Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just Because It's Alive?

There is an older fellow (between age 50 and 60) in my 18th Century Philosophy class with whom there doesn't seem to be anything I can agree with him on. I have had arguments in the past with him about the Existence of God a few times before. Not only that, but he is very conservative and seems to not even understand the dribble that comes out of people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck's respective mouths, because he takes what they say and tries to make it more moderate and less crazy.

To add to the list of things we have polarized views on, yesterday he said something like, "I don't understand why those hardcore vegetarians who hate people who eat meat can tear open a piece of lettuce and see water come out of it and not be upset, because it's alive and the water that comes out is practically its blood."

This is a really inane and idiotic thing to say, and I gave him a simplified explanation of why I (as a transitioning vegetarian) can do just that. Put bluntly, animals suffer and lettuce does not. I may not be able to know it as absolutely as I know my own existence, but it's about as certain as I can be about anything. Animals can display behavior and emotions, and from that we can attain a satisfactory understanding of the types of things that cause suffering and happiness in them. I think this should be practically obvious, but maybe I'm wrong. On the other hand, lettuce leaves and other vegetation, while they do perform biological functions, they don't display any kind of behavior whatsoever, and behavior is the primary way we can tell how an organism is feeling emotionally (e.g. body language). Some plants have mild internal responses to stimuli, but they aren't any more significant than how water reacts when you throw a rock in to it, and I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks water can suffer (except maybe homeopaths).

In a nutshell, I have no reason to believe that lettuce or, really, any other plant can suffer. It's irrelevant to me whether or not something is technically "alive" in whether or not I think it is immoral to kill it. My skin cells are alive, but I don't think that I'm inflicting suffering upon another mind when I scratch my arm because there is no evidence to support that, but there is a vast amount of evidence to support the fact that animals can suffer (just ask anyone who has a dog or a cat). To think that vegetarians/vegans don't eat animals simply because they're alive, in the vast majority of case, is, frankly, hugely mistaken.

Of course, he said after that he doesn't go out of his way to avoid suffering, especially to animals that caused him to suffer, which I doubt there are more than a few, if any, which I think is also without reason. It doesn't surprise me that his actions are without cause because he is an old, conservative fart. The discussion ended after that. I like discussing things with people I disagree with but that man sure is frustrating.

Have a pleasant day.

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