Gordon Fitch gcf at
Sun Oct 22 06:42:18 PDT 2000

Christopher Susi:
> The question was, why do only humans deserve this special treatment. Should
> we strive to keep alive other animals when their necessary resources become
> depleted (for sake of argument, lets say it's not a man-made depletion).
> Suppose a disease ravages a population of mammals that is the primary food
> source of a higher order of mammals. A significant portion of those
> higher-order mammals will also die. Now, if it were cows that became
> endagered, and therefore endangering us - yes. We should step in because
> it's in our best interest. However what if it's the west-indian
> three-legged jack-rabbit? Are we obligated to somehow save them because we
> may have the ability? If not, wouldn't it be just as wrong as letting a
> significant portion of humans die? At what order of animal do we draw the
> line? Chimps?
> Anyhow, I think you'll find that in the history of life, the basis to
> justify saving or helping something is when it stood in the best interest of
> the savior (e.g. building symbiotic relationships). Of course there are the
> parastic relationships, but those the host will either try to destroy if
> possible or they may not be able to, but I doubt they go out of their way to
> ensure the parasite is well taken care of. Call me a cold-hearted fuck, but
> unless I find benefit (other than quelling a guilty soul) I see no reason to
> sacrifice for the benefit of others.

I think you're raising two different issues here. One concerns our relationship, political or moral, to all other sentient beings, human or not. This is an issue of considerable passionate dispute going back several thousand years, and is by no means as settled as you seem to believe. The other issue is how we should deal with other human beings. Human beings are different from other animals in that they have much more power; they can make war on us and kill us, whereas other animals are for all practical purposes utterly helpless. I am not going to attempt to deal with our relationships with our little furry brethren here because I don't think, based on past experience, that it will work out well.

In the case of dealing with other human beings, if one has a choice between constructing a community in which some must live and others must suffer and die, and one in which everyone has some sort of chance to live, and one chooses the former, one has in effect chosen war, a class system, and slavery, because this is the only way such a situation can persist. I would think this would be obvious: human beings do not voluntarily accept subjugation and death and have to be continuously trained and disciplined using force, threats of force and fraud to do so. We can call this sort of arrangement "the State". Those who do the training must be constantly on their guard lest the system be overturned and they find themselves on the other side of the gun or lash or whatever it is they use. So they are not much freer than their victims.

There is an additional problem with the State: technological advances, or "progress". As more and more power becomes available to human beings, the methods and devices which they use in combat with one another will become increasingly destructive. It seems inevitable that some configuration of such methods, devices and events must occur sooner or later which will destroy the community physically.

You'll notice that I have rigorously avoided sensitive stuff like morals and aesthetics here. There's no idealism, altruism or communitarianism. My arguments depend entirely on my assumption of a preference on your part for personal freedom and well-being. Of course you may disdain these things as well; there are those who do.

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