Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who's Confused?

It seems that Bailey Norwood, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University, has taken it upon himself to shed some light on the question of whether we are, in fact, generally morally confused about nonhuman animals and of whether speciesism is at the root of this confusion. Hell, he may even have put an end to the ongoing debate over whether we should view nonhuman animals in terms of their use or do so in terms of their treatment. According to Norwood's thinking, both would miss the point altogether. He claims there's no moral confusion as long as we understand that we should think of nonhuman animals in terms of their purpose:

I treat pigs one way because their "purpose" is to provide me with food and I treat my dog differently because her "purpose" is to provide me with companionship. One may say that I am immoral, but one cannot say that I am in anyway confused. I know exactly what I am doing. People largely base their decisions on how to treat animals not based on a moral philosophy or animals' IQs, but the purpose of the animal.
In all seriousness, though: Norwood wrote the above as part of a blog post reaction to Prof. Gary L. Francione's podcast commentary "An Up-Close and Personal Encounter with Moral Schizophrenia" of a few weeks ago, in which he'd described his encounter with some hunters who'd stopped to help a deer who had been struck by a car, and how this encounter illustrated the nonsensical manner in which we choose to assess one nonhuman animal species versus another. At least I can agree with one thing Norwood states and that is that I suppose one may indeed say that he's immoral. I mean, one can say or write anything on the internet, no? As for whether or not he's fit to assess whether or not he's confused, I think that I'll leave that up to readers to judge for themselves.



Paola said...

Speciesism at best. One animal is "food" and the other one is "companion". This is nonsense.

Since he (as all of us) is made of meat as well, I think his "purpose" should be to be food as well. For a hungry shark preferably :)

Luis Tovar said...

Moral schizophrenia is a wrong concept.

(Sorry if my english is not so good.)

I think the real problem is the speciesism and discrimination, in our moral values. People can feel compassion and love for nonhuman animals. They care about them. That´s not the problem. The problem is that ethics is about moral values: respect, equality and justice. It´s about rights. But the most of people is speciesist, then they don´t recognize the rights of nonhumans. They use them as resources.

People loving some nonhuman animals and feeling compassion it´s not about ethics. They really can love them but as the same time they use and kill them. Because their behaviour is not guided by moral principles but by their egoistic desires. They love animals like they love their houses and cars, there are not a great difference. And that´s not moral.

Moral is when you respect the rights of anothers. It doesn´t matter you feel love or compassion for them. Moral duty is a characteristic that can have a connection whith compassion and love but clearly is not the same.

For me there is not moral schizophrenia, or moral inconsistency, because there is not moral at all. There is a discrimination, speciesism, that excludes absolutely nonhumans from moral consideration.

I think that the concept of moral schizophrenia confuses moral duty with emotional feelings. There is a connection but certainly it´s not the same my personal feelings and my moral duty.

It´s not true that the most of people recognize that nonhuman animals are sentient and deserve moral consideration. No way. The most of people can feel love and compassion for some nonhumans in certain moments. That´s all. The most of people are deeply speciesist and don´t have any moral consideration about nonhumans. Welfarism and "humanitarian treatment" are only words (we know too well!). When you recognize moral consideration for nonhumans you go vegan (and abolitionist).

Dan Cudahy said...

And I suppose, by Bailey’s self-centered logic, that the “purpose” of human slaves is to provide labor to non-slaves (and we know which side of that fence Bailey would be on) and the “purpose” of women is to stay home, clean the house, raise the kids, cook and clean up after the meals, and otherwise obey the man of the house.

Bailey is immoral because he is morally confused – morally bewildered even. Anybody who views sentient others as having a “purpose” for themselves or their race, species, or sex, has a lot to learn about the application of the most basic notion of morality: the golden rule.

ataraktos said...

Exactly what I was wondering, dan - with the purpose argument - how does one condemn slavery, Hilter's extermination of the Jews (for his purpose of racial cleansing), whatever other evils one could list - insurance companies screwing people over for the purpose of increasing their profits?

Pretty weak argument to say "i'll decide you were made to abuse, therefore it's ok and morally correct for me to abuse you"

Vincent Guihan said...

It's unfortunate, but characteristic, that when people try to bat down their own misunderstandings of Francione's arguments, they typically further establish his point.

Francione's argument, as I understand it, is that people are confused in their thinking about nonhuman animals in ways that are speciesist: first, insofar as they perceive nonhuman animals as having value only insofar as they have an anthropocentric purpose; second, insofar as they do not reason similarly for all animal species, but rather that they treat similar interests dissimilarly; and third, insofar as they do not see human supremacy as an irrational position (which it is).

No matter how much someone who is lost complains that s/he's not, that doesn't change the reality of the matter, even if s/he goes in a particular direction 'deliberately'. Norwood assumes that human supremacy is not a position that reflects irrational assumptions that can be accurately described as 'confusion'; they certainly can be and he certainly is confused.

c-la said...

It's pretty obvious, but this just seems to me like another weak argument to make himself "feel" better about the choices he makes regarding other animals. But I wonder, who made him delegator (word?) of all sentient being purposes? Who designates each beings purpose. What type of degree does one need to designate such purposes? Is this a job only to be held by Associate Professors of Agricultural Economics?

this type of argument is one of those things that strikes me as ridiculous while at that same time very dangerous... sort of like the KKK.

just my 2 cents.

Barbara DeGrande said...

Mr. Bailey's certainty is rather alarming! I wonder if he would accept my idea of HIS purpose? Who decides? I do not believe those animals are here for the purpose of being his food. And my purpose as a female? THAT has been changing. Glad it is not up to Mr. Bailey; I would be chained in a back room somewhere.

I wonder how he justifies the human manipulation of genes if their natural purpose is food. Nothing natural about it....

gfrancione said...

I have asked Norwood to discuss these issues on a podcast.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

Mylène Ouellet said...

I hope that he accepts your invitation!

ataraktos said...

@c-la, i think the word you're looking for is "decider" - who made him the decider? :D

NCARA said...

First off, Dan Cudahy stole what I was going to say!

Second, this whole "purpose" argument goes back to the Bible when God apparently made the animals for man to control and how humans were to have dominion over them (and the earth) and yadda, yadda, yadda.

Third, according to the Bible, Noah's son Ham, because he mocked Noah, was cursed in that all his descendants would be slaves unto their brothers (which was later used to justify the slavery of blacks).

I guess we can "justify" almost everything. Maybe Mr. Norwood's "purpose" is to show how silly that line of reasoning is.

Oracl said...

I am looking forward to the podcast, Gary! Let's hope it happens. :)

Jay said...

Norwood saying, "And regarding the deer and the hunter, if you don't understand why hunters would help a deer, you don't understand a single thing about hunters."

What the hell does that even mean? If they care about the animal that they normal kill, then why kill it at all?

Jay said...

Ack. Normally*

James Crump said...

Norwood doesn't provide any arguments. Rather, he merely asserts that animals have different purposes which justify according them differential consideration. In other words he begs the question by implicitly assuming what needs to be shown, namely that it is okay to use animals for our purposes.

Cavall de Quer said...

"Bailey Norwood is an associate professor of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University, whose passion is teaching economics, helping students to become successful and happy people, and helping people understand the link between the food they eat and the lives of farm animals"......

not a moral philosopher then.

Shouldn't that last sentence (apart from the insufferably patronising "helping people understand")read " the DEATH of farm animals"?

Mylène Ouellet said...

Norwood's response on his blog today in response to some comments left there:

I think the commenters jumped on their soap box a little too fast. Nowhere was I arguing that an action taken towards an animal can be morally justified simply because that is the assumed "purpose" of the animal. That would be a tautology.

Instead, I was suggesting that treating a pig and dog differently might not be due to confusion of people regarding the sentience of the animal. Many people know very well that pigs are emotional and smart.

My comment was not an ethical argument, however much you might have liked it to be :)



Dan Cudahy said...

Sounds like Norwood is back-peddling a bit, or at least avoiding a stand on any ethical questions.

Mylène Ouellet said...

I agree. I wonder if he's responded to Gary's invitation. I'm guessing not, or that he's said no.

James said...

Yeah um the purpose of women is to birth babies and the purpose of blacks is to be slaves. Any thing can have any purpose we deem, right Bailey? Because it's all about our selfish desires, the world spins just for us. So the purpose of Bailey Norwood is to provide all of us with blathering ignorance from the brain of a simpleton.

Cavall de Quer said...

"Nowhere was I arguing that an action taken towards an animal can be morally justified simply because that is the assumed "purpose" of the animal. That would be a tautology"

Would it? sounds more like a Petitio Principii to me....guess they don't teach logic in pig-killing 101 or farm economics or whatever.