Saturday, March 31, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The New York Times is holding an essay contest: In 600 words, argue that it is ethical to eat meat.
I am intrigued by this contest.
It's quite easy to argue that consuming meat is unethical. We can talk about animal suffering, the inefficiency of cattle production, and all manner of Singer-esque slippery slope arguments. Generally speaking, meat consumption is demonstrably wasteful, unnecessary, and it increases the overall quantity of suffering* that occurs on Earth.
But arguments to the contrary are incredibly difficult to craft. This puzzles me. One of the things that draws me to philosophy is the idea that every argument has a counter-argument; every position can, in theory, be argued. But when you get right down to it, arguing in favor of meat-consumption is quite difficult.
One problem is that to consume meat, something has to die. Usually that something has a face, moves of its own volition, and acts in the sort of way that we expect a suffering thing to act when you start shoving sharp shit into it. If we want to argue that eating meat is ethical, we have to argue for an ethical permissibility to kill something with a face.
Another problem is the lack of a need to consume meat. Things that are necessary to human existence tend to be ethical (which, when you think about it, belies a huge problem in ethics). But we don't need to eat meat. We like to eat meat, we enjoy eating meat, but we could survive without eating flesh; consuming flesh is optional. If we want to argue that eating meat is ethical, we have to argue for the ethical permissibility of an unnecessary act.
We could find a way around the "consumer meat production is insanely inefficient, wasteful, and deleterious to our ecosystem" argument by maintaining that it is only ethical to consume "naturally occurring", whatever the fuck that means, meat. If you shoot a deer in your back yard, it wasn't factory farmed, so we've avoided the ecological problems. However, this entails arguing that it is ethical to shoot deer, and we're back to the problem of ethical killing.
I realize that most people (read: The fuckheads over at peta-sucks.com) don't give a shit about the ethical permissibility of meat consumption. As Angry Dog posted, "....or i could just not give a fuck and keep on eating what I paid for with my money instead of trying to justify my diet to people I don't give two fucks about." Apparently, we can do whatever we can afford, because freedom, and fuck ethics.
But if you aren't an inbred illiterate moron, you may find the challenge of the contest intriguing: "You have two weeks and 600 words in which to make sense of our species’ entire dietary history." It's strange to think that human beings exist as a result of an unethical practice. It's weird to think that we can't justify a daily habit. But when you sit down and try to compose an argument, you start to realize just how problematic it is to ethically justify our usual breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Entries are due by April 8, so we've a bit of time to think about this. You have 600 words, and the last seven must be: "Therefore, it is ethical to eat meat."
And your argument can't be "Fuck you. I do what I want."
* Ignoring, of course, The Law of Conservation of Suffering.
I visited a pawn shop today. A friend purchased an engagement ring for a lady, that ended up not working out, so I pawned the ring for him.
While looking around the store, I noticed a pattern: Everything they had to sell was awesome! They had guitars, gaming systems, swords, maces, knives, televisions, DVDs, and video games. They also had a Buffy the Vampire Slayer toy! The shop contained a cornucopia of items that single-me would enjoy owning. It was strange, though, because the majority of their merchandise are items a guy would want to own. The only "lady items" were found in the display case full of jewelry, most of which were rings.
Reflecting on this later with a friend, we fashioned a working hypothesis to explain the content of pawn shops:
Girls use pawn shops to dispose of their guy's things.
Guys use pawn shops to rid themselves of the rings they tried to use to get girls, who would have disposed of their things.
Basically, pawn shops seem to exist because of dumb relationships.