Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Benjamin Franklin Objection: When Reality Clashes with Theory

In his article 'practical ethics', Peter Singer points out one of the famous critics of animal ethics point of view when it comes to eating animals and the sorts. According to Peter Singer, Benjamin Franklin was a vegetarian who denounced his way or life and decided to start consuming animal produce including meats when he saw his friends cut open a fish to fry just to find a smaller fish within its stomach and in his own words; "Well, if you eat one another, I don't see why we may not eat you" and from then started consuming animal flesh and other produce. Applying Regan's reasoning of moral agency and patiency, we see why Benjamin Franklin's objection is invalid here because as moral agents, humans are held accountable for the morality of the actions and the same can't be said for animals like the fish he mentioned in his autobiography since they are moral patients. Peter Singer also uses a similar train of thought to discredit Benjamin Franklin's point in the aforementioned story of the fish when he term humans "reasonable creatures" giving us the ability to ponder upon the implications of our action before we act.
The response to Benjamin Franklin's point isn't the topic of conversation for this entry but i brought it up because it brings out a crucial point in implementing the theories of animal ethics. As Paxton George stipulated to earlier as to how vegetarian diets couldn't be realistic for women, children and the elderly, i think Benjamin Franklin does the same here as he points out how people have to deal with the uncommon and not-so-natural (for lack of a better word) form of eating. I term vegetarianism a not so natural form of dieting because it proposes a idea that is new, one which contradicts the natural food chain respected by most ecosystems. Benjamin Franklin points out this difficulty in his story of fish eating another fish and then decides to start eating meat too saying "...if they could eat one another, why shouldn't we". He may have sounded ad-hoc or lets say mundane in his argument but suggesting of a theory this sorts that takes away from what we have grown accustomed to, could be a tricky switch.
This situation brings me to my present dilemma, how do we care for animals, treat them with respect and all that and still eat meet or use products that where made from animal hide or even worse through animal testing and research? Is that hypocritical?

24 comments:

David K. Braden-Johnson said...

I think the point is to reduce hypocrisy, not eliminate its every vestige.

Also, as I see it, there's little that is "natural" about our current consumption of meat; vegetarianism is much more in keeping with our evolution, physiology, and nutritional needs.

David K. Braden-Johnson said...

And Franklin's comment is simply foolish: We might as well say that, since nonhumans mark their territories with excrement, we ought to as well.

dkj

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