THE LIVES OF HAPPINESS-CATENAL
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
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
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.
approach with respect to happiness-catenal beings will therefore 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
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, albeit only for lives
that are worth living or that will on balance be more happy than
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 be 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
(It should not go unnoticed that many a 'utilitarian' speaks of people
and human beings where strictly monistic eudaimonism would allow 'im to
speak of happiness-catenal or 'sentient' beings only.)
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
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, which 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 that are (the bodies of) persons deserve our special
attention but also living beings that will normally grow into (the bodies
of) persons, or —at the other end of the individual, temporal
scale— that have ceased to be (the bodies of) persons.