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MODEL OF NEUTRAL-INCLUSIVITY
BOOK OF FUNDAMENTALS
LIFE AND NONLIFE
THE LIVES OF ECOSYSTEMS AND NONPERSONAL LIVING BEINGS

5.2.2 

THE LIVES OF HAPPINESS-CATENAL BEINGS


All happiness-catenals are living beings, but only part of all living beings are happiness-catenal. They are lucky: unhappiness is a disvalue and therefore one must not do anything that makes a happiness-catenal being unhappy or unhappier; other things being equal, that is. Happiness in itself is a disvalue too, but if making a happiness-catenal being happy or happier is expressive of an improvement of situation, it may be justifiable. This requires, however, that it can be shown what the situational neutrality is which is being reached, or which is coming closer, by making the living being in question happy or happier. It is here that the normative significance of the difference between living beings which are happiness-catenal and those which are not seems to fade out. Another way of looking at it is --as we have discussed before-- to regard happiness as a sign, a sign of situational improvement or of what is needed to keep a situation good, or to make it better (if only in one particular respect). The crucial question which then arises is whether living beings could be catenal with respect to a situational improvement catena without being catenal with respect to the happiness catena.

In the event that there are living beings which are catenal in a situational sense, but which have no happiness-catenality amelioration, it is much harder to justify a difference in treatment between beings which are happiness-catenal and beings which are not. If happiness is merely a sign of situational improvement and for that reason justifiable, it must be the situational improvement, or rather situational goodness itself, which should be aimed at. Yet, in that case it is not relevant whether the living being concerned can feel the improvement or not. Thus with regard to happiness it is questionable why living beings which are not happiness-catenal could not demand respect for life or well-being too. But if so, then the 'equal treatment' required has to be understood in a relevantist sense in which it does not necessarily imply identical treatment.

The marked difference between happiness-catenals and other, living and nonliving beings lies in the intrinsic (but not ultimate) disvalue of unhappiness. The minimization of this form of negative unneutrality only is already of vital importance in matters of life, death and preexistence. It entails not less than the elimination of all suffering, not only of persons or human beings but of all happiness-catenal living beings. As we have seen, it is not the elimination or minimization of suffering in itself which matters but neutralization with respect to the happiness-catena. This is one of the reasons why the objection against negative utilitarianism, that the best way to eliminate all suffering would be to painlessly kill all beings which can suffer, that is, all happiness-catenal beings, cannot be made against catenical neutralism. Not noncatenality or the absence of unneutrality is of supreme value but neutrality, that is nanhappiness, given that a thing is already happiness-catenal. Accordingly, a living being which suffers has to be made less unhappy, and if possible, at least nanhappy. In practise our approach with respect to happiness-catenal beings will thus be eudaimonistic to a considerable extent. It is 'neutrally eudaimonistic', so to say: neither negatively eudaimonistic like negative utilitarianism nor positively eudaimonistic like classical, positive utilitarianism. It is not utilitarian, because by no means is happiness, or the minimization of unhappiness, our sole value, let alone the sole value to judge, for example, living beings or persons by. Yet, as it is the sole value in utilitarianism (in the sense of monistic eudaimonism) we can --also in matters of life and death or nonlife-- learn much from utilitarian theories so far as happiness-catenal beings are concerned. We can also learn much from anti-utilitarian criticisms, but --in matters of life and nonlife-- they usually concern living beings in general or persons (if not human beings) in particular.

Instead of speaking of "a happy life", a utilitarian may speak of "a life worth living". And altho life is not something valuable in an ultimate sense then, it would still be 'directly' wrong to kill a happiness-catenal being whose life is worth living. Direct refers here to the fact that the wrongness of the killing is based solely on the effects on the sentient being killed itself. The minor, direct effect is the fear and pain involved in killing, the major one the loss of future happiness the sentient being killed would otherwise have had (especially when this future happiness should compensate 'im for the short-term pleasures 'e has forgone in the past as part of an overall life plan). The side-effects are the effects on other happiness-catenal beings than the one killed, but it is easy to conceive of cases in which an act of killing would have no such side-effects. If killing is at least sometimes wrong for reasons independent of side-effects, it must be directly wrong in those cases. To demonstrate this direct wrongness it is not necessary to appeal to the sanctity of life or some such concept; it can already be shown on simple utilitarian, that is, eudaimonist grounds, altho only for lives that are worth living or that will on balance be more happy than unhappy.

The principle of utility is identity-independent and accordingly subject to the replaceability argument. This argument is used to justify the killing of animals by those who have reared them in the first place. For the people who kill these animals and eat their flesh are not only responsible for their deaths but also for the creation of more animals of the same species. (This does not have to hold for every person individually, but may hold for the community or the group of people concerned as a whole.) The argument presupposes not only that the happiness-catenal animals killed owe their existence to the people concerned, but also that they do not have an unpleasant life, for example, by being crowded together in abominable circumstances. It goes without saying that they must be killed painlessly, if killed at all.

From the purely eudaimonist point of view animals may be killed if on balance the pleasure of, for example, eating their meat, or of eating fish, is greater than the total happiness which they would experience by staying alive. This may be the case when the animals concerned are not happiness-catenal at all, or when they have a very small amplitude which only allows for limited sensations of pleasure and pain. But even then their suffering has to be prevented if one can, or mimimized as much as possible. For animals which have not been reared or planted, but which form part of the natural equilibrium of an ecosystem, eudaimonist considerations certainly do not suffice, however; even not from an identity-independent standpoint. It is then also the natural equilibrium itself which has value and which should not be disturbed.

As said before: if the replaceability argument applies to animals, it must apply to humans at a comparable level as well. For example, it would not be wrong to perform a scientific experiment on a severely mentally retarded, human being and even to kill it painlessly, provided that another human being were conceived to take its place, or provided that it were a more suitable subject for the experiment than any nonhuman animal. Moreover, if it is good to create life, then it must be good for there to be as many (happy) sentient beings as possible, which presumably would mean also as many (happy) human beings as possible. One could then --so the argument continues-- support many more people by growing plant foods than by raising animals. Raising animals is at least an inefficient method of obtaining food for human consumption.

Faced with the replaceability argument the utilitarian has to find a reason for considering deliberate killing directly wrong without considering deliberate nonconception equally wrong on eudaimonist grounds. For if a smaller number of worthwhile lives is just as good as a larger number, the argument against (painless) killing collapses, but if it is better for more sentient beings to have such lives, not conceiving is as bad as killing. One way of increasing the total of worthwhile life in the world might just be to painlessly kill off some of the presently existing happiness-catenal beings in order to create vacancies for new, happier human, or other sentient, beings. It is only by appealing to the side-effects that a utilitarian, that is a monistic eudaimonist, can meet this criticism. 'E may reply that the terrible consequences of 'er position do not show how terrible utilitarianism is, but rather that it is a position a utilitarian would not favor. However, the validity of this reply largely depends on people's discontentment with a consistently utilitarian, or with an anthropocentrist-utilitarian policy. (It should not go unnoticed that many a 'utilitarian' speaks of people and human beings where strictly monistic eudaimonism would only allow 'im to speak of happiness-catenal or 'sentient' beings.)

Looking at a happiness-catenal being from an individual, temporal perspective, the crucial questions are when it becomes happiness-catenal --the moment of catenalization-- and when it ceases to be so --the moment of decatenalization--. Supposedly there is no special connection between a beating heart and happiness-catenality, whereas it is quite plausible that such a connection exists between a functioning brain and happiness-catenality. A functioning brain appears to be a necessary condition for happiness-catenality, altho, perhaps, not a sufficient condition. When it seems odd that, for example, an eight-week old fetus of which brain waves can be monitored, might already be happiness-catenal, this is probably due to the confusion of happiness-catenality as such with the amplitude of happiness-catenality. It could very well be (and seems plausible) that an animal being which just becomes happiness-catenal starts with an amplitude of almost 0 , while this amplitude becomes larger and larger as the animal being develops into a full or mature member of the species. Also in this way a fetus would then be going thru all preceding stages of the evolutionary scale. This means that the value or significance of its life as a happiness-catenal being is the same at each stage and moment as the value or significance of adult members of other species with an equal amplitude of happiness-catenality. The same eudaimonist considerations must then be applied to both this fetus or baby, and those adult living beings. Thus, from a purely eudaimonist or utilitarian point of view killing is either directly wrong for both of them or for neither of them.

One man (a philosopher regarded with extreme veneration, especially in monotheist times and circles) could not care less that a mother would kill her baby, if it were born of a father she was not married to, for --as he dictated-- 'a child born into the world outside marriage is outside the law' and consequently 'also outside the protection of the law'. This legalist perversion of morality is a far cry from the sensible arguments of later thinkers who say that hopelessly malformed infants ought to be killed before they grow into persons. This saves them a longer life judged to be certainly not worth living. It has thus been argued that if one knows that a fetus or neonate will have an unhappy life, or a life not worth living, and if one allows it to be born or to survive into personhood nevertheless, then that fetus or neonate is badly wronged. The concern with personhood in these arguments illustrates not only why living beings which are (the bodies of) persons deserve our special attention, but also living beings which will normally grow into (the bodies of) persons, or --at the other end of the individual, temporal scale-- which have ceased to be (the bodies of) persons.


©MVVM, 41-56 ASWW
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