Morality of eating meat

Meat has been a part of human menu since long, even the pre historic men are visualized to be hunters who fought and killed animals to satisfy their hungry stomach and provide food for the family. Meat is a high source of protein and forms a good portion of our daily diet. But many people on the other hand think that killing innocent animals to fill our tables is morally wrong and that all required nutrition can be obtained from pure vegetarian diet. These groups of people follow a vegetarian diet and abhor eating meat and dairy products.

This disagreement could be rationally resolved How
A tussle has been started by these two groups and a question has arisen in the peoples mind that meat eating is morally right or wrong and is there a way that this disagreement can be rationally resolved Though vegetarians may try to base their case of meat eating on ethics and human rights which may allow them to justify that killing animals to satisfy the tasting buds is cruel and immoral when same nutrition can be provide from other non animal source. The non vegetarians may argue that their act of meat eating cannot be regarded as immoral since it is present from the beginning of time and it is a survival cycle of the world, where big animals kill small animals for their survival and man kills the animals for his survival. Vegetarians may counteract that killing animals for survival is a bit dramatic to say when many other non animal sources are present to satisfy the human hunger needs. This disagreement may go on and on without any resolve and if we relate the eating of meat to ethical and moral grounds then it becomes the preference of each individual to make a decision on the basis of his moral beliefs. As ethical laws are not clearly defined and the degree of contempt for an act in the ethical light may vary from place to place, one cannot clearly define the meat eating act as immoral or unethical. As many religions also give permission for meat eating therefore the people following those religion may not consider this act as immoral instead they regard it as permissible arguing that when it is not restricted by the universal law maker then why should humans interfere in the boundaries of God and make judgments on moral of an act allowed by divinity. Whether these people do religiously believe this judgment or they make an excuse for continuing with their non vegetarian diet is another matter depending on each persons degree of belief in his religious matters. Thus all above arguments and rational reasoning point in the same direction that it is a matter of individual belief and morality and cannot be categorized as right or wrong collectively.

Sir Alfred Jules Ayers view of what good means
Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (October 29, 1910  June 27, 1989) was a British philosopher who conducted great researches on the theory of philosophy. He solves the problem of philosophers dispute by establishing the law of empirical verification. He emphasizes that all statements that can be empirically verified are true and meaningful and that are unverifiable empirically are meaningless and void.

In case of Ethics and values Ayer thinks only the ethical terms may be defined and established through empirical verification. Philosophers who base ethics on measurable quantities like goodness or badness suggest that ethics can be measured by measuring the attributes related to good and bad namely the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction attached to good and feeling of anger and sadness attached to bad. But Ayer argues that it is not necessary that only good results in attributes attached to it and bad results in feelings attached to bad therefore it would not be a good measure of ethical statements. Another view is the subjectivist view that something is good if it is commonly agreed on to be right, or something is bad if it is commonly agreed to be wrong. But Ayer negates this view also by stating that in a society good may not always be agreed upon as good and bad may not always be considered bad by majority. There is even the absolutist view which says that ethical statements are intuitive and not controlled by observation. But this is also refuted by Ayers theory as he says anything which cannot be established by empirical verification is meaningless. Ayer goes on to construct his own theory of ethics from here. He claims that ethical terms are no more than pseudo-concepts. These concepts are meaningful through observation and not verification.

Ayers account of what is going on in cases of moral disagreement
Ayer defines truth as the criterion by which empirical propositions are validated. To say that a proposition is true is simply to assert it, and to say that a proposition is false is simply to assert a contradictory proposition. Thus, truth and falsehood are simply signs of assertion or denial of empirical propositions.

When confronted with cases of moral disagreement Ayer responds that ethical judgments are related to peoples emotions and feelings, they cannot be disputed as right or wrong.  When a moral disagreement arises people argue with the fact of the matter and not the matter of ethics but simply the facts of the situation cause the ethical pseudo-concept to incorporate in the statement. When we argue about why something is right or wrong, Ayer says, we infact think our opponent has missed some facts, or misunderstood the situation. When on the other hand both parties agree over the facts of the situation, and still there remains some disagreement, we stop arguing logically and simply assume that our opponents value system is wrong. This makes it clear that any moral disagreement is over fact and not ethics.

Therefore Ayer asserts that ethics is beyond the range of right and wrong and it should only be used for verification of factual propositions.

Ayers central idea that it is possible to have a rational argument about matters of fact, but not about matters of basic value

According to Ayer there are two kinds of statements, one that are related to fact and are verifiable through empirical testing. An empirical test may be practical or theoretical. The other statement if based on ethics and it has some emotion attached to it.

The others are ethical judgments that are subjective rather than objective, and cannot be demonstrated to be true or false. Ethical judgments express feelings and not propositions therefore they have no objective validity. Value-judgments are not analytic, and are not verifiable as matters of fact. The assertions of value have meaning only if they are verifiable. If an ethical or aesthetic judgment cannot be subjected to empirical testing, then it is meaningless.

According to Ayer, when we argue about whether a value-judgment is right or wrong, we are really arguing about the empirical facts on which a value-judgment is based, or about the logical interpretation of empirical facts. We cannot argue about something that cannot be expressed as a proposition. We can only argue about something that can be analytically or empirically verified.

How this would apply to debates over the morality of eating meat
According to Ayers emotivism theory moral judgments are based on emotions and feelings which cannot be argued.  If we apply Ayers emotivism to the debate over the morality of eating meat then we would find that each person has his own feeling over the issue. Disregarding the reasons for these feelings which are basically fact situations (value judgments) that may be won by the person having strongest arguments at that time, the morality of eating meat is an ethical judgment that may be influenced by the individuals emotions concerning the matter.

Ayers view implies about the extent to which it is possible to have a rational argument about the morality of meat-eating.

Ayers view implies that whenever an argument relating to ethical judgment is underway then the opponents are not arguing over the matter of ethics but the matter of fact. Therefore in any argument relating to morality of meat eating the opponent may with rational argument convince each other about their specific preferences but they cannot prove that meat eating is morally right or wrong as this shall always depend on any individual s emotion towards meat eating.

Michael Smiths view
Michael Andrew Smith (born in Melbourne, Australia on 23 July 1954) is an Australian philosopher. He was a member of the Philosophy Program at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. He is the author of several essays in ethics and moral philosophy. He introduced the concept of coherence applied to desires to lead them in the direction of morality.

Smiths theory of meaning of good
Smith sees the moral judgment in the light of desires and beliefs. There is a possibility that desires that figure in explanations of actions might themselves be caused and justified by moral beliefs. A coherence of desire is the way to prove the goodness of a moral judgment.

According to Michael Smith (1994), the morally right action for a person to perform is determined by what advice would be given to that person by his rationally idealized counterpart. Then he elaborates on the meaning rationally idealized counterpart and applies some restraints on the counterpart so that it is fully coherent with the beliefs and emotions of a rational person. For this smith needs strong reasoning which create desires that are not instrumental on other desires. Here he introduces the concept of coherence in the rational reasoning. Coherence is a central element of rationality. Now coherence shall be used to evaluate the content of the moral judgment itself. Coherence is applied to desires and gives us a richer account of rationality that allows us to look beyond our desires and move towards morality.

Is it possible to have a rational argument about the morality of eating meat
According to Smith moral action requires reflection and the recognition of non-moral facts only where no causal contact with specifically moral facts is required. In his view, certain facts about what we like more are part of the circumstances we face rather than our own desires. He argues that if to these desires that we have another generalized desire is added which is not derived from these already present desires then the person can move towards coherence of desires or morality. Smiths coherence constraints only apply to desires that can be changed by rational reflection or reasoning. Now if we apply Smiths coherence theory to the morality of eating meat situation, then the constraint is that moral judgments only depend on the circumstances of action, but do not depend on the desires of the agent. Realists about moral judgments say that there is only one world, and given that moral judgments reflect facts in the world, incompatible judgments cannot be true at the same time, if they are to fit the world. But there is nothing wrong with one person desiring something else than other person, even in the same situation. Desires dont need to fit the world, so nothing is wrong with having different desires. Desires between different people cannot be inconsistent. Therefore it becomes evident that morality of eating meat can be reflected as desire on the part of agent but not a moral judgment which can be proved right or wrong.

Ayer Vs Smith Which (if either) of Ayer or Smiths accounts of the nature and purpose of moral argument is more plausible
Ayers belief seems more realistic as his explanations are based on the solid ground of reason. He is a supporter of emotivitism and says that only propositional statements that can be empirically tested are verifiable as right and wrong but moral judgments according to Ayer are Pseudo concepts that are unverifiable and depend on individuals emotions and belief. Smith on the other hand is convinced that moral judgments are based on human desires and if we can attain a coherence of desire then we can succeed in reaching morality. There are some flaws in smiths established theories as he talks of coherence in a totally new meaning which evaluates the content of moral judgment itself. He also talks of modification of individual desires by reflect and rational reasoning to attain morality.


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