Instigator
Points: 6

Animal Experimentation

Finished

The voting period has ended

After 1 vote the winner is ...
PhilSam95
Debate details
Publication date
Last update
Category
Philosophy
Time for argument
Three days
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
One month
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
12,000
Contender
Points: 4
Description
Full Topic: Is the Harmful use of Sentient Non-Human Animals in Biomedical Experimentation Morally Evil?
This is a debate on the moral permissibility of animal experimentation used for medical research for the benefit of human beings. Pro will defend the claim that animal experimentation is morally wrong, whereas Con will argue that it is morally permissible. Below is a list of assumptions for our debate that cannot be challenged. Although these assumptions are interesting, arguing about these points in this debate would shift it away from the applied ethical issue at hand.
Assumptions for debate:
Moral realism is true.
Animals *feel* pleasure and pain to a similar degree with humans.
Structure:
First round is for opening statements by Pro and Con (no rebuttals).
Second round is for first rebuttals.
Third round is for second rebuttals and concluding remarks.
The following definitions were influenced by the google:
Animal - any organism of the Kingdom Animalia, as opposed to those of the Kingdoms Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaeabacteria, and Eubacteria.
Animal experimentation:
An animal test is any scientific experiment or test in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.
Biomedical experiment:
The area of science devoted to the study of the processes of life, the prevention, and treatment of disease, and the genetic and environmental factors related to disease and health. ... A basic researcher's experiments add pieces to the immensely complex puzzles of life.
Morally evil:
morally wrong, one has a moral duty not to do it; can’t do it.
Morally permissible:
Not morally wrong, okay to perform, this is morally acceptable.
Good luck!
Round 1
Published:
I would like to thank my friend Sleek for accepting this debate. I am excited for a worthwhile exchange with him!
 
The Moral Argument for Animal Experimentation
Many arguments have been advanced in defense of the moral permissibility of animal experimentation. Specifically, defenders of animal experimentation appeal to a property that all humans have, and animals do not have to morally justify differential treatment between humans and animals. For example, some defenders of animal experimentation argue that animals are not rational beings, and that we only have moral obligations to beings that are rational. Animals, by contrast, lack the property of being rational and therefore we have no moral obligations toward them. Since this is the case, it is morally acceptable to experiment on them. More formally, this argument can be stated as follows:


P1) If we only have moral obligations toward rational beings, then we will not have moral obligations to animals.
 
P2) We only have moral obligations toward rational beings.
 
C1) Therefore, we have no moral obligations toward animals.
 
P3) If we have no moral obligations toward animals, then animal experimentation is morally permissible.
 
C2) Therefore, animal experimentation is morally permissible.
 
Put more crudely, the argument for the moral permissibility of animal experimentation could run as follows. Animals are dumb, and humans are smart! Since animals are dumb, there is nothing wrong with causing them extreme pain in experiments for the benefit of humanity. The argument for the moral permissibility of animal experimentation is valid. Given this fact, I must explain why at least one of the premises is faulty to demonstrate why the argument is unsound.
 
 
A Problem with the Moral Argument for Animal Experimentation
Premise two of the moral argument for animal experimentation, I think, has a false premise. This is because accepting this premise leads to absurd conclusions. Specifically, it entails that we have no moral obligations toward non-rational humans such as human infants. Virtually nobody thinks, for good reason, that it would be morally permissible to sever the limbs of human infants, crush their organs; or induce heart attacks in them for the purpose of gaining scientific knowledge.
 
In response to this case, I think many of us would say that, although human infants lack rationality, it still seems wrong to experiment on them. But what explains this judgment? One reason that explains the wrongness of experimenting on human infants seems to be that such experiments would cause them extreme pain. Intuitively, it is ordinarily wrong to cause an individual extreme pain. Given a commitment to oppose causing infants extreme pain in ordinary circumstances, we can conclude that it would be morally wrong to experiment on them.
 
However, if we think we have a moral obligation not to experiment on human infants even though they lack rationality, why not also accept that we have a moral obligation not to experiment on animals? After all, animals, like human infants, can feel pain and lack rationality. Why believe that human infants should be protected from being subjected to extreme pain in experiments, but allow animals to be subjected to it? Animals and human infants seem morally similar since they have roughly the same psychological capacities. But if this judgment is correct, then either we have to accept the moral permissibility of experimenting on both human infants and animals or accept that experimenting on both would be morally wrong. You cannot have it both ways. More formally, this argument can be stated as follows:
 
P1) The best explanation for the moral wrongness of experimentation on human infants is grounded in the claim that it would cause them pain.  
 
P2) If the best explanation for the moral wrongness of experimentation on human infants is grounded in their ability to feel pain, then this explanation will entail the moral wrongness of experimentation on animals since they also have the ability to feel pain.
 
C) Consequently, it is morally wrong to experiment on animals.
 
The basic idea behind this argument can be summed up in a conversation (Graham). “Animals are dumb, so it’s fine to torture them in experiments to generate scientific results that will save human lives.” “Oh, yeah? Well, human infants are dumb too, so would it be fine to experiment on them? “Absolutely not! That would be wrong.” “Well, then you can’t justify experimenting on animals for being dumb since if you applied that reasoning consistently you would also have to say that experimenting on human infants is fine too.”
 
Defense of Premise One
Someone might reject this premise on grounds that there is a better explanation for why experimentation on human infants would be morally wrong, but where this reason would not apply to animals, which would then mean that animal experimentation could be morally justified. That is to say, we can explain the immorality of experimenting on human infants while at the same time non-arbitrarily excluding animals from moral consideration. There are two popular explanations that come to mind, but both are inadequate, or so I will argue. The result will be that a human infant’s ability to feel pain is the best explanation for the moral wrongness of experimenting on them, and, since this reason applies to animals, it would be wrong to experiment on them too. In other words, I will argue for premise one by explaining why the alternative explanations for the moral wrongness of experimentation on human infants are open to forceful counterexamples and, therefore, the explanations must be rejected in favor of the one I offered in premise one of my argument.
 
The Infant’s Potential
One natural objection to morally justify experimenting on animals but not human infants is grounded in the claim that the infant, unlike the animal, is potentially a rational being. Sure, the infant is dumb right now, but when she becomes an adult she will become a rational being like you or me. The animal, by contrast, will never develop into a rational being. If this is right, then we have identified a reason that justifies why we have a moral obligation not to experiment on human infants, but where this reason is absent in the case of animals. Consequently, animal experimentation can be justified on grounds that animals will never be potentially rational beings, whereas human infants will be rational one day. 

This objection is understandable, but ultimately it is unsatisfactory for two reasons. Appealing to an infant’s potential to be rational, first, strikes me as an unmotivated moral principle. In general, we do not think that just because someone is a potential something that we should treat them as an actual something. For example, I am a potential philosopher, but that does not mean I have the same entitlements as an actual philosopher. I am not allowed, for example, to go teach a class to undergraduates or have my own office in the philosophy department. In a similar way, the mere fact that a human infant is a potentially rational being does not mean she is entitled to be treated as an actual rational being. If this analysis is correct, then appeal to an infant’s potential for rationality will not help the defender of animal experimentation justify the practice.
 
Membership in the Human Species
Another objection a defender of animal experimentation might make is that the human infant, unlike the animal, is a member of the human species. Surely, we have stronger moral obligations to members of our own species than to sentient members of other species. For example, if you witnessed someone intentionally run over a dog you might plausibly think that this was at least minimally wrong. However, if you saw someone intentionally run over a human infant you would not only think this was wrong, but very seriously so (Kaczor). But what explains this judgment? The defender of animal experimentation would maintain that the best explanation for the different assessment in the two cases seems to be that an individual’s species membership is morally relevant. But if an individual’s species membership is morally relevant, then we can show why it is morally permissible to experiment on animals but not human infants. After all, the human infant is a member of our species, and, for this reason, we have stronger moral obligations toward them. 

This objection is quite powerful. This is because most people intuitively recognize a sharp line between humans and animals. Virtually nobody, for example, thinks that the lives of many dogs can be weighed against the life of one human.

Despite the intuitive appeal of this idea, however, there seem to be very strong reasons to reject the claim that we have stronger moral obligations to individuals merely because they are members of our species. For example, suppose it was discovered that all green-eyed people were not members of the human species, but they otherwise had the same intelligence and emotional capacities as human beings (DeGrazia). Surely it is completely implausible to claim that we would, therefore, have weaker moral obligations to them because of this difference in species membership. Indeed, discovering this would not change our moral judgments toward them in the slightest. Or consider the existence of Yoda from Star Wars. Yoda is clearly not a member of the human species, but surely our moral obligations toward Yoda would not be weaker merely because he is a non-human.


Examination of these counterexamples demonstrates, I think, that mere species membership is not morally relevant, and, for this reason, an individual being a member of the human species cannot plausibly provide a reason to believe that our moral obligations toward them must be stronger than our moral obligations to sentient members of other species.
 
The Sentience Criteria
Indeed, I think exposure to these counterexamples enables me to make a stronger claim. More narrowly, I think these examples show that sentience, not potential rationality or species membership, is the property that we should consider when determining whether a being can be wronged by our actions. After all, the sentience criteria can explain the moral wrongness of harming the individuals I presented in my counterexamples whereas potential rationality or the species membership criteria cannot. But then it appears that the sentience criteria is the best explanation for the moral wrongness of experimenting on human infants since the other explanations are unsatisfactory. In other words, we must agree that we have moral obligations toward *all* sentient beings because this belief is congruent with our other moral judgments about our moral obligations toward human infants. Consequently, if we have moral obligations to all sentient beings, then we will also have moral obligations toward animals, particularly a moral obligation not to intentionally torture and kill them for scientific knowledge.
 
Conclusion
If we accept that we have moral obligations toward human infants, then we must also accept that we have moral obligations toward animals. This is because there is no morally relevant difference between them that can justify protecting human infants from harm while denying this same protection for animals. If a human infant’s pain counts morally, then an animal’s pain counts morally too. But if an animal’s pain counts morally too, then we must conclude that animal experimentation is morally evil.
 
Sources:
(1)    ‘A Libertarian Replies to Tibor Machan"s "Why Animal Rights Don"t Exist"’ by David Graham.
(2)   The Ethics of Abortion by Christopher Kaczor.
(3)   “Review of Singer: Animal Liberation” by David DeGrazia.

Published:

I would also like to thank PhilSam for coming to me with an opportunity for this debate. We’ve discussed this issue quite a lot over the past few months, so it will be good to finally have it in a democratic forum.

Also, let me inform everyone that I have been debilitatingly sick over the past two days, so please pardon me if my argumentation is not up to par. I shall do my best.

The Moral Argument for Animal Experimentation

PhilSam’s appraisal of the argument from rationality seems to me correct, and again runs as follows:

P1) If we only have moral obligations toward rational beings, then we will not have moral obligations to animals. 
P2) We only have moral obligations toward rational beings. 
C1) Therefore, we have no moral obligations toward animals.
P3) If we have no moral obligations toward animals, then animal experimentation is morally permissible. 
C2) Therefore, animal experimentation is morally permissible.
 
I believe that this is the correct argument to be made about animal experimentation, and that PhilSam’s rejection of P2 is incorrect. However, this is not the time for rebuttals, but rather for a positive defense of my position. As such, I shall spend the rest of my initial argument defending P1 and P2 as valid, since C1, P3, and C2 seem to follow automatically from them.
 
Premise 1: The Nature of Truth and Rationality
 
Contained within this premise is an inherent division between mankind and animals—humans as rational beings, and animals as not. For this division to be valid, however, we must first demonstrate what rationality is, and why it is so important as to be a morally relevant criterion when discussing issues of causing pain and pleasure.
 
Firstly, allow me to claim that truth is a universally good thing. This is because we can only act authentically in accordance with the objective world if we have accurate information about it, even if said information should be incomplete. For instance, we would be loath to turn a street corner if we knew our old college professor was behind it, ready to hand us an exam worth 40% of our final grade. If we didn’t know this, however, we would be unable to act in accordance with that desire and instead would make an objectively inauthentic choice. Thus, truth in information is good, though it is a fundamental quality of humans as finite rational agents that we are unable to have all the information available, or to act in accordance with it.
 
Furthermore, there exists a fundamental distinction between subjective and objective truth. Subjective truth is what any of us, including animals, can experience—say, the particular shade of blue we see when we look at the sky. Objective truth, however, is valid no matter who you are and is unsusceptible to the issues that arise from sensory dissimilarities. For instance, while we are likely to see slightly different shades of blue due to differences between the rods and cones in our eyes, we can all agree that the electromagnetic radiation is most strongly clustered between the wavelengths of 450 to 495 nanometers. This kind of objective appraisal is only available to rational agents, such as humans.
 
To use a nonscientific example, it is this same subjective/objective divide that allows us to make claims about the world by abstracting to general concepts. For instance, when we claim that the “sky is blue” to someone else, we are inherently appealing to objective definitions of “sky” and “blue” that the other rational being can identify with. While everyone’s subjective experience of the sky is of necessity different, we can still understand what the other person means when they refer to “sky” as an objective concept. There is both the subjective sky which we experience, and the objective sky which we abstract to and use when communicating. Though an object within physical existence differs in how we perceive it, logically, it is a universal truth amongst all rational agents that a = a. Without this means of abstraction, we would be unable to communicate with other rational agents and make any objective claims about the world. If we deny the nature of objective truths, available to us through abstraction, we lose the ability to make universally valid claims about the world.
 
Please note that I am not claiming here that language is the fundamental determiner of whether a being is rational or not—merely that language is a useful metric for determining how capable an organism is of subjective/objective abstraction.
 
It is here that the final step in justifying premise one is made. Rationality is, according to the all-knowing Google, “the quality of being based on or in accordance with reason or logic.” Rational beings think and behave in ways that are in accordance with the information they have about the world. However, this claim alone is not enough to differentiate animals from humans—both, after all, work with the information they have to come to conclusions and act on them. For rationality to be a valid criterion, it must be fundamentally stronger in the objectively logical human than it is in the subjective animal. I believe that this is in fact the case, as the abstracted truths that humans work with are truer than the subjective truth of experience that animals possess, being universally valid. If this is the case, then it follows that rational agents are able to act more authentically than animals, being able to comprehend “higher truths,” implying that their lives have more meaning.
 
This is perhaps a subtler version of the “non-conscious pain” argument put forth by Carruthers, in which he claimed that animals’ inability to abstract from the subjective to the objective rendered them incapable of experiencing the emotions that go along with pain, transforming it from a cognized agony into a mere uncomfortable sensation. This formulation of the argument, however, does not focus on pain, but rather on the value that can be ascribed to an agent based on their ability or inability to cognize objective truths—both scientific and abstract.
 
This defense of premise one runs roughly as follows:
 
P1) Truth is a good thing.
P2) There exist both subjective truths, which both animals and rational agents can comprehend, and objective truths, which only rational agents can comprehend.
P3) Objective truths, being universally valid, are “truer” than subjective truths. A will always equal A.
C1) Rational agents, being able to comprehend objective truths, are more valuable than animals which cannot.
 
Premise 2: A Life With Meaning, A Life Well-Lived
 
This is the tricky premise to defend, as pointed out by my opponent. However, if Premise 1 is valid for the reasons described above, then several conclusions seem to follow from it.
 
In my defense of Premise 1, I concluded that rational agents are more valuable than non-rational agents, such as animals. Because of the nature of logical, objective, universally valid truth, the life of an agent that is able to cognize them will be more authentic than one that cannot. The jump from “authenticity” to “valuable” here is supported by P1 of my defense, in which it was demonstrated that truth is a universally good thing, as it leads to a truer expression of the agent’s will.
 
However, this argument does not seem to entail that the lives of non-rational agents are devoid of moral relevance, merely that they are less valuable than those of rational beings. For animals to lack moral relevance, it would have to be demonstrated that the ability to cognize objective truth is the sole determiner of whether a given life is valuable—a massive claim, which I will attempt to defend now.
 
Even if this claim fails, though, I believe my argumentation thus far sufficiently demonstrates that biomedical experimentation is permissible, the less valuable lives of animals being rightfully exchanged for the preservation of more valuable ones.From a utilitarian approach, whatever your opinion of Mill may be, it makes mathematical sense to exchange the weaker utils of an animal for the more valuable ones of a rational agent. This further exploration of complete moral non-relevance will only strengthen my case, perhaps extending the argument to things such as the moral permissibility of eating meat.
 
Earlier in this posting, I briefly pointed out that, if we lose our ability to abstract to universally valid claims about the world, the very notion of objective truth becomes meaningless. Science no longer exists, languages collapse, and interpersonal communication becomes impossible. It’s Wittgenstein on steroids. This is the constant state of existence for all varieties of non-rational animals on the globe. While I am hesitant to say that such a life lacks any kind of pleasure whatsoever (there must be some joy in laying in the summer sun on a warm day), it does become immediately obvious that whatever subjective pleasures animals experience are categorically devoid of all objective labels, such as “good” or “bad.” It is only through abstract cognition that pleasure can be considered good and pain bad—an animal, lacking the ability to cognize such abstract terms, would have no way of making such a determination. Animals, though they certainly are capable of feeling, are unable to ascribe cognitive labels as indicators of objective truth like we are. Moral relevance can only be ascribed to agents that have the inherent ability to appreciate said morality, which objective truth is required for.
 
This being the case, from the animal’s perspective, nothing that happens to it can truly be considered good or bad. The only possible way our objective labels could function cross-species is if there was some constant across rational and non-rational beings that was exactly the same—many claim that this constant is pain. However, as demonstrated above, the very idea of pain contains very different cognitive connotations for rational beings than it does for non-rational beings, and as such fails as a metric for the determination of true morality. While we may prefer to avoid causing animals pain, choosing to do so is truly a preference, as we do not have a duty to do so.
 
Conclusions
 
In brief, I believe that the argument from rationality is a superior lens for looking at this issue through than the argument from pain. This is due to the nature of the role played by abstract, objective truth in making universally valid statements about the world. Rationality and cognition of objective truth is required for a life to have any universally valid meaning that be morally appreciated by other rational agents. Animals, lacking this rationality, do not possess the criteria necessary to impose a moral duty to protect them upon us. Animal experimentation from this approach is perfectly allowed, and in fact, encouraged.
 
I believe that this initial posting has laid a positive groundwork for further argumentation, as it will help provide a foundation for later evaluations of my opponent’s arguments. In my next posting, I will explore more thoroughly why I believe that the argument from pain is invalid and demonstrate that the argument from rationality does not lead us to absurd conclusions.  
 
In lieu of providing proper MLA citations, I am instead providing direct links to the philosophers whose works have influenced my appraisal of this argument for moral relevance from rationality.

Immanuel Kant - Critique of Practical Reason: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/#Aut


Round 2
Published:
Thank you, Con, for your brilliant response!
 
Con’s Case
Con argues, first, that we only have moral obligations toward rational beings, and, secondly, animals lack rationality, and, therefore, we have no moral obligations to them. Given that we have no moral obligations to animals, it is morally permissible to experiment on them. The explanation provided for why rationality is morally important is grounded in the claim that rationality allows us to pursue what is true.

Objective versus Subjective Truths
But what is truth, exactly? Con makes a distinction between subjective truths and objective truths. Subjective truths are “the quality of being based on or in accordance with reason or logic” (Sleek). Subjective truth is an experience, such as a color or a feeling of something. For example, my subjective experience or appreciation of seeing the Mona Lisa might be different from that of a professional artist, since she can describe the artistic, historical, and cultural impact that this work has on society. Both rational agents and animals can experience subjective truth, according to Con, since both are able to understand certain forms of information and act upon them. Comprehension of objective truths, by contrast, is an ability exclusively possessed by rational agents. Objective truths refer to mathematical or logical truths, such as the statement a=a or the validity of modus ponens. Each rational agent will differ in their understanding of subjective truths, but all will understand objective truths. 

Rational Agents versus Animals
At this point, someone might ask why we should think the ability to comprehend objective truths matters morally. Why should the fact that someone is able to think abstractly about truth make us care about their welfare? The answer, as I understand it, is that the ability to understand these abstract concepts gives one’s life meaning. Consider a machine. A machine, by its nature, is unable to comprehend or do anything outside of its programming. It simply performs the same task repeatedly until it breaks down. Rational agents are not like this. We create beautiful art, write symphonies, and discover fascinating truths about the universe. From this perspective, it is not at all difficult to see why rational agents are special.
 
But now consider animals. Are animals able to rationally pursue objective truths? Can they understand any of the concepts that give meaning to the lives of rational agents? No, of course not. Indeed, considering these observations, animals look much more like machines than rational agents. Animals are merely driven by instinct and simple pleasures such as food consumption and reproduction. Rational agents, by contrast, are not merely driven by these behaviors and can look at the world from an objective standpoint. As Con eloquently stated:
 
If this is the case, then it follows that rational agents are able to act more authentically than animals, being able to comprehend “higher truths,” implying that their lives have more meaning (Sleek).
 
But if we agree that a being’s ability to understand objective truth gives their life meaning and that a being that lacks this capacity has no moral value, how can we avoid the conclusion that we must not have any moral obligations toward animals? Con maintains that we cannot avoid this result, and, therefore, we must not have any moral obligations toward animals. Given this fact, animal experimentation must be morally permissible.

Objections
Con argues that we have no moral obligations to animals because they are not rational beings. Rational agency is morally important because beings with this ability can understand objective truths that give their life meaning. On the face of it, this is a powerful argument against the claim that we have moral obligations toward animals. Nevertheless, the argument suffers from several difficulties.

The Marginal Cases Objection
The first problem with Con’s argument is that it completely fails to account for why we have moral obligations toward non-rational agents such as human infants. Surely, he would be opposed to sewing a human infant’s eyes shut, shoving tubes down their throat to pump chemicals into their stomachs, or shocking them with electricity for medical research. But if his account of moral obligations does not protect human infants from this kind of harm, this provides grounds to reject his argument since it leads to these morally unacceptable conclusions.

The Animal Cruelty Objection
The second problem with Con’s argument is that he cannot explain why cruelty towards animals is wrong. Indeed, he explicitly says:
 
While we may prefer to avoid causing animals pain, choosing to do so is truly a preference, as we do not have a duty to do so (Sleek).
 
But this belief is completely implausible. It would mean that there is nothing wrong with, say, people pouring gasoline on a dog to set it on fire for fun. Even Peter Carruthers, the most prominent opponent of animal rights, agrees with my judgment about this sort of case. He says:


You would think that [people burning a dog for fun] … were doing something very wrong; and the vast majority of people would agree with you (11).


Note that I am not justifying my moral judgment about the dog burning case with a fallacious appeal to authority. Rather, I am trying to demonstrate that Con’s argument goes against a confidently and seemingly plausible shared moral intuition which poses a problem for him.
 
Since Con’s criteria of moral obligations entail these morally repugnant conclusions, this is further evidence against the reasonableness of his argument.

Con’s Utilitarian Argument
To be fair to Con, however, he does state that his argument is compatible with the claim that animals have some moral importance. He says that even if he is mistaken in his belief that animals have no moral importance, that he has still “sufficiently [demonstrated] that biomedical experimentation is permissible, the less valuable lives of animals being rightfully exchanged for the preservation of more valuable ones” (Sleek).
 
To justify the claim that it is morally permissible to sacrifice the less valuable lives of animals for the preservation of more valuable rational agent lives, Con appeals to the moral theory of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a moral theory according to which the right action is one that has the best consequences, all things considered, of the options open to you. So, for example, if you are forced to choose between saving one life or five lives, you ought to save five lives since that is a better consequence than the alternative action, other things being equal. When this moral theory is applied to the context of animal experimentation, Con states that:
 
From a utilitarian approach, whatever your opinion of Mill may be, it makes mathematical sense to exchange the weaker utils of an animal for the more valuable ones of a rational agent (Sleek).
 
The idea here seems to be this. Rational agents have more opportunities for satisfaction of their desires than mere animals. Animals are capable of simple pleasures such as food and sex, sure, but rational agents have additional units of pleasure that animals lack. Rational agents can enjoy intellectual pleasures, whereas animals cannot. We can do philosophy and perform higher mathematics, for example. Given this fact, it is plausible to regard rational agents as beings capable of experiencing more units of pleasure than animals. Therefore, in situations of conflict when the interests of rational agents and animals are at stake, particularly in situations of biomedical experimentation, animals may be sacrificed for the benefit of rational agents. 

Objections to Con’s Utilitarian Argument

This is a forceful argument, particularly because utilitarianism is a simple and intuitive moral theory. After all, it has a plausible account of what is valuable, happiness, and a satisfactory account of moral rightness, good consequences. Nonetheless, there are two objections that I have to Con’s utilitarian argument in defense of animal experimentation.
 
One problem with this argument is that it leads to morally repugnant conclusions. Specifically, it entails that rational agents like you or me may be sacrificed for a being that has more units of pleasure. Consider, for example, the existence of a utility monster, who derives more units of pleasure than any other rational agent possibly could (Nozick). Under utilitarianism, it would be morally obligatory to sacrifice our interests for the sake of the utility monster since he has more desires to be satisfied than us. But surely this conclusion is incorrect. Accordingly, we must reject Con’s utilitarian argument in defense of animal experimentation.
 
Secondly, utilitarianism is a false moral theory. It entails that any action is permissible if it has good consequences. But this is unreasonable. It would entail, for example, that a doctor may kill one healthy person to save five of her patients. Indeed, not only would the doctor’s action be permissible, but obligatory. This implication is too implausible to be accepted. Since utilitarianism fails as a moral theory, it cannot be used by Con to justify animal experimentation.


The Wrong Reasons Objection
Finally, Con gives the wrong reasons for why we have moral obligations to rational agents. To see why put yourself in the position of someone that is about to be subjected to an extremely painful experiment. On Con’s view, why would harming you in this situation be wrong? Well, it would be wrong because you are a rational agent that can understand abstract truths about the world. But this explanation is bizarre. It seems more natural to say that it would be wrong because it would cause you to experience pain, fear, and deprivation (Nobis). Indeed, if I was being tortured to death in an experiment, I doubt I would object to it by saying “Ah! But I can understand that a=a!” Rather, I would respond “Ah! Please stop the pain!” (Jacob). The sentience account, unlike the rationality account, identifies the most salient property that best explains the wrongness of the harm done to us in the case described. Consequently, it should be favored over the rationality account defended by Con.

Conclusion
Con argued that we have no moral obligations to animals because they are not rational beings and that rational agency is morally important because beings with this ability can understand objective truths that give their life meaning. Since we have no moral obligations toward animals, it is inferred that we may experiment on them. In response to this, I pointed out some weaknesses in Con’s argument. First, his account of moral obligations fails to explain the wrongness of experimenting on non-rational agents such as human infants. Second, Con’s argument leads to the absurd conclusion that cruelty towards animals is not wrong. Third, his utilitarian argument to justify sacrificing less valuable animal lives for the sake of more valuable rational agent lives is also unreasonable since utilitarianism is false. Finally, Con’s account of moral obligations grounded in one’s ability to understand abstract truths is counter-intuitive, since it fails to provide the best explanation for why harming us would be wrong. In view of these points, I conclude that Con has failed to justify the pain and suffering that animals are subjected to in biomedical experimentation.

Sources:
(1)   Against the Moral Standing of Animals by Peter Carruthers
(2)   The Utility Monster thought experiment by Robert Nozick
(3)   Review of Tibor Machan’s Putting Humans First by David Graham and Nathan Nobis.
(4)   My buddy Jacob mentioned this idea to me in conversation.

Published:
            Many thanks to PhilSam for his insightful analysis of my initial posting! His are very salient objections, and I shall defend myself against them in my final posting. For now, I must fulfill my prior promise and demonstrate why I believe that there is no valid reason to reject the argument from rationality.
 
Pro’s Approach
 
The reasoning on the pro-side (against animal experimentation) runs as follows.
 
P1) The argument from rationality leads us to morally repugnant conclusions, specifically regarding marginal cases such as human infants and the intellectually disabled.
Assumption) There must be another explanation for why harming these marginal cases is morally wrong. The best explanation for this is pain.
P2) There is no way to non-arbitrarily exclude animals from moral relevance, since they can experience pain as an infant can. Both species membership and potentiality fail.
C1) Animals are morally relevant; therefore, experimenting on them is wrong.
 
This is a potent line of reasoning, for the simple cause that we have a guttural repulsion to the idea of using infant children in medical experimentation. If the argument from rationality is unable to demonstrate why such a thing is wrong, then it seems we are forced to accept the conclusion that pain is a more appropriate moral criterion.
 
It is my goal to forward an argument demonstrating that it is indeed possible to non-arbitrarily include marginal cases as morally relevant within the rationality approach.
 
Failed Arguments for Non-Arbitrary Inclusion
 
In the final half of Pro’s argument, he guides us through two objections that fail to exclude animals from moral relevance. It is important that they be discussed here because they will be essential to my positive argument in the second half. I will first note a difference, however—Pro was using these arguments to differentiate between infants and animals within the approach from pain. I will be using them to differentiate between them from a rationalist perspective, but they function the same way. As arguments, they are intended only to demonstrate moral relevance, and not point out from whence said relevance comes.
 
The first is the Potentiality argument. This argument entails that infants must be granted moral relevance because they have the potential to develop into full rational agents that are worthy of moral consideration proper, given enough time and violinist blood. However, Pro is completely correct when he claims that this argument, as given here, fails. This occurs for two reasons: it is indeed wrong to give something that hasn’t yet developed the rights and responsibilities of a full something, for the reasons articulated by Pro regarding his philosophy degree. Secondly and more strongly, however, this approach fails to account for the intellectually disabled, who are both unable to cognize higher, objective truths, and lack the potentiality to properly develop said rationality. If we find it morally repugnant to use the disabled in our experiments, we must indeed reject this formulation of the argument from Potentiality.
 
Secondly is the argument from Species Membership. This argument rests on the central claim that all organisms, humans and animals alike, are morally justified in prioritizing the lives of their species over those of others. Pro is also correct in dismissing this formulation of the argument outright. It is important, however, that we pay attention to how he formulated this argument:
 
   “…suppose it was discovered that all green-eyed people were not members of the human species, but they otherwise had the same intelligence and     emotional capacities as human beings. (DeGrazia) Surely it is completely implausible to claim that we would, therefore, have weaker moral obligations to them  because of this difference in species membership.” (PhilSam95, italics mine)
 
Pro is correct in believing that these arguments fail to sufficiently distinguish infants from animals. Unable to do so, another argument must be forwarded, or these must be refined, for us to keep the argument from rationality intact.
 
Category Mistakes and the Nature of Group Membership
 
In arguing against Pro, I find it prudent to rather argue for my own approach. This will both more fully flesh out the intricacies of the argument from rationality, while at the same time demonstrating that Pro’s rejection of the argument for the reasons outlined above was overhasty.
 
As famously developed by Ryle in 1949, and given new life in Kantian analysis, a category mistake occurs whenever someone assigns properties to an object that it could not possibly hope to have. I believe that this is what Pro has done in their argument, subtly removing infants and other marginal cases from the category of rational beings. They believe that there is no argument to be made that will allow for the inclusion of these marginal cases from a rational perspective. This counterargument is what I seek to make here, while rebutting Pro on several points throughout.  
 
Firstly, let me make the claim that within the argument from rationality, current actualization of rational capacities is irrelevant. An agent is not worthy of moral consideration only when they are actively cognizing objective truths. This seems to be a widely accepted claim, as we do not find people suddenly stripped of their natural rights when they go to sleep. When sleeping, of course, one is not communicating with others or thinking about the concept of the sky, but we still regard the person as being worthy of our moral consideration. The only thing that matters from this approach is whether an agent possesses the capacity for said rationalization. An animal that does not, and will never, possess said capacity, is unworthy of consideration from a rationalist approach.
 
Secondly, consider an apple. When we consider the objective concept “apple,” there are several characteristics that come to mind—red, sweet, and crunchy are the most obvious. However, it is possible that we could change all these specific characteristics and still be thinking of an apple, by making it for instance green, sour, and soft. If, however, we take away the categorical characteristic of “fruit,” then we are no longer talking about an apple, but something else entirely. While specific characteristics can be changed, one cannot change the categorical characteristics without fundamentally altering the concept that the characteristic was meant to describe. 
 
Let us apply this same logic to rationality. One can imagine all types of people. Big, little, smart, dumb, black, white, and so on. But they are all still people. If you remove rational agency, however, they can no longer be considered people proper. Rational agency is the categorical characteristic of all rational agents. A truism, perhaps, but an important one, as it fully demonstrates that rational agency is the categorical characteristic of humans. It is fundamental to the nature of people, far more so than the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You cannot be considered a member of humanity without rational agency. To use a computer metaphor, humans as members of a species that naturally possess rational agency must possess the software necessary for rationality even if they lack the hardware to actualize it. (Not to imply, of course, that the fully formed code is simply floating around in a newborn’s brain.)
 
Now, allow me to revisit the Species Membership argument from earlier with a slight rebranding. I now refer to it as Group Membership, the group constituted of beings the categorical characteristic of which is rational agency. Members of this group can be of any species, green-eyed humanoids or Yoda himself, provided they are rational agents. Since the defining characteristic of humans is rational agency, the entirety of the species is part of this Group. It is to be noted of course, that they are not being included in this group because of species, but rather on the fundamental role that rationality plays as their categorical characteristic. The central thrust of this redefinition is that, provided the “normal member” of a group has capacities that grant it certain rights and responsibilities, then other members of the group will also share said rights and responsibilities, even if they at the moment, lack the ability to actualize them. When you are asleep you still have certain rights, because you are a member of a group a categorical characteristic of which is the rational agency that grants said rights. Though one may deny someone a professorship because they lack a philosophy degree, one would not deny an infant their human rights because they were not yet fully developed. Moral relevance is far more of a human right than the privileges of a philosophy degree, and I defy any serious ethicist to claim that infants are not members of humanity.
 
Allow me to demonstrate an application of this argument in our modern day legal system, specifically regarding our viewing of the issue as one of human rights. As demonstrated by the green-eye example, species membership is not enough of a determining criterion, so we are forced to rely on rationality. Within the legal framework, infants have just as many human rights as adult persons, if not more so. They are granted these rights on no stronger point than that they are members of a group the categorical characteristic of which is rational agency. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine infants as possessing human rights if they did not also possess moral relevance, so it is natural to see moral relevance as emerging from the same point. Moral relevance functions much as a natural right, emerging because of membership in a group of rational agents.
 
The argument I have thus articulated runs as follows:
 
P1) It is the capacity for rational agency that matters for moral relevance, not the positive actualization of this agency. This was demonstrated by the sleeping example.
P2) Every member of humanity has the capacity for rational agency, since rational agency is the vital categorical characteristic of human beings.
C1) Because of this, both infants and the intellectually disabled can be granted moral relevance.
 
In making this argument, I have avoided all the issues that Pro pointed out with the Potentiality and Species Membership arguments, strengthening these formulations of them tremendously. We have avoided the counterexample of the green-eyed humans by appealing to the higher faculty of rational agency in determining moral relevance. Moral relevance is not granted as a degree is, but rather is a natural product of rational agency in the same way that human rights are. Finally, we do not treat marginal cases as potential rational agents, but rather as rational agents proper who lack the ability to actualize their agency.
 
Conclusion
 
Pro’s rejection of the argument from rationality rested wholly on the claim that it led us to morally repugnant conclusions. I have since demonstrated that it is in fact possible to avoid these conclusions by more carefully delineating the nature of rationality and how it evokes a moral duty in us, specifically noting how I avoided the counterexamples that Pro used to make his argument. It is not the active existence and exercise of rationality that makes us worthy of moral consideration, but rather membership in a group of beings whose categorical characteristic is the capacity for rationality. This condition of rationality is bound by neither age nor current cognitive capacity. Marginal cases are rational agents that merely lack the ability to actualize their capacity for reason, much like a sleeping person. This articulation of rationality notably excludes all animals, imparting upon us no duty to consider them morally relevant.
 
Sources
 
Apple – Dr. Pollok, USC
Round 3
Published:
Thank you, Con, for your excellent objections to my original argument!
 
Con’s Rational Nature Argument
Con objects to my marginal cases argument by claiming that there is a way to ground moral obligations toward human infants while rejecting the claim that we must also have moral obligations toward animals. Specifically, he maintains that, although human infants lack the immediately exercisable capacity to act rationally, they nonetheless possess the genetically encoded capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational. In other words, if a human being is an adult and functioning well, it is the kind of being that can act rationally. Rationality, on this view, is part of a human’s nature or essence. Consider a table to illustrate this point. It is part of the nature of a table to be stable. However, a table might be poorly constructed and never turn out to actually be stable. Nonetheless, if a table is working properly, it will have the property of stability (Puryear). The same reasoning is true of humans who lack the immediately exercisable capacity to act rationally. As Con correctly states:

“To use a computer metaphor, humans as members of a species that naturally possess rational agency must possess the software necessary for rationality even if they lack the hardware to actualize it” (Sleek).

The Explanatory Power of Con’s Rational Nature Argument
Con argued that humans have the genetically encoded capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational, that human infants possess this characteristic, and, therefore, human infants can properly be considered rational agents.  Even if all of this is true, what is the motivation behind accepting this rationality account of moral obligations? Con claims that the principled reason for accepting this account is that it can explain why we have moral obligations to people who are sleeping. When people are asleep, they lack the immediately exercisable capacity to act rationally. Nonetheless, it seems extremely plausible to believe that we still have moral obligations to these individuals even though they are not currently functioning as a rational agent.  
Con maintains that his rational nature account can explain why we have moral obligations to these individuals, which would provide the motivation for accepting his argument. More precisely, we can explain the immorality of harming people while they are asleep because they have the genetic capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational. For example, suppose I tried to kill Con in his sleep so that he would be unable to respond in the next round. On Con’s view, my action would be wrong because, despite his inability to immediately exercise rationality, he still has the genetic capacity to do so in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational. As Con states:
 
“When you are asleep you still have certain rights, because you are a member of a group a categorical characteristic of which is the rational agency that grants said rights” (Sleek).
 
Consequently, Con’s account of moral obligations grounded in one’s genetic capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational has good explanatory power since it can provide a general account of our moral obligations to other humans.

Con’s Rational Nature Argument Applied to Human Infants and Animals
Con argued that humans have the genetically encoded capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational,
that human infants possess this characteristic, and, therefore, human infants can properly be considered rational agents.
 
After defending these premises, Con draws a conclusion about our moral obligations toward humans and other animals. Specifically, Con claims to have identified the morally relevant characteristic for why we have moral obligations to human infants, but not animals. The morally relevant characteristic that human infants have, but animals lack, is that human infants have the genetic capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational. But if we have moral obligations to human infants on this basis, then it would be wrong to experiment on them. Animals, by contrast, lack this characteristic since they are not members of a species whose generic adult members are rational.  Given this fact, it is inferred that we have no moral obligations to animals. Since we have no moral obligations toward animals, it is morally permissible to experiment on them. As a result, the argument from marginal cases that I presented in the first round is unsound since there is a morally relevant difference between humans and animals that justifies the permissibility of experimenting on the latter but not the former.

Objections
Con’s argument is quite powerful. It has two advantages going for it. First, it can readily account for why we have moral obligations to rational agents that are not human, and, secondly, this argument has the benefit of explaining the permissibility of experimenting on animals without abandoning the judgment that it would be wrong to experiment on human infants. Despite the intuitive appeal of this argument, it fails to refute my argument from marginal cases that I presented in the first round.

Reductio of the Rational Nature Argument
Con argued that humans have the genetically encoded capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational, that human infants possess this characteristic, and, therefore, human infants can properly be considered rational agents. As Con states: 

The central thrust of this redefinition is that, provided the “normal member” of a group has capacities that grant it certain rights and responsibilities, then other members of the group will also share said rights and responsibilities, even if they at the moment, lack the ability to actualize them (Sleek).
 
One problem with this argument is that it leads to absurd conclusions. Suppose, for example, that a blind person demands that she should be permitted to have a driver’s license. You respond that her request is unreasonable because she is blind. She agrees with you, but then reasons as follows. Although I lack the ability to actualize sight, the normal members of my group can actualize the ability to see. Since it is normal for members of my group to actualize the ability to see, I should be granted the same rights and responsibilities to drive a car too (Nobis). Surely, we would reject this line of reasoning as silly.
 
This counterexample suggests that we should treat individuals based on their own *individual qualities* rather than the ones that are normal for their group. To do otherwise would be to overlook the special and morally relevant differences between individuals (Nobis).
 
To be fair to Con, he does claim that this argument should be understood as a defense of moral obligations to someone *in general* rather than one for specific entitlements. In other words, Con agrees that this argument will lead to absurd conclusions if we are talking about specific entitlements such as the right to drive a car or to vote, but not when it comes to general rights not to be harmed. As Con states:

 
“Though one may deny someone a professorship because they lack a philosophy degree, one would not deny an infant their human rights because they were not yet fully developed” (Sleek).
 
However, this response is unacceptably ad hoc. Con provides no independent reason for accepting this modified version of his moral principle other than the fact that it will save his rational nature argument from refutation. Given the absurdity of the rational nature argument, it should be discarded.

The Rational Nature Argument is Unparsimonious
Con argued that humans have the genetically encoded capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational, that human infants possess this characteristic, and, therefore, human infants can properly be considered rational agents. One reason for adopting this argument was the observation that it explains why we have moral obligations toward humans who are asleep.  However, there is a more parsimonious explanation for why we have moral obligations to individuals who are asleep than the one offered by Con. More precisely, we can explain the wrongness of harming sleeping individuals by appealing to the fact that they have desires not to be harmed. Granted, when we are asleep, we are not actively thinking about our desires not to be harmed, but why believe that we must be actively thinking about our desires in order for them to continue to exist as mental states? Consider beliefs. Prior to writing this sentence, I was not actively thinking about my belief that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. Nonetheless, my belief about this fact was still there. In a similar way, our desires not to be harmed still exist even when we are not actively thinking about them (Boonin).
 
As such, we do not need to appeal to the strange and verbose idea that the explanation for our moral obligations to sleeping individuals is that they have the genetically encoded capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational (Puryear). This leaves premise one of Con’s argument without explanatory support, which provides a reason to reject his argument as unsound.
 
A critic might view my appeal to desires as ad hoc or posited only to reach the desired result regarding our moral obligations to sleeping humans. But this charge would be mistaken since I showed how the account can be generalized to explain how we continue to have beliefs about facts even when we are not actively thinking about them.

Conclusion
Con objected to my marginal cases argument in the first round on grounds that there is a morally relevant difference between human infants and animals that accounts for our differential treatment between them. The difference was grounded in the claim that human infants have the genetically encoded capacity to act rationally in virtue of being a member of a species whose generic adult members are rational. Since this is the case, we have moral obligations to human infants not to experiment on them. Animals, individuals devoid of this characteristic, may be permissibly used in experiments.
 
In response to this, I pointed out two difficulties with Con’s argument. First, his rational nature account of moral obligations leads to absurd conclusions because it treats individuals based on what is normal for their group rather than their special and morally relevant qualities. Second, Con’s argument is unparsimonious
since it relies on a strange and complicated account of moral obligations to sleeping people. In view of these points, I conclude that Con has failed to identify the morally relevant property that justifies experimentation on animals but not human infants. Accordingly, we must conclude that animal experimentation is morally wrong since my argument from marginal cases against animal experimentation remains undefeated. 

 
Finally, I want to express my appreciation to my friend Sleek for debating this topic with me. He is clearly an extremely skilled debater and it was a pleasure discussing this topic with him!

Sources:
(1)  Conversation with Professor Puryear.
(2)  Animals and Rights by David Graham and Nathan Nobis.
(3)  A Defense of Abortion by David Boonin
(4)  Sentience, Rationality, and Moral Status: A Further Reply to Hsiao by Stephen Puryear.


Published:
Once again, thanks to PhilSam for coming to me with this opportunity! Now, I must demonstrate how the rationality approach can stand against the objections that he has made, particularly those referring to Marginal Cases, Utilitarianism, Animal Cruelty, and Parsimony.
 
Marginal Cases and Ad Hoc Justifications
 
In my second posting, it was my main goal to demonstrate that the argument from rationality did not run afoul of marginal cases, as such absurd conclusions are many people’s primary reasons for rejecting the approach.This is a pitfall frequently pointed out by Pro, and I shall deal with his most specific rejection of it here.
 
It is the central thrust of my claim that we have moral obligations to all human beings because it is a categorical characteristic of human beings to be rational, what Pro has referred to as the “genetically encoded capacity for rationality.” In defense of this, I have brought up human rights, which are not to be denied to infants even though they are not yet fully developed. In a brilliant response, Pro has brought up the issue of a blind person receiving a driver’s license, since we would similarly be treating an individual who differed from the norm with a seemingly categorical characteristic of humanity, namely that capacity of vision. As such, in claiming that this logic only applies to rationality and moral respect and not vision and driver’s licenses, I have committed an ad hoc error. However, I find that there are two explanations that demonstrate my division is justified.
 
Firstly, I would claim that vision is not a categorical characteristic of human beings, and as such it makes no sense to treat those without vision like those with. Once again, a categorical characteristic is that “the removal of which would cause the concept in question to be fundamentally altered.” You can make an apple stop being red, but you can’t make it stop being a fruit. Similarly, if you pluck out a person’s eyes, you have made them a “blind person.” But if you remove a person’s capacity to cognize objective truths, then they’re no longer a “person” at all. It is of course permissible to treat people differently based on their specific characteristics, barring discrimination, but wholly impermissible to disregard a categorical characteristic such as rationality. Furthermore, I would make the tentative claim that rationality is the only categorical characteristic of human beings, and that the rights and protections which it confers cannot therefore be adequately compared to any license or degree. The counterexample Pro has given is not categorical to human beings, and as such fails to demonstrate a significant deviation in my argument.
 
I believe that the following table helps to illustrate the flow of reasoning here, demonstrating that I have not committed an ad hoc error and that the rationality argument does in fact provide sufficient protection for marginal cases.
 
Q1) Is rationality a categorical characteristic of human beings?
  YES – Without rationality, the very notion of objective truth becomes meaningless, and as such, it is the defining characteristic of all rational beings that they are rational.
  NO – If this is the case, then conceivably all animals could be considered human beings. This is clearly false.
 
Q2) Under “YES” above, is experimentation on infants permissible?
  NO – Rationality being a categorical characteristic, infants are entitled to the same moral considerations as fully rational beings.
  YES – This is because infants are not human beings. This is clearly false.
  YES – Rationality is not a categorical characteristic of human beings, and as such infants do not have the same protections as full adults. We are led into the absurdity of the first question.
 
Utilitarianism as Moral Theory v. Decision Calculus
 
In my initial presentation of the argument from rationality, I used a single sentence to present a possible usage of utilitarian logic to extend the central principle—that of objective value only existing in categorically rational beings—into the practical sphere. This makes up an exceedingly small part of my argument and eliminating this claim would in no way harm my overall framework. However, Pro raised very powerful objections to it.
 
Pro demonstrated that utilitarianism, as a moral theory, fails. To do so, he used the examples given by Nozick of the “utility monster” and a modified version of the quintessential trolley problem. I fully agree with these rebuttals of utilitarian moral theory. However, I believe there is a fundamental difference between utilitarianism as a moral theory, and utilitarian logic within a decision calculus.
 
The central principle of utilitarianism as a moral theory is that the generation of “utils,” or the making of people better off, is what makes an action morally right. If it makes people better off, it’s good, and if it makes people worse off, it’s bad. It is this claim, that the generation of utils is the morally good, that leads to the absurd conclusions we were led to above.
 
If we remove that claim from utilitarianism, we are left with utilitarian logic, the central tenant of which is “maximize utils,” but free from the baggage of inherent moral values. We use other arguments, such as that from rationality, to determine the morality of an action, and then apply utilitarian logic within that framework. Consider, for example, biomedical experimentation. Scientists on the verge of creating a new synthetic insulin need to demonstrate that it works in a mammal. They can use a mouse or a man, each of which can sense pleasure and pain in equal capacities. If the rationality argument is correct, we naturally choose to experiment on the mouse, as the argument shows that the human has a higher value. This value exists even when the sensation of pain is identical. Under this approach, utilitarianism is not used to justify what makes an action right or wrong, but utilitarian logic is rather used to decide what the best option is given an external determination of morality, avoiding Pro’s objections. It’s the philosophical equivalent of choosing a salad over a cheeseburger—the value derives not from the generation of utils, but from external factors.
 
The Wrongness of Animal Cruelty
 
As Pro deftly points out, it follows from the rationality approach that any action taken regarding an animal is non-moral. As such, there is nothing morally wrong with punting kittens. However, it seems intuitive that such actions are wrong. And I seem to have boxed myself in with my claims that, due to a lack of rationality, animals are not worthy of moral consideration at all. I will stand by this claim. This is not to say that animal cruelty is good, nor that it is acceptable. Rather, I seek to argue, through two approaches, that the reason we find animal cruelty abhorrent is a non-moral reason. Simply because it is non-moral, however, doesn’t mean that we should disregard it.
 
My first approach is simple and psychological—empathy. It is a truth universally acknowledged that when others hurt, we hurt. We see other’s pain reflected in ourselves, a capacity that certainly exists cross-species. This approach also explains why we feel more strongly about the suffering of a pet than we do that of a lab rat, just as we are more likely to volunteer at a local soup kitchen than to fly to Africa—our empathy a function of distance. This approach is not logical, but can be taken as a potential indicator that, when we see our animals hurt, we feel it is wrong because we are imagining how it would feel to receive such an injury, failing to account for cross-species cognitive differences.
 
My second approach follows the response that Carruthers himself gave to this issue. He claims that cruel actions taken against animals are wrong because they “betray an indifference to suffering that may manifest itself in that person’s dealings with other rational agents.” (the Animals Issue, 154) Our dealings with animals become representative of our attitudes to the suffering of rational beings that have actual moral significance, and as such animals gain secondary moral significance. Our treatment of animals is reflective of our characters, acting as living mirrors—though they do not gain any direct moral significance on that account.
 
Parsimony and Reasons for Respect
 
Pro twice invokes the claim that the rationality argument is unparsimonious, and that pain is a simpler explanation of why suffering is wrong. In the first formulation, it is claimed that, when we are suffering, we are likely to cry out to our torturer to stop, not on the account that we are a rational agent, but rather because of the pain. This was refined in the second formulation, in which it is claimed that a desire not to be harmed has greater explanatory force than rationality, especially with the example of sleep.
 
The first formulation fails almost immediately, relying too heavily on an intuitionist approach to moral wrongness. Pro is correct that I wouldn’t expect someone being tortured to invoke logic, largely because they have bigger problems. I would also expect someone being tortured to, at the first opportunity, bludgeon their captor over the head and rush for the door. The moral principles we turn to when under duress aren’t likely to be correct upon further reflection. In response to Nobis, it is not the deprivation that makes an action immoral, but rather the fact that that deprivation is being performed upon a rational agent.
 
The second formulation is stronger. Pro agrees that we still have moral obligations to sleeping people, but states that it is easier to appeal to a desire not to be harmed than it is rationality—and, since it can be assumed that animals also wish to avoid harm, it follows that we have obligations to them as well. This is certainly a powerful argument, but it does not refute my central claim, and in fact helps to illustrate the divide between rational and irrational beings. As I demonstrated in my first posting, it is necessary that a being possess rationality for it to make any kind of objective claim about itself and the world. For a being to have a desire not to be harmed, it must have the rationality required to have both a desire and an understanding of what “harm” is, as opposed to simple pain. An animal which lacks the ability to cognize “harm” would have no understanding of it, just as animals which lack the ability to plan cannot be truly said to have desires, in that they are unable to conceive of alternate realities in the sense required to select one as preferable. While Pro’s claim of parsimony is certainly one to be considered, rational agency on the part of the sleeping agent is required for such a claim to have any meaning at all.  
 
Conclusion
 
I have sought to defend the rationality argument against Pro’s objections, demonstrating by means of a counterexample and a table that sufficient protection is afforded for all marginal cases. I defended utilitarian logic as useful when divorced from the concept of “utils as the good,” and provided alternative explanations for how we come to feel that animals have secondary moral relevance. Concluding that rationality is a prerequisite for the objection of parsimony to have meaning, I believe I have successfully defended the argument from rationality against Pro’s objections.
 
To Our Voters
 
The approach that both PhilSam and I took to this debate assumed that the Rationality Argument is the most frequently used to justify the usage of animals in biomedical experimentation. PhilSam attacked this approach as inadequate, for the reasons he eloquently gave above. It was my job to demonstrate that the Rationality Argument could hold up against his objections.
 
It now falls to you to decide if my presentation and defense of the Rationality Argument was sufficient. This is the central issue at play here. We leave the rest to you; trusting you to vote with both your head and your heart.
 


Added:
--> @PhilSam95, @Sleek
I will try to get a vote on this, looks good so far.
#9
Added:
Conclusion:
This was a very tough debate - as both sides were excellent.
I feel that con offered a very strong defense of his framework, which was equally well rebutted by pro. In general, I felt that pro successfully argued that cons framework was not sufficient in appealing to both moral intuition and the adhoc feeling of many of cons points.
I particularly felt that pointing out the ad-hoc nature - and specific animal torture were the primary reasons for this. Pro and con offered me no other real method to judge the frameworks as accurate reflections of reality other than my intuition of the moral issues presented - and as a result, I have to judge the framework on that standard. I did not feel cons arguments were sufficiently convincing to convey exactly why he felt the additional rules and caveats were objectively valid and not simply adhoc modifications.
Pro a framework felt like several frameworks at times to support his position. However, these felt more intuitive - appeals to the infliction of pain to anything is more in tune with intuition with all the moral considerations presented. These did need to be fleshed out more than they were, and wouldn’t have won on their own as a result.
As a result of this, I feel I have to award arguments to pro.
Saying this - this debate was far above average and was excellent on both sides. While I feel pro did win this debate, 3 points does not fully reflect how good Con was. I feel as a result it would be fair to reduce this to two points - as it better reflects the small difference between voters, PhilSam (and the mod team) has graciously agreed for me to alot a single point to con. Note this is not for spelling and grammar, but allotted as an argument point in order to give pro a delta of 2 points.
#8
Added:
If meaning is why humans are worth more, comes from rationality - those without rationality (according to R1) have less meaning and are worth less. Con argues that it’s not rationality from which we derive meaning - but the potential capacity for it as a species - Pro provides no argument I can see for why potential (rather than actual) capacity implies worth. This makes me feel that cons argument has a hint of special pleading. However pro appears to concede the logical validity here so I am reluctant to weigh in.
Pro objection to basing worth decisions like this on potential capacity is interesting - that it is absurd to treat this potential of the species as something that must be judged against the individual. It feels on its face a bit of a clunky comparison.
I found pros argument that pros explanation is unduly complex and not parsimonious fairly compelling, pro introduces a new explanation based on individual desire not to be harmed to be much better than his original argument from sentience - but feel his explanation is a bit lacking in depth.
2.) the immorality of inflicting pain is more of a guiding framework than rationality.
This is a potential a third framework (though may be an extension of the desire not to be harmed). While it appears valid on its face, pro does not really advocate strongly for this framework.
However - I found no place where this was satisfactorily addresses by con. Given the implicit way these frameworks are being judged, I’m looking for con to compare the pain example to our moral intuition, and explain why it explains it less well - I don’t think pro does that well, and it is only truly in the final round to which pro cannot respond are the reasons better thrashed out.
3.) Pro argues that cons framework would treat “objectively” immoral actions against animals as perfectly fine.
Con seems to concede these points, and agrees - by concluding that these things aren’t actually immoral.
#7
Added:
Arguments: the opening round of this debate neatly dove tails together from both side.
Con is arguing that experimentation is immoral - basing this primarily on the justification used to argue animals are less important can be applied to humans to.
Con argues that simple species membership fails to explain this difference - and that only sentience is a good criteria for assessing moral relevance.
Pro is arguing the converse - that it is moral as the principle of rationality makes humans more important on the grounds of the perception of truth gives rational beings lives more meaning - and thus worth less. In addition that arguing that as animals can’t reason on the basis of good and bad, they aren’t affected by pain the same way - rendering not inflicting pain a preference rather than duty.
On its face thus far, I find pros argument more convincing as they clearly set out value, and provide a more intuitive appeal to morality for me by questioning whether there is any reason to treat animals differently - whilst I find cons argument about objective truth to be, ironically, incredibly subjective. I do feel pros argument from sentience inherently suffers the same issues as he points out - though he uses it to rule animals in rather than out.
So moving on!
1.) Pro reiterates that cons framework means human infant lives are worth less, and do not cover live in a way that is agreeably moral. This is intuitive to me.
Con helps me out by conceding the logical validity of pros case. But then explains it is not the rationality of the individual, but the potential capacity of the species to be rational that allows us to exclude the exemptions that pro points out. I will not lie - the presentation is phenomenal here - but my issue with this as presented, is that in my view con strictly tied worth to meaning of life which derives from rationality in R1- I cannot reconcile how both his rebuttal here and his opening arguments as both true:
#6
Added:
Notes from the voter:
A.) there was a lot of long explanation of the opponents side. This often made it harder to disentangle where the real argument was. Summaries are fine, but it’s okay to let your opponent present their position and to focus on only rebuttals - the voters will work it out.
B.) Both side conceded the validity of the other sides logic to some degree in places. This can be dangerous for both sides if one conceded the validity of an argument the voter would otherwise view as unsupported or unwarranted, it can change voting calculus. Be careful on this front - best use language like “if one were to accept this...” unless you’re 1000% sure!
C.) both arguments appear implicitly appeal to my moral compass as a voter, that if I find something immoral that one of your frameworks shows is moral : then the framework is invalid. In the absence of anything else, this is my main criteria for judging morality unless told otherwise - assuming I’m not a psychopath it should be okay!
D) my paradigm - for clarity - is in my profile.
E.) in my view, this is the best debate I have voted on. It was very well written and explained from both sides. Well done.
#5
Added:
*******************************************************************
>Reported Vote: stvitus // Mod action: Removed
>Points Awarded: 3 points to con for arguments and 2 points to pro for sources
>Reason for Decision:
Sleek's arguments were more compelling, and PhilSam repeatedly resorted to reformulations of previously refuted arguments as well as claiming objections to Sleek's argument which were equally applicable to his own. PhilSam frequently made recourse to generic thought experiments, even resorting to using a work of fiction as a counterexample in one case. Neither debater provided consistently reliable sources, but PhilSam's were generally more specific, going back to the original source of the ideas rather than an exposition of said source. Regardless, neither cited directly the passages from whence borrowed arguments originated, citing rather open resources on the Internet which, if not always subject to the same objections to credibility as Wikipedia, often represent only one interpretation of a given work. The problem with such citations is that neither debater employing them can justify their basis in the text from which they are derived, leaving the foundations of his argument open to hermeneutical objections. Spelling and grammar mistakes were negligible, and conduct was equally formal and cordial on either side. Overall an interesting question and a good exercise in critical thinking. This first-time reader has found it to be an excellent introduction to this online community.
>Reason for Mod Action: The voter does not survey the main arguments, analyze those arguments to determine who won each, or weigh the main arguments to determine a winner. In order to cast a sufficient ballot, the voter should do all three of these things.
************************************************************************
#4
Added:
test
#3
Added:
I am con on anal experimentation
#2
Added:
This was a quality debate that deserves a quality vote. I will try to vote on it when I've got time.
#1
#1
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
RFD in comments:
https://www.debateart.com/debates/456?open_tab=comments&comments_page=1&comment_number=5