Gerald O'brian

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why is inflicting pain on non-human animals unethical?

-What does ethical mean when applied to anything else than persons?
-Is there a moral line between complexe mollecules, single-cell organisms and pandas? Where is it?
-And lastly, is it bad taste to ask about this?

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    Mar 24 2012: We emphasize with animals because we put ourselves in their minds and dislike the suffering. Seeing the suffering is the start of humans decision to treat these creatures differently . For example; a suffering cat will cry and this will trigger a lot of emotions in people. A struggling jellyfish will not appear to be suffering as much and we won't have any triggers to make us care. As humans we can expand our minds to include jellyfish and feel empathy for them too, but this takes more creativity and not everyone has that.

    ITS NEVER BAD TO ASK!!! ESPECIALLY TABOO SUBJECTS!!! NO FEAR! NO SHAME!
  • Mar 22 2012: Comparative anatomy and basic biology tells me pain is a shared discomfort with other animals. Vets commonly inflict pain in justifiably treating an ailment a pet may be suffering. For me this involves motive. If someone is being cruel to an animal then it is clearly unethical. But this get messy fast. Deer hunting, for example, is viewed as sport by many. Yet, it is amazing how many of my friends find that activity objectionable, yet love to eat steak.

    This is a very civilized question. My guess is you have problems with mistreating animals, as do I. Although, I am working at enjoying a more plant base diet, I am far from a purist. As a biologist I understand it is eat or be eaten, yet I am not insensitive to pain, despite how things work.
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      Mar 24 2012: That is funny that your friends dislike hunting but eat meat. Perhaps they think deer hunting involves not eating the deer.
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    Mar 12 2012: We consider wrong what the majority of the society we are living in considers wrong. This can change from society to society. For example, pets are much more valued in the US or in Europe than in Mexico. Kick a dog in the US and you have a good chance of going to jail. Do the same in Mexico and nobody really cares about (in most cases).
    In other words, there is no general line that divides living beings, making some eligible for bad treatment and others not.
    That said, I think (most) humans are not wired to enjoy inflicting pain on others, whether that's other humans or animals. Even if you squash a mosquito you usually don't start pulling it's legs enjoying any potential suffering of said mosquito.
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      Mar 24 2012: Good point. We also consider what is wrong when a inspired leader enters to change the minds of the majority.
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    Zack K

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    Mar 11 2012: Because we are all animals on the same planet, and we all feel pain. The unnecessary infliction of pain on something is bad regardless of the species, and if you go down to it nature is harsh but it has order. We humans act outside the boundaries of nature which means the balance of nature can be effected by our actions.
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      Mar 11 2012: I don't see how being an animal automatically gets us to feel pain,
      I don't see what's fondamentally bad about inflicting pain,
      I don't see why nature has any order
      Nor do I see why humans act outside of the boudaries of nature.

      You've explained none of these points. They're no more valid than if you'd said the opposite.
      Please develop.
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        Zack K

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        Mar 11 2012: Pain is something that everything, except for maybe microorganisms, feels. Pain is nessesary for survival for the organism to know that it isn't damaged.

        Inflicting pain on a organism is "bad" because pain is bad.

        Well in nature there is a thing called the circle of life, and in order for nature to function properly it must function in harmony, with a form of order.

        Humans act outside of nature because we have created our own environment and have created "poisons" that have damaged ecosystems and nature as a whole. Natures balance is an exchange of energies from two sides, the organism and the earth (which without outside interference would work in harmony), humans take energy from the earth without returning it and effect the balance of life.
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          Mar 24 2012: I think it is in our nature to create, even if this means some create poisons. I think we are within the boundaries of nature because we are animals.
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    Mar 5 2012: To better facilitate the discussion, I think it would be wise to define our terms. What do you mean by "person"? To you, is there a biological basis for personhood (i.e. a person is a member of the species homo sapiens)? Is sentience your main requirement for personhood? How do you define that, if it is? These questions and how you answer them are crucial in developing these kinds of exchanges.

    The thinker who I think has contributed the most charitably to this discussion is Peter Singer. While a great deal of attention is given to his more controversial statements, a lot of people miss the entire point of them: Singer is most often saying something "controversial" when he is inviting his audience to think about how unsettling a narrow definition of the "moral community" can be, when taken to its logical extreme. For example, if we limit our definition of the moral community to members of our own species, not only is that a preference that is structurally similar to things we think of as bigotry but it also poses theoretical problems, e.g. what if there are non-human animals in the universe with humanity? If you broaden the scope to include those who fit the more broadly understood definition of sentience, then you run into problems like being forced to hold that you can exclude the mentally handicapped and very young children from the moral community. These are the kinds of concerns he invites us to attend.

    Going on that perspective, one could argue--as Singer does--that the moral difference between single-celled organisms and more complex organisms like panda is the ability to suffer, which is a kind of ethical hedonism.
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      Mar 5 2012: The ability to suffer is yet another impossible thing to mesure. Another line that cannot be drawn between a simple chemical reaction and a very complexe one... If a panda suffers, then so do trees and bacteria.
      Unless we're only talking about anthropomorphic behaviour of course.

      Good point about the person being an impossible thing to define. We're lucky that no other variation of humanoid is still around. It'd be a philosophical nightmare to figure out what belonged in a zoo and what should pay taxes.
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        Mar 5 2012: I think we've moved beyond the idea of the early modern scientists that animals don't really suffer. It's been long settled that complex organisms like non-human locomotive organisms are capable of feeling genuine pain and we're even starting to reassess our thinking on animals that have occupied gray areas on the issue, such as fish--fish do, in fact, have predictable and unpleasant reactions to painful stimulus. Unless you subscribe to panpsychism or some similar view, the amount of daylight between these cases and the cases of simpler lifeforms, such as bacteria and trees, is rather large.

        Also, my point isn't that a person is impossible to define, the point is there a number of justifiable ways to define it but that a narrow definition of the concept almost always leads to outcomes that are affronts to common sense morality, hence a democratic definition is preferable.
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    Zack K

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    Mar 25 2012: Tynie Hawk

    I agree with you that We are natural and we naturally create. But hasn't some of that creation interfered with the environment around us, and some of that creating doesn't break down. This buildup inhibits natural process of life.
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    Mar 5 2012: causing pain or suffering in any living being must be wrong.if you decide that suffering in other lifeforms doesnt matter then you are cold, uncompasionate and clearly lacking empathy. you would qualify as being bad as apposed to good.
    Having said that, human survival instinct can certainl;y trump any fancifull moral thinking in survival situations. Eg ... i would kill a fly if i thought it might lay eggs in my meat and poison my family. This is a no brainer case of "us or them" But if our health or survival is not in question then i would consider the infliction of pain and suffering wrong.
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    Mar 5 2012: I don't see it as a "Bad taste" question but an "Unpleasant question" that makes the reader think long and hard on the moral issues,on what we classify as acceptable.

    http://scitechdaily.com/inhibiting-hdac2-can-reverse-alzheimers-symptoms-in-mice/
  • Mar 4 2012: I think there is nothing wrong with asking these questions =)

    Since humans are animals it seems logical to extend our ethics to other species beside humans because all animals have the same basic feelings. All animals feel pain and want to avoid it. All animals want to determine their future by freely (limited by their environment) decide their life.

    Where we draw a line is very difficult question for which I think we don't have yet a good answer?