Friday, August 23, 2019

Utility monster meat farming

Suppose that:

  1. Intense pleasure is very good in itself

  2. Consequentialism applies to non-rational animals.

Then here is a modest proposal: Have all feedlot animals outfitted with electrical stimulators of brain pleasure centers. Sufficient stimulation of pleasure centers can outweigh the pains that the animals suffer in the feedlot, and indeed can hedonically (and also with regard to desire-satisfaction) beat the pleasures of a happy life on the range. The animals may not live very long lives in that setting, but this shorter length of life could well be outweighed by the intense pleasure that they will enjoy. It seems like a win-win: there are more happy non-rational animals and we have more yummy meat for rational omnivores. It seems to me that utilitarian vegetarians whose vegetarianism is based in concern for the welfare of the animals—rather than, say, ecological worries—should support this proposal.

Perhaps, though, the repugnance some people may feel at the modest proposal gives evidence that the proposal is a reductio of the conjunction of (1) and (2). I myself deny (1): I do not think empty pleasures have any intrinsic value, even in non-rational animals. (That said, even if (1) is false, intense empty may still be very instrumentally valuable as a pain-killer which might yet provide some consideration in favor of the proposal.) I am also somewhat dubious about (2).

1 comment:

Wesley C. said...

I would agree with (1), but it depends on what the exact meaning of the proposition is. Pleasure is obviously a real and true good, and as such clearly has value, though not an absolute good - there are obvious cases where to do something for the sake of the intense pleasure is intrinsically wrong.

But if we avoid cases where nature is perverted and thus the pleasure isn't empty, I think we can say pleasure really is good and has intrinsic value, not only because it exists but because it is the sensory reflection of enjoyment or delight.