Re: Arguing with a Power Was: Moral Complexity
Wed, 25 Feb 1998 13:25:27 -0800 (PST)

On Fri, 20 Feb 1998, Peter C. McCluskey wrote:

> ( writes:
> >You're right. Still, I wonder if the very things that make it seem
> >questionable to extend a rights framework to register claims of nonhuman
> >pain will render human claims to rights similarly trivial to a Power. My
> >argument to the Power shoots for the double whammy of the appeal to hope
> >(unforseeable promise of pleasure) and the appeal to fear (safeguard
> >against unforseeable danger). I'm afraid that an abstract appeal to
> >shared "rights" might start to cash out as inconsequential to real conduct
> >when power/knowledge-assymmetries start getting too large. Doesn't this
> >happen already?
> Abstract ideas aren't very compelling without some personal incentives
> to back them up. Without knowing what a power can forsee, it is hard to
> tell whether the incentives you've identified will work.

Of course. Surely, every little bit helps. I wonder: Do you think the
injunction "Respect rights" is less abstract than "Respect diversity"?

> I don't agree that power/knowledge-assymmetries neccesarily makes shared
> rights unreliable.

Do you agree that an historical case can be made for the claim that
massive power/knowledge assymmetries often *have* permitted or even
encouraged systems of rights to perform less reliably?

I think mutual respect for property rights is a kind
> of right which, once firmly established, essentially all participants have
> an incentive to defend the system, and adding mechanisms to discriminate
> between entities that want to use it would detract from the system.

Isn't the problem that what will constitute "respect for property rights"
(think of state "takings" or urban squatting, etc) is always open to
interpretation, and in the face of the kinds of *massive* power/knowledge
assymmetries we're talking about when we're talking of Power/mehuman
"relations", it's a safe bet just whose "interpretations" will stick.
No, I've come to agree with you even more than before about the near
uselessness of merely abstract guarantees against abuses. It seems the
thing that best buttresses security and stability is a plurality of
competing Powers no one of whom can do too much damage without stepping on
toes that matter.

> The "respect diversity" meme is one of the reasons I'm biased against
> vegetarianism - I want diversity in my food.

As do I. Vegetarianism questions your prior assumption of the
appropriateness of designating "animals" as "food" in the first place.
Not to suggest that there aren't obvious differences in play here, but I
scarcely imagine you feel the diversity of your diet is challenged by a
refusal of cannibalism?

> I don't see how valuing diversity implies giving plants a different
> status than animals.

Part of valuing diversity is respecting sentience and the forms it takes
in the world. That animals are sentient and plants are not is a
difference in status that isn't exactly arbitrary to take note of, surely?
What you go on to do after noting it is up to you. Best, Dale