Next week in Environmental Philosophy we will be discussing deep ecology. Says Wikipedia, “deep ecology is a contemporary ecological philosophy that recognizes an inherent worth of other beings, aside from their utility.” We’re also going a bit beyond that, exploring the opinion that EVERYTHING in nature has inherent worth, including non-sentient things like mountains and rocks and sand.
Of course, as we were having our initial discussion before we delve into the literature for next week, one of the prominent comments I heard was that the view that ALL things in nature have inherent worth (to the extent that humans have worth) is “stupid.”
So I can already tell next week’s going to be difficult.
As I’ve blogged about before, I identify myself with Hylozoism (or panpsychism, it depends on how you define things). Loosely, it’s the belief that all matter is, in some sense, “aware” or has a conscience*. As such, I can’t really place myself in opposition with the view that things like mountains or sand lack a worth comparable to the worth of, say, a dog or a pigeon or even a tree.
I can’t put my finger on EXACTLY why a Hylozoistic viewpoint overlaps with deep ecology in a sense and I can’t really explain EXACTLY why this viewpoint is probably going to get slaughtered next Thursday, but I’m pretty sure it will be. I think I might just keep my mouth shut the whole time, haha.
Whatever. I’ll probably say more about this after next Thursday, so be prepared.
*But not necessarily consciousness as humans experience it.
First off, all our morals are screwy, it’s just the way we all are. So please try not to judge me too harshly for this; if the following doesn’t seem to make sense, it’s probably because I’ve never really openly discussed it. But it makes perfect sense in my head. Okay? Okay.
So. Vegetarianism. Those who read these bloggies semi-regularly may have seen one of my posts about hylozoism—the belief that life, to some extent, is present in all matter, not just in things that we classify as conscious or even just in things that are considered animate.
I suppose in a sense that my “why I’m not a vegetarian” argument stems more from the panpsychism perspective. That is, the idea that all things possess some form of sensation or consciousness (you drop an iPod, that iPod senses it or is aware of it).
I am of this view. To me, everything responds to what we do to it. If you break a pot, that pot “feels” the break, if you cut the grass, the grass “feels” itself being sliced. I’m not saying it causes pain necessarily, but who’s to say it doesn’t? I’m certainly of the idea that the material responds in some way, and I definitely think such an argument could be put out there for things we typically consider sentient.
This is where the whole vegetarianism thing comes in. If a person wants a cheeseburger, they’re aware on some level of the fact that they’re eating a part of a cow that had to be killed for the person to consume it. They’re probably less aware of the amount of wheat that had to be cut in order to create the bun (I don’t know the general number of wheat stalks that go into an average hamburger bun, but you get what I’m saying). Or the tomato that gets picked to provide a slice.
Yeah, I know that sounds crazy. But think about it. It just seems weird to me to place more value on beings that emit an audible scream when we slaughter them than silent yet still living beings like wheat and peas. Even if such “lower organisms” don’t have pain receptors and therefore don’t respond to being removed from water/nutrients/the means to continue living the same way organisms like cows and pigs do, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re being killed.
Call me a hippy, call me crazy, call me stupid, but that’s how I see it. There are only two ways, as I see it, to provide equal “ethical” treatment to both beings like cows and beings like wheat—either don’t eat either of them (or anything else that was once living), or eat both of them. And since I probably can’t live on air (like the Astomi people apparently could), I choose the latter.
Please note: I am not condoning things like inhumane poultry housing or cruel slaughtering techniques—that’s not what I mean. Read this as if the comparisons between higher and lower organism slaughter involve the most humane way of killing, say, a cow, with the most humane way of harvesting grain.
Today’s song: Crystal Ball by Keane
Guess what, kids? PHILOSOPHY TIME!
Panpsychism is the view that all matter possesses a soul (or has consciousness). There are a couple of different types of this view, though, and there are also different types of similar views that aren’t technically panpsychism.
Hylozoism, which is similar but not exactly the same, holds that all forms of matter posess life. It’s different from panpsychism because life and souls are obviously two different things, and it is different than animism because animism focuses more on things having consciousnesses. In other words, hylozoism is the doctrine that everything is alive, while panpsychism is the belief that everything is conscious.
So. You all may or may not believe this, but I’ve always been of this sort of belief, that all matter is, in some way, alive. I think that this belief is based on the fact that as a materialist, I don’t think consciousness in humans arises from anything but the physical components of the brain. That is, consciousness is due to the chemical and electrical interactions of the components that makeup the brain, rather than any sort of “extra” component, like a soul or some other special addition to the physical.
Because I’m a materialist, I think that human consciousness arises, then, solely out of the physical. Because of this, I don’t believe that certain physical “components” are capable of coming together and achieving human consciousness—or any other consciousness/life/etc.—if others aren’t.
That’s a bit difficult to understand; let me put it another way. There’s a metric ton (not literally, shut up) of atoms that make up the human body, right? And a lot of those atoms go into making up the brain—in which, according to materialists, the consciousness originates and exists.
Now we can take this in two directions (still assuming materialism):
1. Either consciousness arises out of only a set of specific arrangements of atoms, or
2. All atoms/smallest particles in the universe (obviously not atoms, but ‘atom’ is familiar and easiest to conceptualize) are capable of maintaining a sort of consciousness on their own.
It seems odd to me that only certain atoms in certain arrangements are capable of bringing about any sort of consciousness without the additional condition that consciousness is a potential property of all atoms. Why would only specific combinations lead to consciousness, and what would make certain that the “right” atoms would be chosen in the first place? I think that a variation of consciousness—certainly not human consciousness or any type we can recognize—exists in every atom in the universe. I think culminations of these atomic consciousnesses can lead to other variations, uncluding human consciousness, but I think that there must exist some sort of basal form of it in everything.
Does that make sense?
Anyway, it’s how I’ve always seen it.