Friday, February 3, 2023

Filosophy Friday: Acts and Omissions

"'You can't save everybody' is the best that we can do."

Initial digression: Regarding Mighty Mites, I would like to point out that the EA Forum chose to feature that post in their weekly email. They very assiduously ignored and voted down my "Against Longtermism" post (as I was assured they would) and then voted up and decided to promote a post that says we're all murderers for washing. Thanks to all of you who contacted me regarding the post - you helped me feel sane.

"You know what this makes me worry about? Mites."
Photo by Kevin Drum.

I know some hard-core philosophers like to claim there is no difference between acts and omissions. E.g., letting someone die (or stay in a cage) when you could have saved them is the same as killing them (imprisoning them) because you chose to make a decision that led to that outcome.

As you might imagine, I have some thoughts.

Imagine you care very much about the suffering in the world and, unlike me, have made good decisions and put yourself in a position where you can save the lives of animals (or free them from miserable lives in cages). Say it takes four hours of work to save an animal. There are far, far more animals at stake than you could possibly save even if you worked every hour of the rest of your life.

So the bottom line of the hard-core consequentialist is that every four hours you aren't working is the same as actively choosing to kill an individual animal. 

Does this seem realistic in any way?

If you work the extra four hours to save Gwendeline the Duck, does that mean you don't care about Richie the Rabbit, who you could have theoretically saved with the four hours you spent exercising, reading, or spending time with loved ones?

At some point, we have to realize that we have to draw a line - a line that allows us to have a reasonable life that can make our personal universe pleasant. We are not responsible for the cruelty caused by the initial conditions of the wider universe, but we do have some "control" [sic] over our personal universe.

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