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Martha Nussbaum writes about wild animal suffering in the New York Review of Books.
Sort of. That exact wording is not used, and the utilitarian discourse on the subject not referenced, but it clearly is the same general thought. And it is very cathedralised. We have:
The "everything is political":
The critical theorising:
(And much more in this direction. That is most of the article.)
And just enough mention of the exterminationist angle to stay deniable:
I find this interesting in light of an ongoing debate about cthulhu theory: Whether new leftist causes are relatively obvious consequences of general principles that have already been driving the movement for a long time, or have more short-term cynical explanations. I lean towards the former and think this example supports that:
I think that today, its easy to see the Singer&Co rationale in an article like this. But if the Motte-equivalent of 2100 is arguing about that, and everyone has heard stuff like the link in public school, and then someone tries explain how this was anticipated by the obscure philosoper Singer, I can imagine that going quite a lot worse.
A while ago, I had a thought. God granted humanity stewardship over nature. Humans are above nature and have a responsibility towards nature for this reason. But you remove God, and that's all good. Then you only have two logical conclusions. That humans are no better than animals, and that animals are raised to the same status as humans. I think that trend and this article are examples of both of that.
I used the term 'God' generally here. For any metaphysical doctrine that similarly gives special status to humans the argument stays the same. If you adopt a purely materialist or naturalist outlook it's hard not to reach the conclusion that human are no different or better than animals.
That's certainly one opinion.
Maybe an atheist could notice the enormous mental differences between people and animals and then determine that people have great moral worth and animals very little.
For instance: A dust mite has no moral worth at all. It is not apparently the equal to a person.
We are still experiencing the philosophical implications of the Darwinian Revolution. The implication being that humans are not apart from nature, but part of and a product of nature. Therefore the special status of humanity is questionable, we are no different from animals. We may be very sophisticated animals, but we are animals nevertheless.
We might say, as you have, that humans still have a special status by virtue of our higher intelligence, that we far more powerful and capable of changing and enacting our will on our environement and therefore have higher moral value than animals. But this is a questionable argument and presents a fleeting kind of moral superiority. Does a stronger, smarter man have more moral value than than a weaker, stupider man? That superior men should be held to different standards than inferior men? Some people seem to think so. Nietzsche certainly thought this was the inevitable outcome of the death of God. This is Raskolnikov's theory of the superior man.
We might also retreat into the safety of consciousness, that humans have unique qualia that gives us a special status. But the materialist/naturalist outlook has no reason to give special status to consciousness. Consciousness is merely just the complex interaction of chemicals in your brain. It's as much as part of nature and mechanistic as any other evolutionary biological development, one of many tools in the toolbox. Ultimately, assigning special status to human consciousness (or the soul or countless other names) and humanity itself requires some belief or argument from the metaphysical - whether that be God, Plato's Realm of the Forms or Kant's Reason.
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