Why I might have reason not to eat honey

February 22, 2009

I’m a vegan, and someone recently asked me whether I ate honey, and if not, why not.  I wasn’t sure what to say, because I don’t eat honey, but I’m not sure I have good reason not to.

I take myself to have good reason not to eat fish, mammals, and birds or related animal products on the following grounds:

(1) These animals are sentient, i.e., they can have positive or negative affective responses to stimuli.

(2) Ceteris paribus, I prefer states of affairs in which sentient creatures don’t suffer (that’s them negative affective responses I was talkin’ about).

(3) Animal agriculture, including the production of eggs and dairy products, causes a great deal of suffering.

(4) I don’t think that the fact that I used to enjoy eating animal products gets me past the ceteris paribus in (2).

Therefore, I eat other things now (plants and salt, mostly).

In the case of honey, I’m not sure I have the same kind of reason, because I don’t know whether bees and other insects are sentient.  They don’t have brains, but they have rudimentary nervous systems and seem to respond aversively to certain harmful stimuli, etc., but it’s tough to say.  I currently give them the benefit of the doubt, but if I liked honey more, I might not.

So there you have it; “Peter Singer for one,” you might say.  Unlike Singer, I don’t think that everyone has a duty or reason to maximize utility, so I don’t assume that everyone has the same reasons I have for eschewing animal products.

That said, I’m curious to know why others don’t take themselves to have similar reasons to mine.  It seems to me that most people would agree, on reflection, that they don’t like the idea of animal suffering and would prefer that it weren’t so prevalent.  I doubt most people think that their current gustatory practices provide them with irreplaceable benefits.   So what gives?

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February 12, 2009

So I’ve been thinking about this objection I made to the Possible Worlds account of counterfactuals as an undergraduate, and I’m curious whether anyone has read something which deals with this problem (or whether anyone has a rough-and-ready rejoinder).

The objection goes like this: Possible Worlds Semantics (PWS) claims to give an account both of our notion of counterfactual dependence and our notion of possibility.  These are, roughly, the notions we express with the English constructions “If…had been the case, then…would have been the case,” and “It might/could be/have been the case that…”  PWS explicates these notions by saying that the former is true iff the closest world (on some contextually-defined similarity metric) in which the antecedent is true is a world where the consequent is true also.  The later is true iff there is some world accessible to the world of evaluation at which ‘…’ is true.

However, things seem to go screwy when we stick these two notions together.   Read the rest of this entry »

Quick question

February 5, 2009

While reading an influential text on direct reference, I found the following claim:

In the framework I have just sketched, a proper name is a word which must be used in a certain way, even though it may happen to be used in other ways.

I don’t know how to interpret this in a non-inconsistent, or non-contradictory, way.  I wonder, more specifically, how the quoted text differs from the following:

According to the rules we have just stipulated, you must come home every night at 8, even though you may come at other times.

Any proposals?