All of George's Comments + Replies

When can I eat meat again?

" I think it's often not so easy for people to just leave their job and find another, especially if they have children to take care of. "

Yes, elasticity isn't absolute, but in the long run it matters a lot. In the extreme, you can walk out and be jobless rather than accepting bad conditions. That alone puts a cap on how bad conditions can be, although perhaps some risks can be hard to estimate.

" Do you care about others or their wellbeing for their own sake at all for any other reason? "

Yes, if I have positive personal relati... (read more)

When can I eat meat again?

Many good points.

Moral uncertainty doesn't give you what you want. It gives you everything and nothing. You don't use it to question your own values, but only as a rhetorical device to get other people to question their values, and only those that disagree with your current values. Maybe the Logic of the Larder goes through. Maybe animal farming is good for wild animals. Maybe animal suffering is intrinsically morally good. You can't point to uncertainty to privilege your current moral preference.

The costs to slaughterhouse workers are inter... (read more)

3MichaelStJules1yI think if you reflect more on the alternatives (which you should try to fit within whole views, not just judge claims in isolation), some will seem more satisfactory to you than others, so you would give them more weight. The logic of the larder might go through or animal farming might be good because of the effects on wild animals, but, all else equal, it still seems (to me) far more plausible for more suffering in farmed animals to be worse than less suffering than for the opposite to be true, which would count against factory farmed animals, or at least chickens and pigs (they're among the worst treated, in my view). Do you find views according to which this is true more satisfactory than those according to which animal suffering is intrinsically morally bad? I think it would be hard to justify that human suffering is not intrinsically morally good if animal suffering is intrinsically morally good. I think it's often not so easy for people to just leave their job and find another, especially if they have children to take care of. Yes, a priori, I think that could plausibly account for the effect. This study [https://brill.com/view/journals/soan/23/6/article-p594_4.xml] found an association at the county-level, so for self-selection effects to account for all of it, it would mean people would be moving between counties (which can be pretty big [https://www.rcrcnet.org/counties]) to work at slaughterhouses, which is of course still plausible, but makes it seem less likely. Some other studies are listed here [https://www.reddit.com/r/vegan/comments/e6q9qw/societys_obsession_with_meat_is_killing_us/] . I think the fact that they are at higher risk for PTSD is pretty suggestive that slaughterhouse work could affect people in this way, too. I don't think this is at all representative of animal advocates. I think they tend to be more progressive and supporting of human rights generally: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/26/who-supports-animal-rights
When can I eat meat again?

"Why would you prefer real meat over fake meat, even if they were indistinguishable and had the same price?"

Why wouldn't I? I don't believe in animal rights. Perhaps if no animal rights activists had ever condoned human rights violations against me, I might be indifferent. But they did, and the substitutes won't be indistinguishable during my lifetime anyway.

"This would mean our obligations to conscious and suffering non-person (and not future-person) humans are only (or primarily) indirect, circumstantial and sometimes comple... (read more)

2MichaelStJules1yShouldn't the burden be the other way? Why should you care that it's real if it's otherwise indistinguishable? It sounds like you prefer real meat just to spite animal advocates. There are reasons to break the tie the other way: 1. Moral uncertainty. You might assign some possibility to it being wrong. Are you 100% sure animals don't matter? If you're 100% sure or close to it, is that confidence justified? Also, you don't have to believe in animal "rights" per se to recognize that animal farming causes harm to animals, and it's better to avoid this, all else equal. 2. The harm it causes other humans who care about animals because they care about animals. Imagine if we started farming children with severe intellectual disabilities and torturing them. It's horrifying for us in the same way. 3. Environmental harms. 4. Public health. 5. Injuries, PTSD and other mental health issues caused by slaughterhouse work. 6. Increased crime rates in areas with slaughterhouses. (I'm not sure how strong the causal relationship is here, though, but it's plausible given mental health effects.) Infants (<1 year) and many nonverbal humans who are nonverbal because of intellectual disability. They still have interests, e.g. in not suffering involuntarily If my own involuntary suffering is bad in itself, and I recognize that at least one other individual's involuntary suffering is bad in itself, then it's on me to justify treating some involuntary suffering as bad in itself and others not, and if I can't do this, then I should accept that it's always bad in itself, or that no other individual's suffering is bad in itself (and maybe not my own, either). Are you not concerned with others' welfare for their sakes, and not just how it benefits you to be concerned with their welfare in other ways? What are the things that, at a fundamental level, make a person better or worse off? Don't those (or at least some of those) also apply to nonhuman animals? I don't think alcohol is a good
New book — "Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications"

What do you think of the concept that suffering and pleasure are the same phenomenon, except "sign-flipped", i.e. the same neurological/computational principle gives valence to both suffering and pleasure? If so, you could "reduce intense suffering" by creating intense pleasure. This is probably not your goal, but is there a principled philosophical or neuroscientific reason against this view?

Empirically, I think it's pretty clear that most people are willing to trade off pleasure and pain for themselves. (They also want things oth... (read more)

9MagnusVinding1yThanks for your comment, George. Sections 1.4 and 8.5 in my book deal directly with the first issue you raise. Also see Chapter 3, "Creating Happiness at the Price of Suffering Is Wrong", for various arguments against a moral symmetry between pleasure and suffering. But many chapters in the first part of the book deal with this. I say a good deal about this in Chapter 2. I also discuss the moral relevance of such intrapersonal claims in section 3.2, "Intra- and Interpersonal Claims".
When can I eat meat again?

"Do you see this being true even if/when humans colonize space? (You and I might be long dead by then.)"

Technically yes, because there will still be animal farming on Earth. What happens in a very far future post-human civilization of course, is speculative.

"Would you still insist even if you couldn't tell the alternatives from the real thing and enjoyed them as much (under blind test), and they had the same or better nutritional quality? Why?"

This depends on the price, I would say. If it's also 50% cheaper, I would probably c... (read more)

2MichaelStJules1yWoops, ya, I forgot price. Why would you prefer real meat over fake meat, even if they were indistinguishable and had the same price? On extending rights to animals, I find it poorly motivated and deeply counterintuitive to only count (moral) agents or those sufficiently intelligent as moral subjects or worthy of rights or count their interests lexically more (although the nature and strength of those rights could depend on the individual; dogs don't need rights to elementary and high school education). This would mean our obligations to conscious and suffering non-person (and not future-person) humans are only (or primarily) indirect, circumstantial and sometimes completely absent, because what we owe them for their own sake is dominated by what's owed to human persons. It wouldn't be wrong for their parents to abuse them (e.g. treat them like farmed animals) for their own trivial interests, unless it's a useful rule to protect human persons, not because the human non-persons matter as much in themselves. I also suspect that placing extra importance on intelligence will lead to counterintuitive conclusions for humans who are usually intelligent or rational, because we aren't always intelligent or rational (or these capacities might be artificially reduced for one reason or another), so the interests that come from these moments of unintelligence/irrationality wouldn't deserve more weight in themselves than similar nonhuman animal interests. For example, I would assume your interests in not being tortured are strongest while you're being tortured and because of the torture, but if you're not intelligent during those moments, that might not be the case. Actually, it's plausible to me that you can't be intelligent or rational past a certain intensity of torture; you'd break down. (This is setting aside long-term effects.) Korsgaard also makes the case for animal rights under a Kantian framework in "Fellow Creatures: Our Obligations to the Other Animals". I haven't
2MichaelStJules1yDo you see this being true even if/when humans colonize space? (You and I might be long dead by then.) Would you still insist even if you couldn't tell the alternatives from the real thing and enjoyed them as much (under blind test), and they had the same or better nutritional quality? Why? Also, we only need enough people to want to ban animal farming and animal products, not for everyone to oppose them. There might still be a market in them if/when that happens, but it would be a black market, so I'd guess at most a few percent of the total market wherever there are bans.
The relevance of trophic interactions to wild animal welfare

Alternatively, you could use the scientific method to design artificial sentient systems with high welfare output per resource input and harvest the ecosystem's production to power these. Or even better, use them to maximize human welfare because we're all human.

Does Utilitarian Longtermism Imply Directed Panspermia?

I'm not a utilitarian, but if I were, I would emphasize quality over quantity. There are two ways in which quantity can harm quality. The first is when there's a trade-off and spending resources on quantity causes you to spend fewer resources on quality. So if you spend money and attention on implementing panspermia, you can't spend the same money and attention on improving the quality of life of sentient systems. The second is even worse: On those margins where quality is negative, quantity actively hurts the total. So you had better be rea... (read more)

The Alienation Objection to Consequentialism

Then that's begging the question. The Alienation Objection isn't to Act Consequentialism at all, but to taking impartiality for granted.

The Alienation Objection to Consequentialism

Why does Act Consequentialism imply impartiality?

The definition used here ("according to which (very roughly) you should do whatever has the best consequences, i.e., whatever produces the most value in the world") punts all the complexity into the definition of "value in the world", but that is entirely subjective and can be completely partial, as it is for many if not most people.

It seems this entire discussion is suffering from the confusion of Act Consequentialism with something more specific and impartial like a version of Utilitarianism. Or at the very least an underdefined use of terms like "value in the world".

2MichaelStJules1yI think we're taking impartiality for granted here. Consequentialism doesn't imply impartiality.
Preventing pandemics by not hunting and farming animals

"Another problem is shadow markets. They persist for many products and services that governments have tried to discourage, like drugs and prostitution. However, unlike with those two, there is a clear, safe and cheap substitute for animal products - plant products."

There are also substitutes for illegal drugs and prostitution, e.g. legal drugs, and masturbation, respectively. Despite this, there is still a market for illegal drugs and prostitution, though perhaps a smaller one than if those substituted didn't exist. The substitutes are alrea... (read more)

Preventing pandemics by not hunting and farming animals

Michael Huemer has written on this here: https://fakenous.net/?p=1397

Some good counter-arguments have been raised in the comments.