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A debate over meat and morality

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The Atlantic is featuring an interesting back-and-forth between rancher and author, Nicolette Hahn Niman, and philosopher Adam Phillips.

Niman: Dogs Aren’t Dinner: The Flaws in an Argument for Veganism

Phillips: Dogs Aren’t Dinner–and Pigs Shouldn’t Be Either

This debate focuses on whether eating pigs carries the same ethical considerations as eating dogs.   But it has deeper roots in a centuries-old debate about objective vs. relative moral truths in our world.

Update:

For a current example of how this deeper debate is playing out, check out Sam Harris’ latest book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.

For good examples of the philosophical foundations of this debate, read Anderson, Sen, Nussbaum, and Appiah.

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Photo credit: nao-cha

2 Responses to “A debate over meat and morality”

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  1. Kim Smith says:

    Oh Phil. I can’t believe you actually recommended the Harris book. It’s truly awful philosophy. Much better to recommend Elizabeth Anderson’s Value in Ethics and Economics, a much better foundation for understanding this debate.

  2. Phil Camill says:

    Thanks, Kim, for your always to-the-point points. It’s important to point out that I’m not endorsing Harris’ brand of philosophy or, for that matter, the work of either of the authors featured in The Atlantic, although I find the Phillips’ piece more intellectually robust. As you know, there are many classical and contemporary works that could be recommended here. My nod to Harris’ book stems from the fact that he’s driving an important conversation right now that’s related to the Atlantic debate. In my opinion, it’s often worth plugging into these conversations for their timeliness and for a diversity of perspectives, even if—and, maybe, especially if— there’s a lot we disagree with. There are many contemporary works we read every year that fall to the same criticism, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading. Perhaps I could have said, “For a current example of how this deeper debate is playing out, check out Sam Harris’ latest book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. For good example(s) of the philosophical foundations of this debate, read Sen, Nussbaum, Appiah, etc.”

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