Life, the Universe, and Everything

A Course Blog for GET1029/GEK1067

Category: Factory-Farmed Meat

Argument by Moral Analogy

Some of you have noticed how Norcross’ Puppy Argument, Singer’s Drowning Child Argument, and what I called Huemer’s “Sam” Argument share the same overall argumentative strategy. This a post about that overall strategy.

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Quiz 03 Debrief

Your average scores are increasing–good job! If you are still struggling with the quizzes, please do reach out to your tutors to see how you can improve. Click through to see… (Question 8 now updated.)


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Quiz 03 Hints

  • Question 4

Added a clarifying note to Options A and B–basically, you only need to figure out if Josh was at least objecting to the mentioned premise, not whether he is successful, or non-question begging, in his attack, etc.) Someone asked for help re: Option C. Ok, here’s how you can break it down:

  • A Utilitarian (who previously believes that the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat is sound),
  • but who now agrees with Josh,
  • will have to stop believing that the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat is sound,
  • if she wants to have consistent beliefs.

Another student asks if it makes a difference that Josh’s argument is about whether one should support the existence of factory-farms, while the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat. Yes, these aren’t exactly the same things. But that doesn’t mean the things that Josh said aren’t relevant. You can still think whether what he said constitutes an attack on one of the premises of the Utilitarian Argument against consuming factory-farmed meat, or whether it attacks a premise of the Puppy Argument, or whether a Utilitarian who agrees with Josh would have to abandon the Utilitarian Argument against the consumption of factory-farmed meat, or whether a Utilitarian who agrees with Josh would have to say that shutting down factory-farms is morally wrong, etc.

  • Question 5

Read Norcross carefully–and don’t conflate issues to do with whether a being can be a moral agent with issues to do with whether it can be a moral patient, even though some creatures can be both. (Someone can be both tall and studious; but the basis for the two qualities are quite different.) And if you want to up the stakes a bit to “which of the above statement(s) is/are definitely true?” just to help yourselves focus, that’s fine too. Update: Made a small edit to Statement I–please make sure to check it out. Also, just in case people think too much–you can read Norcross’ talk about “suffering” basically in terms of “experiencing pain” (this pretty much follows from the Hedonism…)

  • Question 8

Read Norcross carefully. Some of the relevant passages are on p. 233.

W04 Q/A

The questions pertaining to Norcross and Lomasky will be in the next post. First, some questions concerning arguments:

must premises be before conclusion for the whole thing to be an argument

When we express arguments in words, there are ways to do so putting the conclusion statement in front, in the middle, and at the end–all this is possible as long as you know how to use the usual words we use to mark premises and conclusions, e.g., “because…”, “since” (marking what follows as a premise), “therefore”, “thus” (marking what follows as a conclusion). Nonetheless, by convention, when we formulate an argument explicitly in premise conclusion form, e.g.,

  • Premise 1: …
  • Premise 2: …
  • ——————–
  • Conclusion: …

Then you should put the premises on top, and the conclusion below. Some extra fussy people will also insist upon a line in between the premises and conclusion. Other extra fussy people may also demand that you mark out exactly how the statements relate to each other–which can be useful in more complex, multi-move arguments (the above is basically just one simple argument–“single move” from premises to the conclusion). We might see some of that later in the semester.

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Doctrine of Double Effect

Technically, this isn’t part of the syllabus and all you need to know about it is some very basic stuff–just like Virtue Ethics. The typical question in which DDE shows up will test you on whether you can at least see that someone is trying to invoke it–whether successful or not, whether the doctrine itself is even true–stuff that’s already in Norcross . But if you want a more fine grain break down, here is is. (Do keep in mind that most of the below is optional as far as the syllabus is concerned.)

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Moral Relativism

Mentioned in W04 Factory-Farmed Meat:

MORAL RELATIVISM: No such thing as what’s right or wrong ‘absolutely’, only what’s right- or wrong-for-something.

(Analogy: “Being to the left” is a relative property. There is no such thing as being to the left absolutely, only, being to-the-left-of-something.)

Now, technically, Moral Relativism is not a topic in the module. But since it was alluded to in the Norcross reading, I should say something about it for those who are interested, having also promised to in the lecture. This post is mainly about making sure that you understand what that concept amounts to–because it is often confused with a bunch of other close by notions. Whether Moral Relativism is true or “hard to swallow” will be a longer and more complicated story.

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Factory-Farming Zombie Cows and Other Clickbait

As a follow up to the Webinar on Factory-Farmed Meat:


At some point, humanity might be deciding whether to farm any animals whatsoever, and the path we choose could hinge on whether we want to create good but brief lives as a side effect of our desire to eat fleshy foods. Kill-free meat might sound nice, but it’s kill-free only because it never had any life to end. There is a danger to sentience, since it can go very wrong for those who have it. But this calls for caution and care, not for swearing off the creation of vulnerable sentient life altogether.

You can read the whole thing here.

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