speaking.
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Post by Gregor Samsa » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:36 am

Jebus wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:42 am
The happier the cow, the more negative the killing becomes. The killing itself is probably the least bad part of a slaughter house as the animals are probably suicidal already. It somewhat evens out, consequentially speaking.
You're not incorporating the fact that the cow wouldn't exist but for its eventual killing. The killing is a practical pre-requisite for the cow having a great life at all. Also I already stated the conditions for the hypothetical, but I can rephrase them if you want: a) the cow lives a good life b) the cow would not exist if it wasn't for the fact that it was eventually killed c) the cow does not suffer as a part of the killing, but of course one is still removing its future well-being.

There does seem to be a conflict of different values atp lay. One being a good life is better than no life, the other being that once the life is already there, it seems impossible to justify taking it away wantonly.

I would personally appeal to responsibility in that we are morally responsible for beings we bring into this world, and because of this we cannot justify killing the cow even if it wouldn't exist otherwise even if its existence brings a net-benefit in terms of well-being (another route would be antinatalism, but I'm biased against that position); I would also propose a thought-experiment with a demon offering me 20 more years of life (im dying and im 15) in exchange for it being allowed to kill me painlessly when my time is up. This intends to show that whether or not one would take an offer is not itself sufficient to determine the moral nature of the offer (it's still a devil's bargain). But I'm still curious how other people would respond to this challenge, or if it's even an interesting challenge at all.

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Post by Jebus » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:58 am

Given the short life, the tragic death which probably involved a great deal of fear, the sorrow experienced by the cow's friends, I think it is safe to conclude that it would have been better if the cow had never lived at all.
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Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

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Post by Gregor Samsa » Sun Dec 31, 2017 10:41 am

Jebus wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:58 am
Given the short life, the tragic death which probably involved a great deal of fear, the sorrow experienced by the cow's friends, I think it is safe to conclude that it would have been better if the cow had never lived at all.
Seriously?

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Post by DrSinger » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:36 am

I think a classical utilitarian would have to accept it unless they don't give weight to the future happiness or preferences of beings that don't yet exist.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:51 pm

This was discussed a little here:

http://philosophicalvegan.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2583&p=26400#p26377

We have to look at opportunity cost too.

If it's literally impossible to raise those cows without killing them (not just inconvenient, or wouldn't happen because we're selfish and we won't pay for it if we can't eat them) and there's no alternative use for those resources that's one thing.

But it still would be better to have happy cows that you do not kill (ignoring the environmental harm of it all).

The argument would go that you should donate that money to a sanctuary or something instead of buying meat. That the dilemma presented (in not giving that option) represents a false choice which assumes selfish decision making as benign or immutable (which kind of defeats the point of morality if we have no choices).

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Post by sykkelmannen » Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:57 am

Gregor Samsa wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 10:41 am
Jebus wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:58 am
Given the short life, the tragic death which probably involved a great deal of fear, the sorrow experienced by the cow's friends, I think it is safe to conclude that it would have been better if the cow had never lived at all.
Seriously?
Who would even ask? Isn't this as clear as day?

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Post by Gregor Samsa » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:29 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:51 pm
But it still would be better to have happy cows that you do not kill (ignoring the environmental harm of it all).
Sure, but that's not really the picture we as vegans present. We say there is this torturewheel of becoming, and it must end. The carnist response could be "Ok but what about removing the torture? Let's just have a happy wheel of becoming". I do think it's something we need to have a quick and coherent response to, because it seems to have some intuitive appeal to carnists; Ie it's better for cows to exist and have a happy good life and then be killed quickly than to never have existed at all. We might say that's a false dichotomy, but we are at some level saying it's better to not exist than to exist to be killed, even if the life of the cow is overall a good life, because that's the very future we're presenting. Isn't it? Vegans think it's better not to have a cow at all if it's going to be killed, even if it lived a good life, than for that cow to exist. Even if we could control for environmental factors. Antinatalists seem to have a coherent response to this challenge, but I'm not an antinatalist.
The argument would go that you should donate that money to a sanctuary or something instead of buying meat. That the dilemma presented (in not giving that option) represents a false choice which assumes selfish decision making as benign or immutable (which kind of defeats the point of morality if we have no choices).
devil's advocate: even with sanctuaries we'll have way less cows around than if people eat meat. And although the number of cows that could exist under a "happy life" paradigm would be significantly less, it would still be a lot more cows than in a vegan world. If I understand you correctly, your utilitarian response would be that the cost to more happy cows existing is less happy humans being able to exist, and so since humans have a much richer experience of life it's better for the latter than the former, yes?

As I said my response would be one about responsibility over beings we bring into this world, but I'm not perfectly comfortable with the virtue ethics it implies. This is paradoxical in a sense because even if it's true that the cow wouldn't exist if it wasn't to be slaughtered, and it's a net-benefit to exist and be happy than to not exist (something antinatalists would reject), as soon as the cow actually exists the slaughter seems impossible to justify.
Last edited by Gregor Samsa on Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

Gregor Samsa
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Post by Gregor Samsa » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:30 am

sykkelmannen wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:57 am
Gregor Samsa wrote:
Sun Dec 31, 2017 10:41 am
Jebus wrote:
Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:58 am
Given the short life, the tragic death which probably involved a great deal of fear, the sorrow experienced by the cow's friends, I think it is safe to conclude that it would have been better if the cow had never lived at all.
Seriously?
Who would even ask? Isn't this as clear as day?
Not sure what your question is. The reason I said "really?" is because he didn't answer the hypothetical, he went off to some other hypothetical. He essentially did a Motte and bailey

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