Hal Herzog vs. His Inner Lawyer

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

As I mentioned yesterday, I just finished reading a really interesting, and amusing, book about human-animal relationships. “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat” really intrigued me because it presented an analysis of this relationship in the most unbiased and informative way possible; it didn’t shove opinions down your throat, nor did it attempt to seduce you one way or the other with vague generalities. It allowed you to formulate your own opinions purely based on the facts presented, and most of all, it really made you think about the often-contradictory relationships we have with the animals in our lives. Anyway, that was a big hunk o’ talkin’, but here is a really awesome excerpt that I found hilarious, yet serves as a great summary for the moral dilemmas we are often faced with when considering animal rights. This is a long one, but it is a quick read.


Hal vs. Inner Lawyer

I.L.: Hal, it’s me – your inner lawyer.
Hal: Go away.
I.L.: Just listen for a second. Pretend that it is 1939 and you are living in the quant little village of Dachau outside of Munich. Every day you see the smoke from the chimneys behind the fence of the new “camp” and know that Hitler’s goons are working the ovens overtime to exterminate Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. Rumor has it that Nazi doctors are even conducting painful medical experiments on some of the prisoners. Your friend Heinz asks you to help him plant a bomb under the S.S. guards’ barracks. “By killing them, we will save lives,” Heinz whispers. “We will send a message to the world.” Hal, do you think you would help Heinz blow up the barracks and perhaps save thousands of people?
Hal: I wouldn’t have the guts.
I.L.: I know. But just pretend you are both a brave and a good person.
Hal: sigh…OK, a good person with courage would be justified in taking direct action to help prevent genocide, even if it meant killing barracks full of Nazis.
I.L.: I agree. Now assume you have read books by the intellectuals of the animal rights movement. They have convinced you that speciesism is the moral equivalent of racism, that the suffering of a monkey in a laboratory is morally no different than the suffering of a human child. You also know that 60,000 monkeys a year are used in research in the United States. And, you agree with Jerry Vlasak of the Animal Liberation Front that killing just 1 or 2 primate researchers might put all these studies to a halt.
Now, answer this question: Would a good and brave person like you be justified in firebombing the home of a scientist who was addicting monkeys to cocaine in order to study the brain chemistry of addiction?
Hal: No, it would be against the law.
I.L.: But murder was against the law in Nazi Germany, and you said that was OK.
Hal: That was different.
I.L.: Why?
Hal: Because keeping monkeys in a lab and even killing them for science is not the same as killing Jews in a concentration camp.
I.L.: But if you believethere is no morally relevant difference between a person and a monkey, wouldn’t you be justified in harming primate researchers?

Hmm…I am thinking that I.L. has me by the balls. But then I am saved by a dim recollection of a lecture I heard years ago on the ethical theory of Immanuel Kant

Hal: Gotcha. Kant argued that you should always act in the way that you would want everyone to act in the same situation. I would not want to live in a world where every whacked-out moral crusader with a gun would be allowed to shoot people he thought were doing harm to his pet cause – old growth forests, fetuses or frogs. The world would be chaos.
I.L.: But Hal, you did say it would be justified to blow up the Nazi concentration camp guards. How do you know when it is moral to take an illegal action and when it is not?
Hal: You just KNOW. It’s common sense!
I.L.: So, you think that when it comes to killing someone, you should rely on your own common sense, your personal moral intuition? Would Kant go for that?
Hal: Get out of my life, asshole.


Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did…now go read a book, or something. 😀

Bis später!


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