Saturday, November 29, 2003


Keith Burgess-Jackson is an unusual combination -- a conservative animal libber. He derives his animal-lib views from his general philosophical ideas about morality and he is unusual among modern-day philosophers too. He is a “deontologist” -- which sounds like he would be good at fixing your teeth, but which really means (roughly) that he believes in fixed moral rules. I myself think that morality is extremely important but, like most atheists, I am a moral naturalist. I don’t think that moral rules are handed down from on high or revealed in some other mysterious way. I think that moral rules are learned from experience (both from our own experience and from the experience of others) and function to tell us how to behave wisely (i.e. so that we and those we care about live happily in the long term) so are just like any other rules of nature (more complex than “water does not flow uphill”, but basically of the same kind). So I see morality as the servant of man, not his master (A bit like a very famous thinker who said: “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” -- Mark 2:27). So the fact that man has evolved to regard other animals as prey simply makes irrelevant (not useful) any line of reasoning that says he should not kill animals. It might be useful reasoning if we could also show that people who avoid eating animals are more peaceful and benign generally but I think that PETA and the animal libbers in general show the exact opposite of that to be true. In fact Keith himself says he does not like people very much.

Christians of course believe that God gave man dominion over the animals (Genesis 1: 26-28) and Mosaic law spells out clearly that this includes the right to eat at least some of them. That belief seems to me to be at least as well-founded as any deontologist’s set of beliefs.

In my younger days I made several attempts to introduce a bit of psychological sophistication into philosophical debate -- into moral philosophy into the theory of mind and into the theory of causality. But introducing a bit of philosophical sophistication into a psychological debate and a political debate was the most fun. Psychology and philosophy seem generally to operate in profound ignorance of one-another and Leftists seem to operate in profound ignorance of everything. I point out where Leftist moral relativism goes off the rails here.


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