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The Case for Reading Books

Hello Brad,
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. To your last point, what if reading did maximize the welfare of an EA agent such that they were better able to effectuate their values? After all, many EAs take time away from directly doing good to lift weights, socialize, go out to dinners, and generally engage in other activities that give them pleasure. It won't be the same for everyone of course, but when considering the happiness/impact tradeoff I see many EAs devote time to the former in the hopes of maximizing the latter. In my case, reading not only helps my communication skills which I hope to leverage throughout my professional career(s), but it also brings me happiness, and with it increased mental bandwidth.  

Also, I really like your verbiage "mercenary treatment of literature" and wish I would have thought of that for the original essay. 

The Case for Reading Books

Hello Alexander,
Thank you so much for your comment. You are right, I don't think I sufficiently made the case for reading non-fiction books specifically and that my post blurred between the two genres a bit too readily. However, I think a lot of the arguments for fiction are true for non-fiction as well, namely, quality of prose, deep focus, and close reading.  I think reading a whole non-fiction work rather than a summary helps the content go from disparate facts to being situated within a web of context. In this respect, I think we better retain the major points. I don't know if this is universal, but when I read a summary it isn't nearly as impactful. This seems to suggest that impact comes from more than just a summation and instead from the other elements that an author is able to establish within a longer framework. 

Guided by the Beauty of One’s Philosophies: Why Aesthetics Matter

Hello Zachary,

I don't think the meaning of aesthetics that Etienne explores in this post really applies to Carrick Flynn's campaign. Aesthetics are a more replicable, cohesive, and norm-driven way of thinking about appearances. Carrick's Campaign may have garnered a poor public perception based on the proximity to/appearances of being a white-crypto bro. However, I don't think this has to do with an aesthetic he cultivated–rather a public image. The aesthetic of the campaign would have been things like graphic design choices, our media selection, and the reliance on green-outdoorsy personal presentation. I worked on the campaign and our aesthetic (scant and innocuous as it was) seemed enormously disconnected from how we were perceived. That suggests a divergence between an intentionally crafted and honed aesthetic and the way that the optics of a campaign and candidate get perceived by the public. 

Why should I care about insects?

Thank you for your post. You present a well-reasoned and fascinating case for extending our moral circle to include insects. 

I am an enormous insect lover and I have become hugely preoccupied with learning more about their subjective experiences and to what degree insects experience suffering. A couple of years ago I researched how the human consumption of insects–entomophagy, could support resilient diets. Initially, I was so enamored by the favorable land/water use of insect farming that I could largely overlook the ethical concerns behind entomophagy, but I have updated since then and grown increasingly more concerned about the ethics. 

Here is an article I published about entomophagy largely extolling the environmental and nutritional upsides of insect consumption. 

Here is a section on ethics that didn't make it into this version of the rticle, but that I am looking to expand and revisit:

Ethics of Entomophagy 

The ethics of eating animals is a question that provokes perennial philosophical interest. The eating of insects should be met with as much moral and ethical discussion as would surround the eating of any other living creature. According to Rozin & Ruby (2019), “the general lack of moral objection to raising insects for food is predicated on the belief that they do not suffer in the process; if this is untrue, then raising insects for food rather than larger invertebrates may actually increase overall suffering, given the much larger number of insects required to make one kilogram of food” (p. 161). Given the enormous quantity of insects that widespread entomophagy would require, it seems necessary to investigate further into insect suffering. 

In 2005, Author David Foster Wallace wrote an article on the eating of lobsters that continues to perturb and inspire ethicists and laypeople today. Beginning as a review of the Main Lobster Festival, the article quickly evolves into a provocative philosophical analysis of the ethics of eating lobsters and how human beings consider, or more often don’t bother to consider, animals’ pain when it’s up against gustatory pleasure. Foster Wallace posits that when considering animal pain “...everything gets progressively more abstract and convolved as we move farther and farther out from the higher-type mammals into cattle and swine and dogs and cats and rodents, and then birds and fish, and finally invertebrates...” (p. 62). An investigation into the ethics of eating invertebrates such as insects will be difficult, but how insects are raised, harvested, and ultimately consumed is inextricably linked to how sustainable and moral the practice of entomophagy can be.

Final thoughts:

I would absolutely love to talk about this further. I think that insect farming will proliferate in the next few years and that there may be significant environmental benefits to this. However, I fear that the downsides will far outstrip the positives, especially if the following are true. 

  1. If insect-derived animal feed replaces/supplements soy-based feed and cheapens or enables the expansion of factory farming.
  2. If insects suffer tremendously or if the cumulative suffering is staggeringly high. 

    Please reach out to me to talk more about this. I would also be extremely curious to get involved with research about this or other projects involving insect suffering/humane insect farming/entomophagy.