哲學功課: Tom Regan’s Argument on Animal Rights

In Tom Regan’s “The Case for Animal Rights”, he argues the rights theory is the most satisfactory moral theory to justify the goals of animal rights movements (p.393). In this paper, I will examine Regan’s argument and show the rights theory cannot lead to the conclusion that it is morally wrong for human to kill animals.

Regan begins with claiming all individuals who are the experiencing subjects of a life have inherent values. The inherent value is independent of the usefulness of the individual. Unlike the utilitarianism, this view in principle denies that we can justify good results by using evil means that violate individual rights. Treating others in ways that fail to show respect for the other’s independent value is to act immorally, to violate the individual’s right (p.393). Since we accept the fact that human who lack of intelligence, autonomy or reason has inherent value. To be rational, we have to also accept the view that animals like them has no less inherent value. All who has inherent value have it equally, whether they are human or animal (p.394). Therefore we have to recognize the equal inherent value of animals and their equal right to be treated with respect.

I agree with Regan both human and animal have the same inherit rights. However he is too hastily to equate these inherent rights with human rights. We must first examine what is the content of the inherent rights exactly, only then we can determine how human should treat animals morally.

According to the rules of nature, animals high up in the food chain have the rights to prey on animals low in the food chain. It would be absurd to condemn lions killing gazelles for food being immoral. It would be even more absurd to persecute the lions for committing murders. It would be equally absurd to prevent the lions from killing the gazelles or any other animals, doing so would definitely drive the lions into extinction. It is quite obvious that it is moral for the animals to kill other animals for their own good. Following the same rules of nature, it is moral for animal to honor special relationship within their own species, such as wolf packs. So it must be moral for human to take the welfare of other Homo sapiens more important than members of other species. Since human and animal share the same inherent rights, it is only moral to allow human kill animals as resources and allow human being speciesism.

In response to my objection, Regan may argue that I have confused positive rights with negative rights. My objection is based on human and lions have the same positive rights of killing other animals, but he is suggesting animals have negative rights in the form of a moral protection from harms, since every subject of life have the same inherent negative rights. The lions do not have moral capacity to fulfill their moral duty, so we cannot apply moral judgment on whether it is wrong for the lions to kill the gazelles. On the other hand, human possess rationality or moral autonomy, so it is wrong for human to violate our moral duty by harming the animals.

Regan’s response did not answer my objection at all. I was asking where the inherent rights come from and suggest a reasonable way to determine its scope. Regan merely repeat his conclusion without showing us how to derive the inherent rights equal to moral protection from harm. If human have inherent rights of being speciesism, then human has no moral obligation for not harming the animals. The human rights of infants and retarded can be justified by the inherent right of human speciesism, then the inherent rights of all experiencing subjects do not include protection from harm in all circumstances. Why can’t the inherent rights only give animals some protection that is less than what Regan has claimed? How about animals have inherent rights to survive as a species, so human can kill individual animal but we should not drive them into extinction? How about animal have inherent rights for not being harmed by human if there is no conflict of interest, so we can build animal factories to provide food supplies for us, but we cannot kill birds in the city unless they become environmental hazards? Regan gives no reason why we should draw the line of the inherent rights that animals enjoy the same as human rights.

In conclusion, Regan’s argument for the animal rights is invalid. Giving that all living beings share the same inherent rights, we cannot logically deduce this inherent rights equals to human rights that we are familiar with.

哲學功課: Don Marquis’s view on the Morality of Abortion

In Don Marquis’ paper “An Argument that Abortion is Wrong”, he argues abortion is morally wrong for the same reason as murder. His argument is different from the standard pro-life argument that stress that the fetus is both human and alive, therefore the fetus has right to life. By using a different approach, Don Marquis’ argument avoids the controversial in the debate of whether fetus is qualified as a human whom process the right to life.

Marquis starts his argument with asking why killing an adult human is wrong. (p.130) Killing is wrong because killing deprives the victim of a future value. The killing victim suffers the misfortune of a premature death which consists of the loss to the victim of the future goods of the consciousness. In general, killing is wrong because it deprives the victim of a future like ours (FLO).

Marquis then further explains the FLO theory is a sufficient reason for killing is wrong. First he argues the nature of misfortune in terminal disease is the loss of FLO, which also the same for premature death. He also argues murder is the worst crime because it deprives the victim all of his future, not merely part of it. Then he argues the FLO theory does not the pit-falls of traditional pro-life arguments. The FLO theory is compatible with euthanasia because those who seek euthanasia have no future. The FLO theory has no implication to animal rights, since animal life is not a life like ours. Therefore why killing is wrong can be explained using the FLO theory alone. At last he applies the FLO theory to abortion. Killing fetuses deprive the FLO of the fetuses, therefore abortion is immoral. (p.133)

The FLO theory seems to provide a sound argument on why abortion is immoral. However under strict scrutiny, the FLO theory actually contradicts to Marquis’ own view on abortion (p.84) [1]. In the beginning of his essay, Marquis stated abortion is not immoral under rare instances. “Such cases include abortion after rape and abortion during the first fourteen days after conception when there is an argument that the fetus is not definitely an individual.” (p.126). If the morality of abortion is judged by the FLO theory alone, there should be no exceptional cases for fetuses from rapes and fetuses under fourteen days old. The fetuses from rapes have the same FLO as other fetuses, so their abortion should also be immoral. In the case of the first two weeks post conception, twinning is possible; abortion may cause the loss of FLO for two individuals instead of one. Killing those fetuses deprives their FLO(s); therefore abortion is also wrong in these cases.

Marquis did not explain the criteria to make abortion moral for the rare cases in his paper. It is obvious that using FLO theory cannot grant him the morality of abortion in the rare cases he stated.s In order to defense his view, he may attempt to use traditional moral theories, such as Unitarianism, Categorical Imperatives or Social Contract Theory, to overrule the FLO theory in the rare cases. Regardless of which moral theory he chooses to defense the exceptions, once he introduces a moral theory other than the FLO theory into his argument, he opens the flood gate allow us to re-evaluate the morality for the not so rare cases. Is kill fetuses from rape ok because the mother does not want the baby? Why not extend the fourteen days limit to the 3rd trimester? If there are fundamental moral principles that can overrule the FLO theory, according to the Occam’s razor, why can’t we simply use the fundamental moral principle and get rid of the FLO theory?

Until Marquis come up with satisfying explanation for morality of abortion in the rare cases or he can explain away the future good of those fetuses. He must either withhold the application of FLO theory to abortion for not contradicting himself or he must revise his view to accept abortion is wrong even in those rare cases.

[1] P.84 In addition, Marquis mentions as exceptions cases of rapes, when the fetus is anencephalic (partially or completely lacking a brain), and when the abortion is performed during the first fourteen days after conception. Given the number of these exceptions he allows himself at the outset, it tempting to say that Marquis is really a moderate rather than strictly pro-life, but because his emphasis is on the claim that abortion is seriously wrong, I will put him in the pro-life camp.

(fluff)Friends on Facebook

I finally create a fluff in Facebook of my own. The idea of fluff is not new, Tamagochi pioneered the market of virtual pet. Linking up your virtual pet with virtual the pets of your friends over the internet is also not new, Sony had made the now defunct Post Pet in the Web 1.0 era. On the surface, fluff offers nothing new. You have cute cartoon animals, you can buy various virtual food or habitant with virtual money. You can earn virtual money either by petting your friend’s pet or place bets in virtual pets races. It is just a plain old boring virtual pet.

I have quite a number of friends is obsess about petting and feeding the virtual pets.  I try to understand why fluff is so popular and many people are addicted to this simple 2D virtual pet. Cute graphics definitely helps, girls love cute things and then pressure their boyfriends to play along. Piggy-back on Facebook is also a major factor. Many people logon to Facebook quite often, so playing fluff and recruiting new members is very convenient. Fluff catches their eye-ball and it is only a mouse click away.

I think the most important factor is the racing system. To be exact, it is not the race itself, but the speed attribute of the fluff. You can increase this number by feeding your flutt. In order to do so, you have to pet your friend’s flutt to earn virtual money to buy food.  Your friends will pet your flutt in return and hence complete a never-ending pet, feed and race cycle.  If there  exists some sort of score, it is just human nature wanting to get a higher score. When the score goes up, it will give the mind a sense of satisfaction, even the score really doesn’t mean anything. This mentality applies to fluff players, applies to online RPG gamers who pursuit high level and stronger weapons.  To some extend it also apply to those who accumulate wealth but never spend a dime.

Toastmaster education series

I am elected the VP of education of the Toastmaster club at work.  The role of VP education is to help the club member become a better speaker.  Although I am half way through the advance speaker bronze program, I don’t think I can make particularly good speeches comparing to the native speakers.  I am not very convincing to teach others how to deliver a good speech.  Anyways, if I am just comparing to myself, I can see the progress I have made over time.

One of the responsibilities of VP education is to give presentations to the club members on how to give better speech or make the club better.  The Toastmaster has lots of resources to help my role.  The education series manuals are prepared speeches with slides ready to use.  Today, I just inherit a box full of education materials from the previous club president.  I volunteer myself to give the first education session, hoping that it will inspire other executive to step in for later sessions.  I quickly went through the stuffs and picked a manual for next month’s education session.  Maybe I couldn’t do everything right that is outlined in the manual when I am giving a speech.  I strongly believe in the best way to learn is to teach.  By giving a presentation, the points will engrave deeper into my mind and help me become a better speaker subconsciously.

iPhone hack

A 17 years old kid hacked the iPhone, making phone call using networks other than AT&T is already old news. There is also an alternative hack fooling the iPhone using a turbo SIM that pretends to be a AT&T SIM card. I have quite some friends at work who bought the iPhone readily tried the hacks and eagerly showing off their fully functional iPhone.  As an engineer, I am genuiely interested in the technical details of hacks, but I am more interest in responding to an comment from a friend who condemns the hacks.

She is complaining all the hacking deprive the profit of AT&T and hacking in general cause the lack of investment in R&D because company cannot turn a profit. I have to disagree with her argument. AT&T is making a wrong and stupid business decision for locking up the iPhone.  It is our consumer right to tinker with whatever product we purchase by making it a better product that suits us better. If the company put in anti-user features that alienate the customers by making the product hard to use, we have every right to remove those unwanted features ourselves.  The invisible hand will punish those who act against the force of the free market.  The only way to make a profit is by giving the consumers what they want, not stupidly going against the consumers’ will.

In terms of business ethics, the consumers should only be responsible to pay for whatever they wish to buy. It is unjust to exploit the consumers by bundling sub-standard product with a high demand product.  The consumer should be given the option of not buying things they don’t need or wanted.  Everyone knows AT&T has the worse cellular network in US. If AT&T wants to gain more market share, it should provide a better service, instead of holding iPhone users as hostages.

基督教思想史第一部 – 第二章﹕基督論問題

基督論的問題是三一爭議的延繼﹐雖然三位一體解決了東西教會分裂的問題﹐但沒有回答原先要解決的問題。若果聖子與聖父同質不同位格﹐那聖子耶穌到底是什麼呢﹖耶穌如何可以是神﹐亦同時間也是人呢﹖對於這個問題﹐當時的意見主要分為兩大陣營﹐一說法是聖父收養耶穌﹐而另一說法則是聖父化身成為耶穌。尼西信經中聖父聖子同聖同體﹐可以按不同詮譯得出這兩個不同的答案。於是早期教會再一次掀起新的爭議﹐代表雙方陣營分便是亞歷山大教會和得到羅馬教會支持的Antioch教會。

亞歷山大教會認為只有耶穌的神性完全吞食人性﹐人類的救贖才有可能實現﹐這稱為基督一性論(Monophysitism)﹐當時也很多知識較低的平信徒支持這個說法。Antioch教會則持相反意見﹐認為應該從歷史性去認識耶穌﹐保留耶穌人性的一面﹐並得到羅馬教會的支持。耶穌人神二性卻引申一些問題﹐人神二性必須有一個開始﹐而這個開始就在瑪利亞的子宮裏﹐ 於是推論出瑪利亞是神母親這個理所當然的結論。同樣耶穌為世人受難是史實﹐但神不可受到任何苦難﹐於是推論出只有耶穌的人性受苦的結論。由於耶穌的人神二性有把瑪利亞升格為女神的危險﹐而當時只有異教徒有對女神的崇拜﹐加上大部份信徒不能接受耶穌是人﹐於是亞歷山大教會與Antioch教會爭持不下。要到公元四五一年﹐教會召開Chalcedon會議才解決這個紛歧。

在Chalcedon會議中﹐教宗Leo I頒報一系列的內容帶有悖論性的教義﹐確定耶穌擁有完全的人性和完全的神性。決議的內容富有詩意文學色彩﹐對於澄清哲學上的爭議沒有多大幫助﹐反而產生不同版本詮譯的問題。東方教會對這個決議十分失望﹐在中東和埃及等地死硬支持基督一性論的教會與西方教會決裂﹐種下了日後當地人民變節改信奉回教的伏線。羅馬皇帝為阻止東西教會分裂﹐他採用了Leontius of Byzantium的拆衷解決辨法﹐在人性和神性上加上質(hypostatis)。耶穌擁有一質二性﹐分別有兩個自由意志﹐解決了人性神性同時存在的問題。

聖子的爭論暫時解決了﹐ 接下來論到應如何理解聖父的問題。在這個問題上倒沒有太大的爭論﹐自Dionysius在公元五百年提出有關神的論述以來﹐東西教會一直源用至今。他把新柏拉圖主義與基督教結合﹐將希臘神話中的諸神符號化﹐不以歷史性的方法去解讀﹐讓真理透過古希臘的智慧表達出來。他認為有兩認識神的方法﹐先把正面的意義歸納為神的屬性﹐再從反面否定人類的言語足夠去完全理解神。他的神學觀充滿階級性﹐從最高處的神往下走﹐一級級到最低層的罪人﹐而人類的救贖就是由下而上的旅程。他的神學亦同時帶有神秘色彩﹐教會的所有事物也是指向神的象徵﹐對日後東正教和拜占庭文化有很大的影響。

同時期還有兩位重要的神學家。Tertullian除了發明三位一體的方程式外﹐他還有幾項重要的神學思想。其中一項是原罪的教義﹐並把原罪與性扯上關係﹐間接促成教會千多年來的保守性觀念。另一項是天主教的聖靈實體化的觀念﹐聖靈可以通過聖事注入聖體和聖水內﹐再由人的口中進入靈魂內。另一個神學家Cyprian同樣也幾項重要的神學思想﹐成為中世紀天主教神學的雛型。第一項是異端教會和分裂教會領洗是否有效的問題﹐領洗的效力並非決定於施洗的人﹐而是客觀地從聖靈而來。第二項是宣稱教會之內沒有教恩﹐將教會從聖人組成的團體﹐轉變為發放教恩的機構。第三項是正統教會的宗徒承傳性﹐與合一的普世教會﹐聖彼得的教宗地位。第四項神職人員的獻祭功用﹐後來發展成為天主教的彌撒。

田立克在書中指出﹐在公元五世紀時的早期教會的神學﹐比較接近現今天主教的神學。基督教常說他們回歸早期教會的信仰﹐很顯是與事實不乎的說法。在這個時期的東西教會﹐已經出現信仰重點上的分歧。東方教會著重生死真假對錯的問題﹐西方教會則著重罪和救贖的問題。東方教會著重耶穌的榮耀﹐西方教會則著重耶穌的謙卑。西方教會著重人與神之間的規律﹐而這個如何解釋這個規律成為羅馬教宗權威的來源。

Organic farm tour

Today was the old boys annual summer picnic. The president is owner of an organic farm and he let us use his place farm for BBQ. After the BBQ, we had a tour inside the farm. Modern farming is a capital intensive business with lots of agricultural technology. The organic farm is a 10 acres of green house, growing two hundred thousand plants with about 30 vegetable on each plant. That worths more than $1 million of vegetable in retail value. The temperature and water is computer controlled. The farm grows only organic pepper, cucumber and tomato, since organic food can sell at a premium.

I always thought growing organic food must be very dirty, but I was totally wrong. The farm use organic fertilizers that looks just like normal fertilizer, except it is made by organic materials. Since the vegetables are growing indoor, there is less pest hazard. The farm use organic means for pest control, having some good insects that hunt pests and growing plants that drive away pests. The farm buy bees in carton boxes for pollinating the plants. Harvest is labor intensive, although there are rail system inside the green house to help transporting the vegetable. During the tour, the owner pick some fresh pepper off from the plant to give us a try. Since the vegetable is pure organic with no harmful chemical, we can eat the pepper picked right off the plant. It tastes very good. This tour totally change my perception on farmers and found new respects to them. I always think farming is so boring and so out of fashion. In reality, farming is an engineering challenge to grow enough food to feed everyone.

10 acres of green house

 Rows of vegetables under the glass roof

Newly planted

Rail trolley for harvest

Big red pepper

Hot air balloon crash

Yesterday, there was a horrible hot air balloon accident in Vancouver. The balloon catch fire after take off, burst into flames and dropped 8 meter to the ground. A propane tank was heated shot up in the sky and exploded, torched several motor homes nearby the crash site. The accident has 11 injuries and 2 death. The most scary thing about this accident is I just had a ride on that balloon last month! Hot air balloon ride could be very dangerous after all. So I am taking back my early words and won’t recommend anyone to ride a hot air balloon for obvious safety reason.  Go here to see my hot air balloon ride photos.

balloon crash

balloon on fire

Optometrist

There are some cost you cannot avoid, going to optometrist is one of those.  I wanted to get a pair of new glasses.  Not because I can’t see clearly with my old glasses, but rather want to get a new look.  I thought my original sight prescription is still OK, so I didn’t bother to visit an optometrist before buying glasses.  When I pick my glasses, I let the shop did sight test for my new glasses. When I pick up the new glasses, I find my vision of my left eye is kinda funny, like looking through magnify glasses.  I have the shop change the lens but the sight is equally bad.  The sales said I have a lazy eye, but that doesn’t sound right to me, I am fine with my old glasses.  So I figure it is time to seek professional help from an optometrist and do a full eye exam.  It turn out the result of the sight test is away off.  My eyes are quite health, but the left lens is +1.0 more than it should be.  That’s why I am seeing funny vision and thought something is wrong with my left eye.  The moral of this story: 1. Never trust any sales person. 2.  You can’t cheap out all the time.  If the money is ought to spend, then you have to spend the money.

The Riches 富貴浮雲

The Riches 美國有超過數十個電視頻道﹐每年上映的電視劇集數以百計。可是大部份的劇集只是新瓶舊酒﹐離不開荷里活的成功公式﹐主角不是醫生﹐律師﹐警察﹐題材便是白領愛情生活﹐驚險冒險故事。在大網絡上播放的電視劇﹐為著收視保障和廣告收入﹐表達手法或劇本佈局上或許有些創意吸引觀眾﹐但主題多數走比較保險的路線。有線電視台走小眾路線﹐沒有這麼多創作上的掣肘﹐雖然沒有星光熠熠的大製作﹐反而會有讓人意想不到的驚喜。「富貴浮雲」在FX頻道播放﹐平均有四百萬觀眾﹐在寵大的美國市場算不上特別熱門﹐卻吸引我追看全套第一季﹐並熱切期待十月播放的第二季。

這齣電視劇集很另類﹐故事是關於一個流浪者家庭﹐混入上流社會過著有錢人的生活。主角一家五口世世代代也是流浪者﹐有點像現代的吉普賽人﹐靠幹點小買賣騙騙知市民掙錢過活。他們從一個地方流浪到另一個地方﹐有著與我們正常人不同的價值觀。他們不是大奸大惡不會殺人放火﹐只是對於財產金錢的觀念與我們不同﹐並對於流浪者間的家族忠誠看得十分重要。主角一家在公路上遇上交通意外﹐對頭車的有錢夫婦死了﹐死者正準備搬到新地方展開新生活﹐於是主角興起了取代死者身份的念頭。於是他們一家人搬進死者的大屋﹐賊爸搖身一變為大律師﹐賊媽則變為有錢闊太﹐三個孩子入讀貴族學校﹐開始過著別人的生活。

每集故事圍繞著這一家人如何暪天過海扮個有錢人﹐努力擺脫流浪者家族仇人的滋擾。劇中一家人表面上過得風光﹐可是每天過得是提心跳膽﹐害怕謊言會被拆穿的一日。每個人對借來的生活有不同的看法﹐賊媽與大仔喜歡以前自由自在的流浪生活﹐他們從心底裏看不地普通人每天營營役役的價值觀。賊爸追求是對自己的肯定﹐ 為什麼他們一家不可以過上流人的生活﹐要屈在破舊的旅行車生活。二妹的轉變最大﹐她完全愛上了普通人的生活﹐在學校交上型仔男友﹐還打算升讀大學告別流浪 者生活﹐投身專業階層的懷抱。三仔還是小孩子戲份不重﹐最多只是拿他喜愛穿女裝開開性取向玩笑。

除了充滿戲劇元素的故事外﹐處身兩套不同價值觀之間﹐而引起的身份認同危機﹐也是貫穿整過劇集的主旨。不僅劇中每人經歷思想衡突﹐這劇集也讓電視機前的觀眾反思﹐我們視之為處世真理的社會秩序並非必然。大部人在社會追求的不外是物質與地位﹐不停地努力工作往上爬﹐目標就是為了累積更多的財富﹐享受更加舒適的生活。流浪者對金錢有截然不同的態度﹐他們享受生活的每一天﹐追求金錢反而變成人生的負累。當然電視劇為求好笑總會跨張失實﹐有些身份不穿崩的過關橋段更是老土兒嬉﹐只在這家庭倫理劇情片的舊瓶中﹐裝著的卻是文化沖擊的新酒。我們這些正常人不會明白﹐亦沒有興趣去感受到流浪者的想法﹐甚至會認為他們是社會上的寄生蟲﹐應該教化踏上正途。通過這齣電視劇主角一家﹐我們與他們也許對社會秩序有不同的理解﹐可是我們與他們追求的人生意義真的有這麼多的不同嗎﹖