In to his paper The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan argues that people cannot hurt animals because they have inherent morals and are closely related to humans. Therefore, people should not eat animals or harm them in any way: we will no longer interfere with the circle of life (that Regan argues we must become a part of). Essentially, this extreme attack on our culture in regards to animals is a huge contradiction.
Since animals must be on the same “playing field” as humans, this must work in the other way. Humans must partake in the circle of life, but also must not kill any other animals. All animals are immediately deemed immoral. Many proponents of Regan place children, mentally-handicapped people and animals as the same, but if they were to go and kill everything with their bare teeth, this would definitely not be considered moral.
Regan’s response is not unheard of, however. Factory farming and a vile treatment of animals is not right, and animals do have some inherent morals, possibly even as much as humans. Animals, however, can not be treated exactly the same as humans because they simply are not the same.
Why is this? Probably because we’ve chosen to separate ourselves from animals. But that’s another discussion for another post.
In our Philosophy class, we discussed the idea of equal opportunity and if it truly exists, especially within the United States. The general consensus was that people are born into conditions very different from one another, giving some a head start to success and others some setbacks. An idea discussed to make this system more fair and have more equal opportunity is higher taxes on the rich and smaller taxes on the poor. While I completely agree that this effort is correct, I also believe that there needs to be a more equal distribution of said taxes. Many of the taxes in nice neighborhoods contribute to nicer schools, but the smaller taxes in worse neighborhoods contribute to schools that have worse resources, further continuing the vicious cycle of poverty. If there was a more equal distribution of taxes across a state, region, or town, then the schooling system would be more fair, resulting in a better chance of equal opportunity.
In class we discussed Justice by Nagel and how he suggests that in order to create equality, the government should increase the taxation of the rich and give the money to the poor. I agree that there should be limitations because people will start taking advantage of it. The government should make sure that the people receiving financial help are in need of it. I volunteered for this event called “Good Neighbors” that provides food and entertainment for the homeless while they take turns choosing from an assortment of clothes and blankets to take with them. I saw homeless people with iPhones and other advanced cellphones and name brand shoes like Nike and Jordans. It made me think that if they can afford to buy expensive things, why can’t they afford to buy their kids food or a home? It relates to what we just discussed because people do get away with taking advantage of different financial aid the government provides and that makes it unfair to the rich. In order for Nagel’s idea to work, they have to set up very strict rules in order to send the money to those who are truly in need.
Today in class, we talked about the concept of effective altruism. In a simple sense, effective altruism calls for the public to realize that major problems such as poverty plague our world today, and we should take action to mitigate/resolve these problems. In his TED talk, world renowned effective altruist Peter Singer makes the claim that we should aim to reduce poverty in the world by donating money to charities he deems as legitimate. Having watched his TED talk, I was convinced that the effective altruism movement was plausible. However, I stumbled upon an interesting article published late last year in which the authors harshly criticize effective altruism and even go as far as to refer to it as “defective altruism.” In this article (link below), the authors point out that effective altruism is not at all effective at what it aims to do. That is, they claim that one should not be motivated to donate to a charity simply because one has been told to do so; rather, they should do so based on facts and should “be informed and see their donation as an investment.” In the authors’ words, “Being an informed donor means using facts to help make a giving decision, and looking beyond the slogans and the emotion triggered by appeals.” The authors believe that donating to a charity because of “emotions triggered by appeals” defeats the purpose of effective altruism, because such an action cannot be considered altruistic (since an altruistic act is one that is done out of selfless concern for others and independent of outside influence). Could they be right in their criticism?
Wolf mentioned Aristotle’s theory of Eudaimonia which states that if a person does not want to find meaning in life, it just shows they were not well brought up and there is no point trying to educate them. I did some research and another definition of Eudaimonia is “a moral philosophy that defines right action as that which leads to the “well-being” of the individual”. Eudaimonia as the ultimate goal is objective, not subjective, because it characterizes the well-lived life irrespective of the emotional state of the person experiencing it. Plato refined the idea of Eudaimonia, claiming that the rational part of the soul or mind must govern the spirited, emotional and appetitive parts in order to lead all desires and actions to eudaimonia, the principal constituent of which is virtue. Epicurus agreed with Aristotle that happiness, or eudaimonia, is the highest good, but he identified this with pleasure, on the grounds that pleasure is the only thing that people value for its own sake, and that its presence or absence is something which is immediately apparent to everyone. Eudaimonia can be associated with Egoism.
Imagine if the doctor told you that you had 24 hours left alive. What would you do?
Samuel Scheffler, in his paper “The Importance of the Afterlife, Seriously” argues that most people would do something meaningful for future generations. In their last moment, they would leave a mark on this world for everyone to remember them by.
What if everyone was going to die in 24 hours?
Rather than make the most out of their last day, Scheffler argues that everyone would be characterized by panic and the world would fall into disarray. Many people, however, would pray for salvation and to have a great afterlife.
But what is afterlife?
Scheffler argues why believe in heaven or hell, or any other after that we cannot ensure, when there is an afterlife: life after us. Our meaning lies in the fact that future generations created us, and that we have an impact on the generations after us. Essentially, the only afterlife we need is the children of the world, and we should strive to make the world better for those who will inhabit it after us.
A few days ago our class talked about the role of God when it came to defining what is right and wrong. Theists believe that God determines what is right and wrong and our laws should be based on that. There is a segment on PBS called “God In America” where they talk about the Founding Fathers and their different religions. They claimed that even though they had different religious beliefs, they all “professed a belief in God as the Creator of the Universe and believed that religion encouraged a moral citizenry”. I agree with this claim that our original laws were founded on christian beliefs. The website I have linked also talks about the different beliefs of the Founding Fathers. Go check it out!
In class this past week, we discussed the meaning of life. In this post, I would like to discuss the meaning of life based on Hinduism. According to Hinduism, the meaning (purpose) of life is four-fold: to achieve Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. The first, dharma, means to act virtuously and righteously. That is, it means to act morally and ethically throughout one’s life. However, dharma also has a secondary aspect; since Hindus believe that they are born in debt to the Gods and other human beings, dharma calls for Hindus to repay this debt. The five different debts are as follows: debt to the Gods for their blessings, debt to parents and teachers, debt to guests, debt to other human beings, and debt to all other living beings. The second meaning of life according to Hinduism is Artha, which refers to the pursuit of wealth and prosperity in one’s life. Importantly, one must stay within the bounds of dharma while pursuing this wealth and prosperity (i.e. one must not step outside moral and ethical grounds in order to do so). The third purpose of a Hindu’s life is to seek Kama. In simple terms, Kama can be defined as obtaining enjoyment from life. The fourth and final meaning of life according to Hinduism is Moksha, enlightenment. By far the most difficult meaning of life to achieve, Moksha may take an individual just one lifetime to accomplish (rarely) or it may take several. However, it is considered the most important meaning of life and offers such rewards as liberation from reincarnation, self-realization, enlightenment, or unity with God.
Having described the meaning of life according to Hinduism, I now briefly offer my thoughts on this subject matter. I feel that religion provides its followers a set of goals to achieve in life, and in doing so, provides a meaning to each follower’s life. Without such guidance, one would likely conclude that life is ultimately meaningless. Therefore, for those individuals in the world who feel that there is no meaning to life, is belief in a religious faith is all that is needed to change their minds?
Or should we?
Our reading for our Philosophy class is the 10th chapter of Thomas Nagel’s What Does It All Mean? which was named “The Meaning of Life.” In this chapter, Nagel discussed many people’s meaning of life: how their actions fit into a larger scheme. Nagel, however, questions the validity of this proposition. How can we know that there is a larger picture, and why does it matter if there is a larger picture for our actions to fit into? Even with religion as an example and the goal of reaching heaven, why is that important? What makes that the meaning of life? If the meaning of life not to simply live? Without the bigger picture, some people will be more satisfied, and others will be depressed, as Nagel says. If we choose to focus on being good people for the sake of being good people and making the most out of our lives, no “bigger picture” should even cross our minds. We will surpass the larger picture by simply living in the world beneath it.
In our Philosophy class yesterday, we discussed the idea of Cultural Relativism: the notion that good and bad (right and wrong) is relative to culture. For example, in some cultures it is appropriate to commit sacrifice for a greater good, but in American cultures that would be considered immoral. Cultural relativism seems to explain a lot, such as the societal differences in law between cultures and how cultures came to adopt these values. Cultural relativism, however, creates many questions in the mind of the ‘humble’ American. What makes us special? In other words, what makes our progress important or relevant? Have we made any progress? And furthermore, why do we engage in fields such as philosophy? How can we dare explain the minds of others when their minds are so different from our own? The crisis created by cultural relativism is inevitable, and it forces one to wonder: is this explanation worth it? Essentially, yes. The human mind focuses on itself rather than others, so the provincial view provided by cultural relativism is not far from what has been practiced in the past. With the view of cultural relativism, we will finally stop interfering with the lives of others, as we have done so well in the past. (See: Imperialism)