Re: physical pain is bad (was Re: Dynamic ethics)

From: Michael Roy Ames (
Date: Tue Jan 24 2006 - 10:49:29 MST

Phillip Huggan wrote:
> Michael, you are arguing that an animal's physical
> suffering is justified because it gives us pleasure
> to watch, and is beautiful.

Err... no. To clarify, I do not justify the physical suffering of wild
animals because it doesn't require justification. It would require
justification if humans were responsible for causing it, or perhaps if we
had a very large amount of control over the situation and had a viable
alternative. Post singularity our control may be very high, but I currently
cannot imagine a viable alternative to physical suffering that when
implemented across an ecosystem leaves it intact.

> What is wrong with using holographic techniques and
> surround sound to viscerally recreate a gazelle being
> hunted by a lion, or even us being hunted by a
> (holographic) lion?

Nothing wrong with that, if you're into that sort of thing.

> Your trick below is to suggest that since animals do
> not possess abstract thought at a level sufficient to
> exercise volition; that we cannot know if they would
> prefer to eat grass near a water-hole, or if they would
> prefer to be eaten alive by a lion.

No, that wasn't my suggestion. Most, if not all living creatures have
decision making capabilities and preferences.

> What were your other reasons for keeping ecosystems
> naturally intact? They might give us a fail-safe in
> case we kill ourselves off? If we get a singularity
> level of engineering I'm sure we can come up with more
> creative lifeboat ideas than hoping lions will
> industrialize.

That's a neat idea :) But you are parodying my position. I suggested that
intact *ecosystems* may act as a resource for *humans* if our technological
society fails.

> I think you also suggested we might lose info if we
> cease ecosystems in their natural form. Umm, what
> info will we lose?

We have much to learn about natural ecosystems. Come on, Phillip, you must
know that already. Ecosystems aren't just lumps of inert matter, they are a
vast sets of evolving processes that are highly unpredictable. There is no
way we can learn all there is to learn from an ecosystem from a short
observation - or even a long one.

> There was a very famous philospher who kicked his dog
> around obsessively. He couldn't believe the dog acted
> as if it experienced pain. He didn't believe his
> cherished god had instilled the experience of pain in
> animals.

There is the possibility, however faint, that he was simply acting
consistently with his beliefs... but I think he was just an asshole, and a
cruel one at that.

> Physical pain is bad. Physical pleasure is good.

Saying it doesn't make it so.

> Everything in the universe is derivative of these two
> axioms.

Not in the universe I am inhabiting. But, for the sake of argument, let me
take your axioms as true for a moment... if you eliminate physical
suffering, wouldn't you eliminate half of everything in the universe?

> Every societal construct of worth and every
> psychological brain-state reduces to pain/pleasure,
> there is not a single exception.

Care to give us some examples of "societal constructs of worth" and
"brain-states" and how they "reduce" to pain or pleasure?

Michael Roy Ames

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