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Response Paper 8

In Preparation of Session 9
Denis Telofy Drescher
June 9, 2014
e beginning of Badmingtons introduction read as if the author were just profusely
apologizing for his title. I was glad I didnt read it in my minds Joelle voice. e cause
of his apologies was the sux and -isms in general: We cannot live with them (why
else would we need to keep inventing new ones?), but neither can we live without
them(why else would we need to keep inventing newones?). (Badmington 1) Hayles
would comment that abstraction is of course an essential component in all theorizing,
for no theory can account for the innite multiplicity of our interactions with the real.
(Hayles 12) is is, admiedly, the procataleptic lead-in to her qualication of the same
notion, but its probably easier to remind ourselves from time to time that the map
is not the territory than to abandon a fundamental part of our cognition. Moreover,
Hayles also didnt evince the same obsession with those silly puns you get when you
insert hyphens into words, which was a great relieve aer the other two texts.
But what I enjoyed greatly about Badmington, even taking the selection bias into
account, is that his reaction to Descartess arrant speciesism must have been similar
to mine back when we read the texts. is is a topic that I would like to focus on again
in this response paper, not Descartess speciesism but speciesism more generally.
Ive been vegetarian for a while and Ive been engaged in eective altruismbefore the
movement had a name (and long before I learned of it). Somehow, however, it took me
years to make the obvious connection and wonder what exactly it is that supposedly
makes humans so much more deserving of charitable aid than other animals. My initial
choice, no conscious choice at all, had probably been pure speciesism as well. One
oen-cited reason that does not rely on speciesism, however, may be the one that
Singer (122) gives: If cows, pigs, chickens and the other animals we usually eat are self-
aware, they are still not self-aware to anything like the extent that humans normally
are. I agree with Varner and Scruton that the more one thinks of ones life as a story that
has chapters still to be wrien, and the more one hopes for achievements yet to come,
the more one has to lose by being killed. For this reason, when there is an irreconcilable
conict between the basic survival needs of animals and of normal humans, it is not
speciesist to give priority to the lives of those with a geographical sense of their life and
a stronger orientation toward the future. is notion of degrees of self-awareness is
linked to suering in complex ways. He gives examples of animals that are spared dread
of their impending suering that humans would have felt in addition to the ensuing
suering but also examples of animals that suer greater dread compared to humans in
similar situations because hypothetical captors could have assuaged the humans fears
by assuring them that their connement is temporary and that no further harm will
come to them, assurances that the animals could not have understood. Furthermore,
suering is experienced dierently as well. A large thick-skinned animal might suer
less from the same degree of ill-treatment than a smaller one.
Even though it seems thus that saving a human will on average avert greater suf-
fering and generate greater happiness than saving an animal, it might be that saving
an animal is greatly easier, so that the advantage of the human is outweighed by the
aggregate utility gained though saving numerous animals with the same amount of
resources. In that case, the more eective cause ought to be supported with almost
all resources to solve the problem as quickly as possible and move on the second most
eectively addressable problem. If you have, for example, 10 resources available per
cycle and two projects, one requiring 100 resources to solve a problemand the other re-
quiring 1 000 resources to solve an equally important problem, both of which they can
address in arbitrarily small increments, then, with everything else equal (an absurdly
simplied model just to illustrate the strategy), allocating the full 10 resources rst to
the more eective, then to the less eective project will solve both problems aer 110
cycles and incur an aggregate utility (or rather utility debt or dolor) of only -64. Al-
locating the resources equally from the start, however, will incur -68.5, and allocating
them in proportion to the projects total requirement will incur -104.5.
GiveWell (in Your Dollar Goes Further Overseas) found that the Against Malaria Foun-
dation, a highly eective malaria prevention charity, saves one human per approx-
imately every $3 400 donated. Animal Charity Evaluators, on the other hand, found
that One person consuming thirty fewer land animals per year results in 1.821 fewer
animals being farmed for meat and One person consuming, directly and indirectly,
232 fewer sh and shellsh per year results in 35144 fewer animals being killed. Not
eating meat comes at no expense and oen even results in savings that can be invested
back into the advocacy charities Animal Charity Evaluators recommend, so from the
raw numbers, and leaving aside complicated comparisons between the value of hu-
mans versus dierent animals, it seems like saving animals can be greatly eective, at
least within the bounds of average consumption.
If less eective but equally important causes are already in operation, halting them and continuing
them at a later time might incur prohibitive start-up costs among other things.
is is also an approach that Coon-Barra concludes warrants further research,
research that Animal Charity Evaluators (Intervention Research) are in the process of
conducting and encouraging. His main criticism, however, is one founded on meta-
research conducted by GiveWell (Flow-rough Eects), namely that many kinds of
action taken to save humans have positive societal long-term eects, e.g., that not
having to worry about their basic needs may free them up to spend more time consid-
ering and improving the circumstances of others around them, something that similar
direct interventions for animals lack.
is very brief overview points out that intervention on behalf of nonhuman ani-
mals has been proved to be most eective on the meta-level of advocacy, but that more
research is needed to compare the eectiveness of such intervention to the most eec-
tive forms of human charity. In any case, the dierences would have to be signicant
to outweigh the margin of uncertainty over the degrees to which dierent animals are
self-aware and suer as compared to most humans, so that even then a direct compar-
ison might not be possible.
Works Cited
Animal Charity Evaluators. Eects of Diet Choices on Animals. 2014. Web.
.Intervention Research. 2014. Web.
Badmington, Neil. Posthumanism. Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. Print. Readers in Cultural
Coon-Barra, Owen. Human and Animal Interventions: e Long-TermView. 2014.
GiveWell. Flow-rough Eects. 2013. Web.
.Your Dollar Goes Further Overseas. 2014. Web.
Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Liter-
ature, and Informatics. University of Chicago Press, 2008. Print.
Singer, Peter. Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.