Everything You Think is False

Doesn't it sometimes seem that way?  Recently I learned that extremely poor people are reasonably happy and optimistic. I also read that developing countries spend less on health care themselves, as a result of foreign donations.  So a dollar sent is not exactly a dollar added to existing resources. I'm teaching an article in my environmental ethics class that shows how abolishing hunting reduces the amount of wildlife in African countries, and allowing hunting increases it.

Now I learn (thanks to Dom) that kids in orphanages aren't destined for lives of misery and sorrow, but actually do better than average in adulthood.  This is all very annoying, because it means that you basically can't reason about any moral issue without first digging through piles and piles of research. And that's not what philosophy is supposed to be like!  Whatever happened to the comfortable armchairs we were promised in graduate school?

Anyhow, here's the post (from a "hot shot research assistant") about orphanages.  The author concludes that parents have an obligation (if utilitarianism is true) to give up their "tots." This reminds me of the paradox of retirement in Saul Smilansky's book 10 Moral Paradoxes.  Are you in the bottom 50% of a "helping" profession?  (Does philosophy count?)  Then it seems you're obliged to quit and let someone better take your job. 

I'm going to run the orphanage business by my kids when they come home from school and see what they think.  If I play my cards right, I should be able to get them to say that I am an exceptional parent, and I'm not just permitted to keep them but obligated.  I'm going to take this slowly and choose my words carefully. 

Note, if I'm not so exceptional, I just have to send them packing "if utilitarianism is true."  A philosophy graduate student recently interviewed at Let Them Eat Meat (the blog is my new guilty pleasure) says utilitarianism is "the laughing stock of ethics."  I really don't think that's true.  Utilitarianism may not be "the moral truth, period," but it's a point in logical space that all ethicists return to over...and over...and over again.  This sums up my attitude toward utiltitarianism:  "How could it be true?  But then, how could it not be true?"  The back and forth stimulates lots of further reflection about the nature of morality.


Anonymous said...

Rhys is a smart guy and a clever writer, but have you read through all of his archives? Until recently, the majority of what went up on that blog was photos he took of attendees at vegan events/conferences, of which he intentionally posted the least flattering. He had numerous entries pointing out these "pale, sickly" vegans he kept seeing (some, but not all of those posts have been removed from the site).

None of these people consented to the photographs or were aware that he was going to post them on a public website and insult their appearance cruelly. Let Them Eat Meat is just fine as a guilty pleasure, but I'm not sure its a very good idea to direct additional traffic over there. While there are some good and thoughtful interviews and amusing rhetoric, the underlying tone of the project is actually pretty offensive and disgusting. And he refuses to acknowledge it.


Wayne said...

Jean - I agree... we need less research and more comfy chairs.

I don't find the research all that surprising though. I think a lot of people equate orphanage with foster care system. Foster care kids are significantly less likely to do well as adults compared to "normal" or orphans.

But instead of jumping to the conclusion that we should all give our children away unless we are exceptional parents, maybe we should reconsider having children in the first place.

Jean Kazez said...

David, Well, I did say "guilty." I did see the photos of vegan events and shook my head. (Why is he so obsessed with these people, one simply has to wonder.) The pleasure part is because he's a good satirist of elements of veganism that I do think deserve to be satirized. I sometimes read the same blogs he does, and I'm amazed by the endless attacks on animal advocates for their little deviations from purist expectations--people like Jane Goodall, Peter Singer, Jonathan Foer, Matthew Scully, Wayne Pacelle, Karen Dawn, Erik Marcus... etc. etc. So the satire amuses me, and (I confess) I generally love satire. Also, the people who he interviews really do have some interesting things to say, and he's a very good interviewer. But you're right--there are things over there that are over the line.

Faust said...

I give this post 3 thumbs up (I'm mutating).

amos said...

Nietzsche's saying, "what does not kill me, makes me stronger," may be true, but that doesn't mean that we're doing good when we try to kill someone.

rtk said...

Jean asks: Whatever happened to the comfortable armchairs we were promised in graduate school? Gimme a break; where's your turtle neck, tweed jacket, and pipe? No armchair for you. Get thee to an iPad and Google Wikipedia. All you need to know.
And Amos: Did you know that what does not make you stronger will kill you?

amos said...

Rtk: My brain is slow this morning, but I'm not sure that from "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger", we can get "what doesn't make me stronger, will kill me". We can get "what kills me, doesn't make me stronger", that's clear both logically and grammatically. However, as I said, my brain is very slow this morning, and actually, the brain forecast for the afternoon isn't optimistic either.