Ethics Versus Reality – Module 3 – Bernstein

Question 4: Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?

(4) Ecosystems matter for their own sake AND for the fact that we are a part of them. Ecosystems, besides housing humans, house an impressive array of flora and fauna: algae, toucans, penguins, pine trees, cherry trees, lily pads, etc. An unpolluted river, for example, has a mass effect. The river is the start to a vast web of interconnectivity: bugs lay their eggs near the water, fish eat the bug larvae, birds and mammals eat the fish, etc. While it seems that the answer does lead to how the ecosystem affects the human being, I do care about the other species and things that are effected; from the algae to the aardvark and beyond. Humans in should care more about the ecosystem in general if not for themselves, then for supporting their fellow living creature. If one was to hold perspective of Evolution, we had all evolved from creatures that inhabited ecosystems: so why would we destroy the homes of evolutionary cousins?


Question 5: Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain of humans (speciesism)?

(5) The pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans. There are many reasons as to why the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans: it can teach children to value life, humans look to animals as companions for emotional and psychological support amongst other reasons, etc. On the other hand, for a lot of our companion pets (cats, dogs, ferrets, etc.)  to lead pleasurable lives, they must be well fed and this entails pain from other animals as they (our companions) are obligate carnivores. If we were to try and spare the other animals’ lives, our companion pets would get sick and therefore be in pain. How much the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter, unfortunately in most cases is a matter of which animal; humans will spend hundreds of dollars on veterinary bills, grooming costs, toys, food, and other various expenses and then sit down to a chicken dinner. Meanwhile there are a plethora of people who own chickens as pets and spend the same money for veterinary bills, toys, food, etc.  for them. The whole situation is somewhat hypocritical in my opinion. While I believe the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter just as much as those of humans, animals suffer in order to protect the other animals we care about.


Question 6: Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs. altruism)?

(6) In general, I believe that my life is worth the same as other lives. To be honest, my answer to this question changes between “the same” and “more than” depending on the scenario. My answer is never going to be “less than” because I tend to have a strong sense of self-worth. Another reason it would never be “less than” is because my life is not over yet. As I am still young, I have much of my life yet to experience; I cannot base my life’s worth on a mere ~25% of its time. The reason my answer could change is because it depends on whose life I’m comparing mine to; if I am comparing mine to some other everyday person, our lives would be the same. We know nothing of each other’s experiences and our definition of “valuable” could differ greatly; what I value the most could turn out to be inconsequential to that person. Humans aside,  I believe that animal lives are of as much value as mine as well – one of the many reasons I am vegetarian (but I do not wish to get in a debate about that right now).  In the instances that I compare my life to a child-molester, convicts found guilty of rape and battery charges, animal abusers, etc. I value my life higher than theirs; I do not believe their lives to have any value at all. People such as those who purposely harm others for their own enjoyment, are the lowest of the low in my opinion.