Strong upvoted, I made a graph with it for a paper I intend to use for my summer research project and quickly found other papers I was unaware of which I expect will be helpful.
I thought Open Phil's Criminal Justice Reform efforts would include work in this area and it seems they've done some research into this. Some links from a quick google for interested persons:
That 11,000 children died yesterday, will die today and are going to die tomorrow from preventable causes. (I'm not sure if that number is correct, but it's the one that comes to mind most readily.)
TLDR: Very helpful post. Do you have any rough thoughts on how someone would pursue moral weighing research?
Wanted to say, first of all, that I found this post really helpful in helping crystalize some thoughts I've had for a while. I've spent about a year researching population axiologies (admittedly at the undergrad level) and have concluded that something like a critical level utilitarian view is close enough to a correct view that there's not much left to say. So, in trying to figure out where to go from there (and especially whether to pursue a career in philosophy), I've been trying to think of just what sort of questions would make a substantive difference in how we ought to approach EA goals. I couldn't think of anything, but it still seemed like there was some gap between the plausible arguments that have been presented so far and how to actually go about accomplishing those goals. I think you've clarified here, with "moral weighting," the gap that was bothering me. It seems similar to the "neutrality intuition" Broome talks about where we don't want to (but basically have to) say there's a discrete threshold where a life goes from worth living to not.
At any rate, moral weighting is the sort of work I hope to be able to contribute to. Are there any other articles/papers/posts you think would be relevant to the topic? Do you have any rough thoughts on the sort of considerations that would be operative here? Do any particular fields seem closest to you? I had been considered something like a wellbeing metric like the QALY or DALY in public health (a la the work Derek Foster posted a little while ago) to be a promising direction.
I'm mostly using "person" to be a stand in for that thing in virtue of which something has rights or whatever. So if preference satisfaction turns out to be the person-making feature, then having the ability to have preferences satisfied is just what it is to be a person. In which case, not appropriately considering such a trait in non-humans would be prima facie wrong (and possibly arbitrary).
I'm familiar with the general argument, but I find it persuasive in the other direction. That is, I find it plausible that there are human animals for whom personhood fails to pertain, so ~(2). [Disclaimer: I'm not making any further claim to know what sort of humans those might be nor even that coming to know the fact of the matter in a given case is within our powers.] I don't know if consciousness is the right feature, but I worry that my intuitive judgements on these sorts of features are ad hoc (and will just pick out whatever group I already think qualifies).
Just to respond to the conclusion of that article, it doesn't seem at all obvious that humans should be treated equally despite having different abilities, at least in contexts where those abilities are relevant. They also seem to equivocate a bit on treatment/respect. I can hold that persons should be treated with equal respect or equitably (or whatever) without holding that they should be treated equally. It also seems to me like personhood would be a binary feature. I don't think it makes sense to say that someone is more of a person than another and is this deserving of more person privileges.
Yes! It's much more conducive to conversation now, and I've changed my vote accordingly.
To actually engage with your question: I personally find (1) to be the most motivating reason to adopt a more vegetarian diet since I'm more compelled by the idea that my actions might be harming other persons. Regardless, (1) and (2) are both grounded in the empirical observations. (and both of which are seriously questionable in how much of a difference they make in the individual case: see this and the number of confounding factors in veg diets causing better health)
I personally reject (3) because animals don't fall, in my ontology, under the category of morally significant beings (neither argument nor experience has yet made me think animals possess whatever it is that makes us consider, at least most, humans as persons) I take this to be a morally relevant difference. (Though, I would endorse many efforts to improve animal welfare for reasons ultimately grounded in human person welfare.)
Moreover, regarding changing behavior, I can think of a number of additional reasons someone might not change their behavior that aren't related to empathy, e.g. they might find it supererogatory, they might have ingrained cultural reasons, they might not think they'll be able to make a difference, and reasons to do with poverty and food injustice.
Thus for me, an answer to (a) and (b) would be a convincing theory of personhood and a further convincing argument that animals share that person-making feature (or other moral relevance-making feature).
"(3) The ethical argument: killing or abusing an animal for culinary enjoyment is morally unsound"
I'm understanding abuse as being wrong by definition, a la how murder is by definition a wrongful killing. (3) seems to transparently be a case of arguing that something that is wrong is thus wrong. But, I agree, this by itself wouldn't warrant downvoting so much as how the generally dismissive tone of the writing came off as assuming some moral high ground, e.g. "to accept that this being with no identity, little conceivable intellect, and no means of advocating for itself or expressing relief or gratitude is suffering to an extent that is not justified by the mere desire of taste," "too inconvenient," "culinary enjoyment."
I felt I should comment instead of anonymously downvoting in case it was just a misunderstanding.
Down voted for question begging in the way you phrased the "ethical argument," and descriptions like "the mere desire of taste." [Edit: I changed my vote based on changes made.]
In that case, it seems plausible that you (and your coworkers) will do more and better work if you're not just ascetically grinding away for decades (and if they aren't spending time around someone like that). Perhaps, a good next step is to shadow/intern with/talk to people currently doing these jobs to learn what they look like day to day?