On Morality: Intent Vs. Consequence – Why “Good People” And “Evil People” Don’t Actually Exist

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I don’t think “evil” is something that “exists.”

By which I mean to say that I don’t believe in the idea that evil is a physical force which hovers in the air and enters people and makes them do things. Nor do I believe in the idea that “some people are ‘evil’ but some people are ‘good’.”

Many people throughout history, no less on social media recently, have expressed the idea that specific people or groups of people “are evil” based on their actions towards human or nonhuman animals. This can range from simply saying that non-Vegans in general are bad people, to saying that hunters are worse than others, saying that people who torture animals are the worst, saying that pedophiles are all monsters, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

However, the idea that “some people are evil, and some people are good” doesn’t make much objective sense. All humans have the capability to perform actions that seem either “evil” or “good”, depending on the perspective of the person performing the action, as well as the person observing the action. Because of this, the very idea that some actions are “good” and some are “evil” doesn’t really make much sense either.

This is not to say that some actions are not destructive or harmful. But ascribing the term “evil” to a person because of an action that they’ve committed, as if simply using that term puts the action into a category that divorces it or the doer from all complexity or renders the doer incapable of being anything other than “evil” is far too simplistic and narrow-minded.

Our human concept of morality itself is an automatic, logical response to the recognition that each being who is capable of feeling pain has an individual interest in not suffering. This recognition is the basis for our notion of whether individuals have such things as “rights.” A “right” is merely a term that we use to mean that we agree to a rule that allows us to protect an interest that we all have. Chief among the “rights” that individuals have is the right to not be used as merely a replaceable resource for human pleasure and other non-necessary (aka non-survival, non-health) interests.

Our human system of justice is based on the notion of a human interest in creating a “social order”; this order aims to regulate our behavior in a way which induces the most happiness, satisfaction and “good health” in general in as many of the members of our moral community as possible, and the least unhappiness, despair and other forms of suffering. But this is only because we recognize that individuals who are capable of suffering have this right to not be made to suffer for the non-necessary interests of a human.

Now, from a purely practical perspective (before even considering any abstract notions of moral philosophy) if we examine the ideas advanced by Chaos Theory – for instance – we see that any choice we make between a wide array of possible actions means that our chosen action will affect everything else in the world. So basically, everything that happens in the world is a product of a near-infinite number of different actions that are performed by everyone and everything in reality over “the course of time” (since by our commonly-held perspective, time is linear, even though from what we can figure out scientifically, it most likely is not).

This seems to indicate that any action we commit could have a near-infinite array of both positive and negative consequences. Indeed, each action, as well as each of the consequences which automatically follow from it, could seem either positive OR negative OR both from the perspective of the beings both observing and being affected by them (This has been recognized already for thousands of years by some cultures).

So taking all this into account, how do we determine whether an action that affects others is morally right or wrong? Its simple: we must start by asking whether their are other beings who can feel pain who could become a victim of our actions. Since our actions could be seen as either positive or negative depending on who’s perspective they’re being seen from, it should need no explanation why we should be using the perspective of a potential victim as the measuring stick, and not the perspective of a potential victimizer.

It’s not just the actions or the consequences which determine whether something is right or wrong, but our perspective on those actions and consequences. So that is the ruling factor in whether we should commit an action or not; our own knowledge of whether or not we ourselves perceive our intent and our resultant action to be morally justifiable, based on whether we know if others may or may not be harmed by them unnecessarily. In other words, we must endeavor to commit only actions that have the best chance of causing the least harm through causing the least violations of the rights of others.

In my estimation, this would indicate that the consequences of our actions have absolutely no bearing on our moral culpability. Our actions obviously need to follow logically from our intent, but only our intent means anything when we are determining whether an action fits within our notion of moral responsibility. In other words, only our intent, not the consequences of our actions, should give someone the ability to morally blame us or morally praise us.

People often try to prove the argument that evil people exist with the assertion “But there definitely are people who are evil. I know this is true because this person committed this, this or this horrible action.”

But the point that someone committed an immoral action is not proof that the person in question is evil. This is merely a list of wrong-actions that the person committed. Their actions can be morally justifiable, or not morally justifiable (what we call “immoral”) but that doesn’t make the person “immoral,” nor does it make them “moral.” Everyone, even those who have committed the most heinous acts, has the ability within themselves to change their moral stance so that they are never again going to commit such acts.

Many people often try to counter that argument with the assertion “But this person never did change, so this proves that they were evil. They committed those actions, never regretted it, and died without repenting. This means that they were evil.” But this argument doesn’t prove that at all. All it proves is that the person in question didn’t change, not that they couldn’t have, if they’d lived longer or encountered the right set of circumstances. No human has been proven to be able to predict the future, so saying that we know whether someday someone will change or not is nonsense. There are amazing stories of people who have committed the most heinous actions doing a complete moral “about-face” years afterwards. Add to this point the fact that there are plenty of people who, for one reason or another, have never let on about the regret they felt for their actions. In other words, we often have no way of knowing who will change their moral stance in a specific way, when they will change, or in many cases, even whether they’ve changed at all.

Even putting aside the obvious problems with considering people evil from a rational standpoint, there is a moral problem with just dismissing someone as evil before you’ve seen how their life will turn out. This is because it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that people are eminently capable of changing their moral actions based on new perspectives. In fact, the only real constant in human behavior is change. To dismiss or condemn the entirety of the person as morally worthless based on some of their actions is illogical from a moral standpoint as well.

Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of factors involved in the viewpoints of various people on the myriad actions one could commit and how they relate to morality. In many cases, the intent of a person is to do good, but they are merely confused or unsure what the best course of action is. Some people have been heavily indoctrinated regarding whether an action or set of actions is morally justifiable or not, in various ways and regarding different kinds of beings. Some are more indoctrinated than others, and fear, especially when it’s not even consciously recognized by the fearful, is an incredibly powerful obstacle to moral consistency. There is also the existence of mental disorders, both created by physiological elements and also those related to trauma. These are only a few of the things that often cause perfectly “morally conscious” people to say or do immoral things.

The point is, when we consider the question of how we should be responding to the actions and even the arguments used by non-Vegans to attempt to justify their actions regarding nonhumans, we should keep in mind that we’re not dealing with monsters. We’re dealing with humans, and humans are fallible. They are also capable of massive changes in their moral stance as well as incredible acts of bravery and kindness. I personally have met or have heard the stories from many people who now identify as Vegans and would never have considered going Vegan (and some, in fact, who were die-hard anti-Vegans beforehand, including trophy hunters and slaughterhouse workers) if someone hadn’t been compassionate enough to forgive them and then educate them peacefully on why it’s wrong to use animals. If not for this, they would still be enthusiastically exploiting nonhumans to this day. They themselves admit this. If we want the people who are harming animals for palate pleasure and/or simple convenience, who would otherwise consider ending that behavior, to consider Veganism, then we have to be willing to put our hatred aside and educate them with understanding instead of condemning them. Representing them as evil (or even “sociopathic,” “psychotic, etc.) to others merely causes them (and other people) to avoid our message about the rights of nonhumans.

Another point to consider: Many of our family and friends may be non-Vegan. They are inflicting just as much unnecessary suffering and death by living that way as any other non-Vegan. Are we ok with considering them “evil” as well? If not, we’re just arbitrarily picking and choosing whom we consider to be evil based on our own fits of anger, random self-interests, or whims. Almost all Vegans were non-Vegan at some point, probably including the person reading this (you). Were we evil? Were you? Doesn’t that mean you are still evil? If we think people are one or the other, good or evil, then where is the line? Where do we draw a line and say that this set of actions makes someone evil, but this other set of actions doesn’t? And who is the authority to draw that line? What makes one person’s opinion on what makes someone evil better than some other person’s completely different (and usually contradictory) opinion?

In summation, it’s irrational, not to mention cruel, to just dismiss someone as evil before you’ve seen how their life will turn out. And publicly stating that someone is evil is a great way to guarantee that they, and probably at least a few other non-Vegans, will refuse to go Vegan, which means that the nonhuman animals lose. Is that what we’re trying to accomplish? Is some sort of catharsis where we obtain a few moments of sick pleasure from publicly vilifying another person (which is almost always due to our own shame because we once engaged in the same non-Vegan actions that they currently are engaging in) worth the very real lives and suffering of nonhumans?

Veganism is a movement of peace. If you think animals have moral value, then follow the path of peace, towards human animals and nonhuman animals alike. Live Vegan. Educate others peacefully about why they need to live Vegan as well.

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If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

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On Morality: The Argument For Abolitionist Veganism

Veganism 01

Here is the basic argument for Abolitionist Veganism. I’ve incorporated a couple different major Animal Rights theories into one:

1. Nonhuman animals feel pain, pleasure, fear and other sensations. If they feel these sensations, then they have an interest in not being used merely as a resource for human pleasure, amusement, or convenience.

2. There is no necessity for human animals to intentionally exploit nonhuman animals and cause them to suffer or die except our own enjoyment of the taste of their flesh/secretions and the convenience that animal exploitation affords us. Humans have no dietary need for flesh, dairy, eggs or honey:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/do-doctors-think

We have no need to use animals for clothing; we have no need to use them for entertainment; not only is it morally unjustifiable to use animals in bio-medical research, but more humans suffer and/or die when we do so than if we didn’t use animals at all:

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vivisection-part-one-the-necessity-of-vivisection

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vivisection-part-two-the-moral-justification-of-vivisection

3. When something is unnecessary except for our trivial pleasure or convenience and that thing causes some being (for example, a nonhuman or human animal) to experience pain, fear or other kinds of suffering, then the harm being done to that being’s interest in their continued survival, freedoms, or not suffering is more important than our interest in our own mere pleasure, amusement or convenience.

4. We claim to believe in “fairness/ethical/moral consistency” as a “moral good”, which means we believe in treating similar cases similarly when it comes to ethics/morality. In other words, if we believe it’s wrong to beat a human child for no good reason because they will suffer from a beating, then we should also believe that it’s wrong to beat a dog, cow, or chicken for no good reason because the nonhuman will also suffer.

So, if we value moral consistency at all, which means we treat similar cases similarly, the minimum and only criteria needed to include nonhuman animals in our moral sphere (meaning we believe we should not harm them at all for no good reason) is that they feel pain, fear, and other sensations, since that is the minimum criteria we use to include humans in our moral sphere.

5. Any characteristic that humans claim to have that we claim makes us morally superior to nonhuman animals cannot be factually proven to be a humans-only trait. Unless we can prove that we are morally superior to nonhuman animals, any argument that we claim justifies intentionally harming and exploiting nonhumans can also be used to justify humans intentionally exploiting other humans:

https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/are-humans-superior

This means that if we personally are in favor of violating nonhumans’ right to be safe from being enslaved, raped, tortured or killed by humans then we have no claim that we ourselves should be safe from having those same things done to us by other humans. Any argument we try to use to justify harm to nonhumans can also be used successfully by other humans to justify harming us in those same ways.

6. If we accept premises 1 through 4, our ethical/moral obligation is to either a) cease any actions that intentionally cause unnecessary suffering and death to other beings such as nonhuman and human animals, in which case we can claim that our interests in avoiding the same harms should not be dismissed without due consideration, and we can point to the fact that this is because we are morally consistent, or b) admit that we are not morally consistent and that any human who wishes to dismiss our interests in avoiding the same harms without due consideration is also morally justified in doing so.

Conclusion: If we don’t stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans to the best of our ability, all the systemic violations we consider atrocities and major problems in the world will never end. We also will not be able to consider ourselves truly morally consistent people. To stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans completely means Abolitionist Veganism.

Abolitionist Veganism also means we do our best to eliminate speciesism (which is the intentional, harmful discrimination by humans against individuals and groups of other species based solely on the morally irrelevant criteria of species membership) within each of us. Speciesism is the tree from which springs all intentional, harmful discrimination against any individual (nonhuman or human) on the basis of any morally irrelevant criteria. Speciesism is rooted in the myth that human animals are morally superior to nonhuman animals.

Ergo, if everyone becomes an Abolitionist Vegan and exclusively advocates a 100% clear moral baseline of Abolitionist Veganism, all of the atrocities we abhor such as world hunger, poverty, ecological destruction by humans, systemic human rights violations, and discrimination against any individual beings based on any morally irrelevant criteria, will either be severely decreased or eliminated. Every living being on the planet, from nonhuman animals to human animals, will be much happier and healthier.

The crucial point here is that if you have moral concern at all for nonhuman animals or human animals and so you want these problems to be decreased or eliminated, it makes no sense for you to participate in actions that will increase or foster those problems. It is your moral responsibility to stop engaging in actions that increase those harms, which means going Vegan (and, if you want to help everyone further, educating others about Veganism).

Final thoughts: If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue/volunteer/adopt/foster/spay/neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where and when you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

No, They Don’t Deserve It: Why Hate Won’t Make New Vegans

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I just got blocked from the page of a Vegan “friend” because I tried to explain why posting angry, hate-filled posts about non-Vegans makes non-Vegans want nothing to do with Veganism.

In a time when we are growing as a movement but still desperately need more Vegan educators, what sense does it make to flame and rant at non-Vegans (as a group) online, many of whom have never even thought about what they are doing wrong? If we treat people with respect, many people will be only too happy to take what we say to heart.

Most Vegans, myself included, were not Vegan our entire lives. I understand many Vegans feel shame and horror for what they did prior to going Vegan, and many are angry when they see images and videos of slaughter and other atrocities. But spending your time looking at those things does nothing but make you feel anger, hatred, and all kinds of negative thoughts and emotions, which not only hurt you psychologically, but make your advocacy less effective.

It is said that one day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!”

The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?” The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”

The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”

Nobody is saying you can’t challenge non-Vegans on their beliefs and actions, but to insult, degrade and curse at non-Vegans can never do anything productive. Not to mention, are you ok with insulting, degrading and cursing out all your non-Vegan relatives and friends?

People are not split into 2 different types, Vegans and then people who are not Vegan. All non-Vegans are people who have the potential to go Vegan, but just haven’t become aware of how wrong their actions are yet. Thinking that non-Vegans will never go Vegan is exactly what we don’t need. We might as well just kill everyone on the planet if that’s the case.

Please, PLEASE if you’re thinking about posting something angry online, think twice, and then don’t. If you have to be angry, keep it offline and do something positive with that anger, or at least something that won’t hurt anyone.

Remember, Veganism isn’t a social club or something. We’re doing this for the nonhuman animals and our fellow human animals. They both desperately need us to be calm, clear-headed and kind.

I was accused by this “friend” of loving the people who slaughter animals and commit atrocities against them. The thing is, it’s true. I do love everyone, even non-Vegans.

If you hate non-Vegans, all you get are new enemies.

If you love non-Vegans, what you get are new Vegans.

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.