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  1. #1
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    Default Human Value and Animal Welfare.

    I was hoping to trigger a discussion on this matter. There already is one going on somewhere here, but I was hoping this could be a much more personal discussion on what our views are, and why we have them.

    The reason for this is because, due to the nature of the topic, I think keeping it impersonal can lead to missing important points. It is about value and such after all, very personal things.

    Anyway, my perspective, from a chronological view:-

    It didn't take me long in life to start thinking certain people were more valuable than others. In the same manner certain things were more valuable than other things.

    These more valuable people were the ones who 'contributed' more to 'society', or ones who had more potential to do so.

    These people were usually the intelligent and the creative, though there were other traits that made one more valuable as well (notably hard-working-ness).

    Now, I realised at some point, when thinking about the mentally disabled, that as offensive as it is to many, I had trouble differentiating between them and animals in terms of value. (To be clear, I was thinking about severe mental disabilities, not mental illness or physical disability)

    That thought is actually what made me become vegetarian, so clearly my bias was still in favour of such people. More importantly, later I began to realise why I really saw the people who "contributed" more, as more valuable. In basic form it was because I valued those traits, but mainly because society valued those traits. They "served" society.

    Now the concept of serving is what formed my current view. Avoiding the philosophy of utility and such, the point is that one cannot serve intelligence. One cannot serve creativity. One cannot serve hard-working-ness. These things serve, but are not served. These things contribute, but are not contributed to.

    What one can serve is not people (though many would say that), rather a specific part of people. Again avoiding the philosophical details, this "thing" you can serve is something I think all humans possess. Not only that, it's easily argued that anything with a central nervous system has it.

    So my overall summary on my current view is that, I think there's still a lot of truth to the intelligent being more valuable than the stupid or the creative more than the stagnant. However, I think a lot of current views, notably the majority view on animal welfare, is due to people separating from the source of "value" and forgetting why these traits are valued in the first place. Instead focusing solely on what is valued.

    There's nothing inherently valuable about that which humans possess which higher order animals do not. Both humans and such animals can be served, and those traits are what serves. As such, whilst I think those valued traits should be nurtured and favoured more so than a lack of them, in the end the ultimate source of value comes from those who value, not the objects they value. The brilliant, the idiotic, the crippled, the hateful, high-order animals and more, all value. They are the source of value.

    Anyway, that's my view. What is yours?

  2. #2
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    I can sort of understand where you are coming from. I find your conclusions troublesome when we view things only through the lens of "value." I think it best to break things down into value, rights and privileges. As far as I'm concerned all humans have the same value, it is inherent in them. As a Christian I find that they are all valuable in that they are made in the image of God. No animal, no matter how smart is as valuable as the least of humans because it is not made in the image of God.

    Quote Originally Posted by erm
    in the end the ultimate source of value comes from those who value
    This is the very source of human rights from the Christian perspective. Humans are valuable, Because God, he who is to be valued above all, values them.

    That being said I don't think all humans are entitled to the same privileges. Personally I have worked with the mentally disabled for many years and I have a brother who is mentally disabled. Whilst the least of humankind may maintain the same rights as all other humans I would not have a problem if they were accorded fewer privileges than other humans.

    The rub is distinguishing between right and privilege.

    I know I haven't spoken much to the value of animals... perhaps I will get to it in another post.
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  3. #3
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    Both humans and such animals can be served, and those traits are what serves. As such, whilst I think those valued traits should be nurtured and favoured more so than a lack of them, in the end the ultimate source of value comes from those who value, not the objects they value. The brilliant, the idiotic, the crippled, the hateful, high-order animals and more, all value. They are the source of value.
    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    I can sort of understand where you are coming from. I find your conclusions troublesome when we view things only through the lens of "value." I think it best to break things down into value, rights and privileges. As far as I'm concerned all humans have the same value, it is inherent in them. As a Christian I find that they are all valuable in that they are made in the image of God. No animal, no matter how smart is as valuable as the least of humans because it is not made in the image of God.
    Originally Posted by erm
    in the end the ultimate source of value comes from those who value
    This is the very source of human rights from the Christian perspective. Humans are valuable, Because God, he who is to be valued above all, values them.
    These ideas you two shared here remind me of some of the themes of this book: Dominion: the power of man, the suffering of animals, and the call to mercy By Matthew Scully. But it takes a very religious perspective.
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    Thanks for the responses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    I think it best to break things down into value, rights and privileges.
    I'd be interested in hearing how one goes about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    As far as I'm concerned all humans have the same value, it is inherent in them.
    It is precisely for that reason that I think some have more value than others. It's the classic, the doctor is more valuable than the homeless person in a crisis, because the doctor will save more equally valuable people overall. The only inherent value in a person is the one shared equally by, in my opinion, all things with a central nervous system, though I say that with little certainty (in regards to the central nervous system being the indicator).

    I deliberately avoided going into too much detail on my present view on who would be more valuable than who, because I really don't know. I think I lack the knowledge, maybe even the capability, to do that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    As a Christian I find that they are all valuable in that they are made in the image of God. No animal, no matter how smart is as valuable as the least of humans because it is not made in the image of God.
    Ah, I understand that view, though I do not share those premises.

    Perhaps you would take the Kantian position? That cruelty towards animals is not inherently bad, but desensitising ourselves to it, is a stepping stone to desensitising ourselves to cruelty towards humans. Thus through that path it becomes a bad thing.

    I just wanted to share that as, if I remember correctly, it is one of the more common Christian perspectives on the matter. I think the other one is often that animals simply have lesser, if still inherent, value. Because they are God's creation, or something along those lines.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    That being said I don't think all humans are entitled to the same privileges. Personally I have worked with the mentally disabled for many years and I have a brother who is mentally disabled. Whilst the least of humankind may maintain the same rights as all other humans I would not have a problem if they were accorded fewer privileges than other humans.
    This fuels my interest further in what way you are using the term privilege.

  5. #5
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa View Post
    These ideas you two shared here remind me of some of the themes of this book: Dominion: the power of man, the suffering of animals, and the call to mercy By Matthew Scully.
    It looks interesting, might read a bit more when I have more time.


    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa View Post
    But it takes a very religious perspective.
    GOD FORBID!

    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    I'd be interested in hearing how one goes about that.
    I'm not sure... I'm still figuring it out. Let's forget about privileges and instead divide rights into two different groups. Rights that can and cannot be lost. By committing a crime a person can lose their right to liberty. However, under no circumstances can any person lose their right not to be raped.

    I'm inclined to believe that human rights are rather few in number because any right necessarily requires a duty on society. Thus the right not to die corresponds with a duty on members of society not to murder.

    Since animals cannot have duties they cannot have rights in the same sense humans have rights. I cannot tell the charging rhino I have a right to life and he has a duty not to kill me.

    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    It is precisely for that reason that I think some have more value than others. It's the classic, the doctor is more valuable than the homeless person in a crisis, because the doctor will save more equally valuable people overall.
    This presumes some sort of utilitarian ethic to which I do not subscribe. I think all human life is equally valuable, period. To believe otherwise can lead to disastrous results... wwII.

    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    Perhaps you would take the Kantian position? That cruelty towards animals is not inherently bad, but desensitising ourselves to it, is a stepping stone to desensitising ourselves to cruelty towards humans. Thus through that path it becomes a bad thing.

    I just wanted to share that as, if I remember correctly, it is one of the more common Christian perspectives on the matter. I think the other one is often that animals simply have lesser, if still inherent, value. Because they are God's creation, or something along those lines.
    My position would be something akin to the latter. Humans are stewards of the earth and have a duty to care for God's creatures as he created them. I believe Christian and "beyond organic" farmer Joel Salatin puts it best:

    [YOUTUBE="BIbXU5iR2P4"]POLYFACE FARM - Joel Salatin[/YOUTUBE]

    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    This fuels my interest further in what way you are using the term privilege.
    See above. I started off with a bad premise. Nobody is inherently entitled to any privilege... privileges are earned.
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  6. #6
    Per Ardua Metamorphosis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beefeater View Post
    Let's forget about privileges and instead divide rights into two different groups. Rights that can and cannot be lost. However, under no circumstances can any person lose their right not to be raped.

    I'm inclined to believe that human rights are rather few in number because any right necessarily requires a duty on society.
    What exactly is your criteria for a "right?" You may have some kind of method but it seems completely arbitrary. How is what you are describing different from a privilege (note that you are saying some can be lost and you have to buy them)?

    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    The only inherent value in a person is the one shared equally by, in my opinion, all things with a central nervous system, though I say that with little certainty (in regards to the central nervous system being the indicator).
    I'm glad that you say this with little certainty, not because it is an incorrect idea (although, I think it is), but because it means that you are willing to look for the reasons behind an idea rather than just trust your gut instinct like most people do. It begs a couple of questions. What does having a central nervous system imply? The ability to feel pain? Intelligence? Self-awareness? Are these genuinely superior traits or do we feel guilty because of anthropomorphism if we treat them as less? We feel worse killing a rabbit than a tree (generalization). Does this mean that it is more valuable? What is "inherent value?" How is it in our interest to feel this way?

    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    That cruelty towards animals is not inherently bad, but desensitising ourselves to it, is a stepping stone to desensitising ourselves to cruelty towards humans.
    Do you consider killing animals to be cruelty? I ask because you said that you are a vegetarian and I am curious if you only consider mistreatment of living animals to be cruelty or if you consider killing them at all to be cruelty.
    "You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit."

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    than to serve and obey them. - David Hume

  7. #7
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    I'm probably not being very clear, so I'm happy to attempt a clarification of anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphosis View Post
    What does having a central nervous system imply? The ability to feel pain? Intelligence? Self-awareness? Are these genuinely superior traits or do we feel guilty because of anthropomorphism if we treat them as less? We feel worse killing a rabbit than a tree (generalization). Does this mean that it is more valuable? What is "inherent value?" How is it in our interest to feel this way?
    The central nervous system point:

    I accept that this is an incredibly complex and little understood area. I am not in anyway claiming to have decent knowledge on this topic. For example, I could see it easily being the case that only humans are conscious, or that much more than just those with central nervous systems are conscious.

    My reasoning started with how I conclude that other human beings are conscious like I am. It's simply because they behave similar to me. That's not to say non-human behaviour implies lack of consciousness, but only that human-like behaviour suggests consciousness.

    I then applied this to animals who behave similarly. In some of my most stupid and primitive states I am conscious, in my sleep I am at least partially conscious (dreams). As such, I can't deny that animals probably have consciousness as well, it parallels with the human case and it parallels with me. It does get into grey areas with fish and such, but with mammals and birds it fits. Reptiles and Amphibians, I've just realised now are a big gap in my knowledge.

    The central nervous system I found was correlated with these animals, and, to add to my reasoning, evolved in animals who've had reason to form a pleasure/pain homoeostasis system. I've found no such reasons to think most invertebrates have followed a similar route.

    So to bring it back to your question. I think it implies pain and pleasure, at least in primitive forms. Self-awareness, intelligence etcetera I see more as tools to serve than the things served and I haven't seen any reason to think a central nervous system necessarily implies them. Of course, I think there are other possible structures that can give rise to these same effects, I just don't know how to recognise them. Circuitry might be capable of it, for example.

    "Inherent value" I was using to mean value in an object's definition. So three angles is inherent in a triangle, remove them and the triangle is gone. Remove consciousness (an essential part of the "valuer") from a human permanently, and it's no longer a human, and has lost value. Hence value that is also inherent. The main point in this context being that, things which are inherent to something, belong to all cases of that something. So humans' inherent value is value all humans possess by virtue of being human.

    For the rabbit and tree case, by my current view, both have value. The rabbit is a valuer though, and thus gives things value. It's case by case which is more valuable. It comes down to which is more valued by the valuers. Usually the rabbit though, as you say.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphosis View Post
    Do you consider killing animals to be cruelty? I ask because you said that you are a vegetarian and I am curious if you only consider mistreatment of living animals to be cruelty or if you consider killing them at all to be cruelty.
    I see a few questions in there.

    Killing animals in comparison to killing humans. (same thing to me, beyond humans having more value due to greater ability to serve valuers)
    Killing in general, as by a pain/pleasure system, can be done neutrally. (very complex question, neutrality is worse than positive, so that's at least quite simple)
    Killing species, or more abstract definitions, rather than individual animals. (I'm fine with not maintaining the existence of species and cultures, letting pandas go extinct is not cruelty to me, only hurting and killing the pandas themselves)

    The overall clincher for me is the nature of consciousness and conscious experience. I look forward to any answers there, as that is really what I base my view around.

  8. #8
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metamorphosis View Post
    What exactly is your criteria for a "right?" You may have some kind of method but it seems completely arbitrary. How is what you are describing different from a privilege (note that you are saying some can be lost and you have to buy them)?
    I'm sorry, but where do I say rights have to be bought?
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  9. #9
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    I guess I'm on the Christian thing, too. Every human has innate value because they are made in the image of God. All honest work is honorable and has value. If someone is intelligent, creative, etc but they don't use their intelligence for the good of their fellow man, their work has no more value and possibly less value than the person with Downs Syndrome that wipes down the tables at the mall food court. Value is innate, contribution is not based ability, but on how one uses the ability one has.

    God made humanity the caretakers of the earth and the Bible says that a righteous man looks after the needs of his animals. Also, if I understand the laws correctly, Kosher slaughter is meant to butcher an animal in a sanitary, blood removing way, but it is also meant to reduce the suffering (blade has to be free of nicks, etc) the animal endures when being slaughtered.

    So to me, animal cruelty is a sin, perhaps a lesser sin than cruelty to humans, but a sin, nonetheless. On a practical level, I like meat and I feel better when I eat meat, but my family does not have the means to purchase cruelty free meat, so I participate in the sin that is the US factory farm meat industry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafe View Post
    If someone is intelligent, creative, etc but they don't use their intelligence for the good of their fellow man, their work has no more value and possibly less value than the person with Downs Syndrome that wipes down the tables at the mall food court.
    An important point.

    I'd add that sometimes people don't even use those traits for the good of themselves, and sometimes don't use them at all.

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