Aug 30, 2022Liked by Richard Y Chappell

Here's a way to modify the Nietzchean perfectionist theory so as to avoid discounting nonhuman animal suffering: let's say that it's not just human excellence that matters, but excellence simpliciter, where excellence is defined roughly as fulfilling the constitutive capacities of a being of one's kind. For a human being those are rational, creative, and moral capacities. For (at least wild) dogs those are social and hunting capacities (which has the tragic upshot that excellence for a dog necessarily comes at a cost to other animals). For trees (if we want to include nonsentient lifeforms) those are growth capacities. So a world where cows, chickens, and the rest are suffering miserable lives is worse than otherwise because the animals in question are barred from fulfilling their constitutive capacities; such a world misses out on the distinctive excellence of certain of our fellow creatures.

This view has an attractive upshot for opponents of intervention in the wild: the suffering of wild animals may be a tolerable cost of them achieving their kind-specific excellence (which we would frustrate with intervention). One open question would be how to quantify excellences of different kinds (if that's at all possible). How many thriving whale pods are worth one Hamlet (or perhaps vice versa)?

I developed a similar view in a paper I had published in a student journal during my undergrad (starts on pg. 53): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OokVdHBYoirShlgXGgbIrk6rHG3sRPy9/view

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Aug 29, 2022Liked by Richard Y Chappell

Very cool post. I'm a big fan of Andrew's work.

Shameless plug, I have a paper on related issues: https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/DSYKSKEGTTG9PECFHCT8/full?target=10.1080/0020174X.2021.2018357

Writing it has slightly changed my mind about what matters, including in EA related terms.

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Wait, so Bentham+Nietzche=Mill? It seems you've just kind of argued your way back into Mill's higher pleasures stuff.

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Without venturing an opinion on which of EA or Nietzchean perfectionism is (all things considered) morally preferable, I think it is worth pointing out that EA seems peculiarly plausible at the moment in part because superb and plainly excellent achievements in the arts are so few and far between nowadays. (I consider this to be a pretty obvious fact, but I link to some evidence for it here: https://furtheroralternatively.blogspot.com/2022/03/where-have-all-geniuses-gone-or-whats.html .) If you can't write a great symphony - and, let's be honest, no one can nowadays - you might at least add a few utils to the global util pot.

I have tried to advance that point about the appeal of EA (among a few others) here: https://furtheroralternatively.blogspot.com/2022/07/on-effective-altruism.html .

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Nov 8, 2022·edited Nov 8, 2022

Maslow's hierarchy of needs still provides the most complete taxonomy of what we need to be wholly happy (https://en.wikipedia.org//wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs). EA concerns itself most with physiological needs and some safety needs, perhaps correctly viewing them as low hanging preconditions for human flourishing. EÆs address cognitive and aesthetic needs. Belonging and love, esteem, self actualization and transcendence are omitted in by both moral accounting systems. Perhaps they are too hard to measure and not secular enough? Or they're considered first world problems? Nevertheless, we intuitively understand these needs are real, especially the many among us who confront ennui despite first world material abundance and the accessibility of great culture in the internet age.

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I don't know if he offered a coherent rationale for caring about animals, but Nietzsche may have been personally sensitive to animal suffering. He is apparently supposed to have suffered a nervous breakdown after hugging a horse someone was brutally beating.

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Nitpick: pyramids in Egypt were built by free laborers, not slaves.

I also think Nietzsche's elitism is a core part of his philosophy, and Huddleston’s misinterprets him to conform more to egalitarian intuitions. But I'm not that familiar with Nietzsche and don't have a point to make here.

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