The weird thing isn't that he went to go eat a flounder, it's that he broke back into his own tank after, leaving us scratching our head for weeks over where the flounder were going. Obviously if we came in one day to see an octopus in the flounder tank the mystery would be solved day 1.
Anyway we put carpet on the walls so his little suckers couldn't stick and let him carouse around the aquarium like some sort of aquatic monkey.
Octopus have dens that they only leave to eat and mate. they always return to their den after, and they only move every few weeks. So wouldnt that be normal behavior?
I guess he could have moved his den to the flounder tank.. but maybe he just found out where it was, and caught him before he decided where to move to. or maybe there was something about the flounder tank that made it difficult to find a good spot.
Edit: this is not to call you out for you story, it's very possible that this happened at CHS aquarium, I'm just wondering the origins since it's such a fascinating and strange story.
Then again, I've also had to clean up a couple (witnessed) octopus escapes, though not with the full "got out, got prey, got back in." So they are at least somewhat prone to roaming.
I would guess that Octopi just tend to do this. They really are smart and can fit through crazy small spaces.
It's hard not to speculate that the octopus had a sufficiently sophisticated model of its keepers in relation to itself (which implies self-consciousness) that it knew this.
I can come up with other theories (some territorial affinity, perhaps), and I'm sure people have. I wonder which have been tested/explored...
Different footage but a similar crazy feat:
Is it OK to feel sad about the aquarium based on this story?
Octopuses is correct by English rules.
Octopodes is correct by strict etymological Greek-origin rules.
Octopi is correct by English's pseudo-Latin cognate rules.
This is likely due to the many Anglophone schoolchildren subjected to Latin language lessons over the centuries who simply never cared about proper Latin grammar rules.
Generally speaking, octopuses is preferred by most if not all well known dictionaries in modern usage, and the pseudo-Latin cognate has fallen out of favor. I don't think it's reflective of reality to argue that all three are equivalently correct.
There is, in fact, a way to assume greater authority over the English language than the power wielded by the median speaker. The person who can inject a memorable phrase into the popular culture--whether by writing a line that is read by many, or by speaking one that is heard by many--can steer the language closer to the path they may prefer.
For all our quibbling over technical correctness, if an author or scriptwriter decides to keep "octopi" alive, all they have to do is write it, with no explanation or justification necessary.
Stam that in your rassoodock and let it digimmer. It could make you frumious or mimsy, but you will grok who the lords of language are.
The best argument for prescriptivism has less to do with authority and more to do with people who have an interest in being able to communicate clearly. A better word than "prescriptivism" might be "subscriptivism". Presumably, we subscribe to the normal rules of the English language so that we mitigate miscommunication.
Purpose matters. The person who demands that everyone use "octopuses" is just an elitist asshole. The science institution, which demands that its members conform to a precise standard of language, is just doing its job.
I saw a lecture by Peter Godfrey-Smith, the author of the book in TFA, and he also comes down on the side of "octopuses".
As far as I'm concerned octopi is correct. Screw the etymology.
That's sort of why I support octopi. It is predictable, idiomatic and consistent. You shouldn't have to research the origins of a word in order to pluralise it.
The various irregular forms and tenses of the existential verb, "to be", is etymologically stitched together from at least three distinct languages.
Remnants of foreign languages certainly are welcome, though they certainly get rough treatment in comparison to their language of origin. The majority of the whole corpus is "foreign", and a significant fraction of the 1000 most commonly used "core words" are from a different branch of the linguistic tree as the official branch for English.
This is, in large part, due to the Saxon and Norman invasions.
Pseudo-Greco-Latin words are associated with higher education, because for a long time, Latin was required for higher education at English-speaking universities. Thanks to the fact that such words can be composited from a variety of common Greek and Latin roots, it remains the etymological origin of choice for newly-coined words describing new scientific knowledge. English, of course, tosses their grammar onto the tire fire, and chops up the vocabulary like a butcher disassembles a side of beef.
Length is likely just a side effect of the etymological origins.
Anyway, while I wouldn't put it like you have, I agree with the bottom line -- spread the message of "octopuses"!
https://youtu.be/wFyY2mK8pxk (Octopus - Merriam-Webster Ask the Editor)
I think you mean "spelling nazis". ;)
I loved reading the two pieces Sy Montgomery wrote that are in Orion Magazine.
And the follow-up:
(Edit: Si -> Sy)
I personally put Watts near the top of the list of first-rate, active science fiction authors.
I couldn't put Echophraxia down. I might hazard that I like it more than Blindsight but it'd be hard to put in words.
Which do you enjoy more?
so is 'a fire upon the deep' by vernor vinge. where you have 'tines', iirc, a race of canids comprising 4-10 (or thereabouts) members sharing a group mind (new members can be added when old ones die etc.)
the mating ritual is very alien as well
first of all sex can be identified in octopodes(i) checking the 8th appendage
on the males this appendage has a small portion at the end without suckers,
this is because the male uses this appendage to reach inside his head.. mantel cavity(ii).. remove a sac of sperm.. spermatophore.. and then place it inside the head of a woman (iii)(iv)
and i was told by a worker at an aquarium that if other males have already placed their spermatophore into a females mantel a later male can remove those when inserting his own
1. They have short lifespans, limiting how much knowledge and wisdom an individual can acquire over its lifetime.
2. Reproduction is fatal. Males dies a few months after mating. Females spend all their time after the eggs are laid guarding them, and neglect to eat. They die of starvation around the time the eggs hatch. The octopus young are on their own, with no living parents to pass on learned knowledge and wisdom.
1. Before writing, technology was passed down through word of mouth from elders to younger generations in tribes.
2. Rearing/protecting young is assigned to specialized members of the tribe while others hunt/gather resources.
That's going on your headstone come the Great Octopus War of 2033.
But don't ask me how we figured out that humans switched to agriculture in order to make booze, because I'm not qualified to answer that, all I can tell you is that I learned this at some point from someone else who is more qualified than I am to talk about this.
Might be a good thing for us. I bet they could evolve into awesome tool users.
If you want to read a book which takes this idea to the extreme check out Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. It deals with a living ocean which has been completely incomprehensible to humans for hundreds of years - a neat thought exercise on the limits of knowledge.
Quick read, and also recommended for more good octopus anecdotes that inform this question.
In humans, while forms of suffering like loneliness, depression can be bad, pure physical pain can itself a terrible thing. For instance severe torture for 10 minutes can be worse than months of depression.
Now even if cognitive aspects are diminished in animals, the physical senses are active and often much more sharp(birds eye sight, dogs hearing).
So, what we can do is independent of whether we are eating animals or not, is to recognize this fact that animals can suffer, and ensure that factory farms which deal with billions of animals atleast stop some of the more terrible forms of animal cruelty (dunking birds in hot water while still alive).
That's before you get into the fact that we don't give animals a choice in the matter. They can't opt out of our protection and their eventual slaughter. We presume that it's acceptable to agree to that bargain on their behalf.
Like I said, it's a thought experiment, but it's one that leaves me uneasy with the consequences.
Are you familiar with it? Obviously, it's not quite the same, but this was the first thing that came to mind from your comment.
 - https://youtu.be/6g7vz6c2fog
The second part doesn't follow from the first.
People have largely the same nervous systems and largely the same brain structures (AFAIK), and yet they react quite differently to pain and in the extremes they react exceedingly differently to the suffering of others.
Do you think that sows when they crush some of their piglets by lying on them behave how a human mother who accidentally sat on and crushed their own child would? Many animals eat their own offspring seemingly without any response one could term emotional.
Now pigs are an interesting species and I wouldn't be personally surprised to find that they show some response which could be deemed a form of emotion.
Just because an animal exhibits herd behaviours, eg wariness when a member of the herd is wary/alert, doesn't mean they are empathising with that other animal.
>Anyone who thinks animals do not suffer is an idiot. //
The question is whether there is an internal pain that matches the external one. If I program a robot to exhibit pained behaviour and to scream when it's stabbed, then stab it, would you consider that robot to be in pain? The external reaction isn't necessarily linked to an internal feeling. Someone who refuses to leap to such a conclusion IMO is acting logically.
It's so analogous to the days when people debated as to whether black people should be enslaved for their own good, or whether they were too stupid to mind being enslaved [see e.g., 1], that it would be farcical if it wasn't so fucking sad. Who else, one wonders, might not feel pain? Autistics? Mutes? Republicans?
 Plous, S., & Williams, T. (1995). Racial Stereotypes From the Days of American Slavery: A Continuing Legacy. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25(9), 795-817.
That's two non-sequiturs in one sentence. I'm pretty sure there exist lifeforms that have a nervous system without an analog of pain. (Hint: If you want to defend your argument, start by defining "pain".) And it's quite egregious to just assume that there exist only one kind and quality of pain in all living animals. (Again, start by asking yourself how to rigorously define "pain".)
> They also suffer emotional pain, not just physical. Kill a pig in front of another pig and he/she is going to be terrified.
If at all, that's just an argument not to kill pigs in front of other pigs (unless the emotional pain is a desired outcome).
Seriously, who are some of you people?
One day he goes out and shoots one of the pigs to slaughter it. Before he can get the dead pig out of the pen the other pig comes running over and starts eargly licking up the blood up of his brother from its dead body.
They may be smart, but we should not anthropomoprhize to the point that we imagine them having the same kind of empathy and self-consciousness as us.
(For those who dislike clicking through 10 pages, or want to save to pocket or similar)
Focusing on cognitive skills to make ethical judgments is incredibly flawed when you think about it for more than 2 minutes. Specially when you add companion animals into the equation, given that pigs seem to have higher cognitive abilities when compared to dogs.
Are the laws new?
Edit: Really down voting because you don't agree? The comment was on topic, provided a view, and contributed to the conversation in some way. If you want to down vote, please be responsible enough to say why.
Also related is moral cognitivism and/or noncognitivism (are moral statements factual statements, or more like expressions of emotion, preference or command?). https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-cognitivism/
Here's a drastically simplified argument for moral realism:
1. I have the intuition that everyone ought to avoid causing unecessary suffering.
2. When I mean that everyone ought to avoid causing unecessary suffering, I am personally making a factual claim.
3. My intuition of 1. provides at least some evidence that 1 may be true.
Addendum: When dealing with philosophy, often intuitions are the best evidence we've got.
4. If I have the intuition described in 1, 1 is a factual claim, and my intuition of 1 provides at least some evidence for 1, then there is some evidence of an objective moral fact.
C. Therefore, there is some evidence of an objective moral fact.
Finally, here's a survey of academic philosophers. You can Ctrl-F for "moral realism" and "cognitivism" to see what proportion of philosophers hold these views. You'll note that both views have >50% support.
Of course, a view's popularity doesn't guarantee its truth. But Philosphers aren't dummies, so it does show that it's at least plausible.
Edit: formatting & philpapers link
Take a counter example: homosexuals. Most societies, regardless of source, were anti-homosexual. This is historically accurate (modern times are uprooting them, but let's say we're in the 1950's).
1. I have the intuition that everyone ought to avoid homosexuality.
2. When I mean that everyone ought to avoid homosexuality, I am personally making a factual claim.
3. My intuition of 1 provides at least some evidence that 1 may be true.
4. If I have the intuition describe in 1, 1 is a factual claim, and my intuition of 1 provides at least some evidence for 1, then there is some evidence of an objective moral fact.
C. Therefore, there is some evidence for any objective moral fact.
We've now shown an implication that homosexuality is in fact immoral in a general sense. Are we ok with this? Why? Why not? Our ethics and morality, sans a center like an unmoved mover, can vacillate. Sometimes this is "good" (such as gay or interracial marriage [I am neither]) for me as it brings improved economic conditions that selfishly improve my lot directly or possibly, which I arbitrarily deem as good, from an agnostic world view. Sometimes it's "bad" (for example expelling Jews from the Spain since it took the engineers and literate people, which limited economic freedom and would have probably negatively impacted my Spanish life if my present personality and general thoughtful profession was true then).
As a quick aside for the postulate of cultural issues with homosexuality, http://news.trust.org//item/20140516162146-jipm9/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_ancient_Rome which shows that Rome did not really have a great view of homosexual relationship. You didn't want to be the receiver. If you were, you were property.
Also of note is Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a moral theory that we ought to maximize the amount of happiness in the world/universe/multiverse while minimizing the amount of suffering. And that the morality of an action just relates to its consequences. So it's ok to lie/cheat/steal for the greater good.
Often, objections to Utilitarianism come in the form of "consider situation X. In X, maximizing utility requires us to do something horrible. Our intuitions scream not to do it, so utilitarianism is wrong". However, if these intuitions are unreliable, then so are the objections. Utilitarians can then come out and say 'the intuitions required for our theory are much more obvious/reliable/<other positive adjectives>, so our theory is better supported'.
But I don't want to say that Utilitarianism is the be all end all. For instance, there's Kant, who built his moral theory on abstract first principles rather than situational intuitions. I, unfortunately, am not well versed in him, so that's all the detail that I'll go into.
Now, there are a couple of points that you made which I'd like to respond to.
> If I don't agree with 1, your whole argument breaks down.
As an addendum, this is a good thing! It means that this premise, if true, directly supports the conclusion. Arguments with unnecessary premises get confusing. They're bad practice - just like dead code is bad. It's expected that you need to accept all of the premises in order to get to the conclusion.
Oh, and I think that your points above are really a rebuttal of (3.), not (1.). Even if other people have other intuitions, hopefully you still believe that (1.) I have the intuition that everyone ought to avoid causing unecessary suffering? It's just not clear that (3.) my intuition of 1. provides at least some evidence that 1 may be true.
> <virmundi's examples of questionable intuitions>
Your examples are all great, but I disagree with the point you're trying to make. 100% consensus on moral intuitions isn't necessary. They're clearly a flawed sense that is prone to error. The important question is, rather, do they lead to truth more often than they lead to falsehood? I don't know the answer to that question, but it's the vital one.
> seldom is there a Joker as in Heath Ledger's character. If a person fully believes that others don't count, at all, then the rule breaks down.
I want to take a hit at this one separately too. The existence of s/a hypothetical Joker/very real sociopaths/ is not necessarily proof against moral intuitions. These people might just have an impaired ability to sense moral truths.
And all of this leads us back to whether moral intuitions are generally mostly sort-of good indicators of truth. Here experimental philosophers could disprove this by showing great enough variance in moral intuitions. Or close off this avenue of criticism by showing a high degree of correlation between many moral views of many people.
Otherwise, questioning whether moral intuitions are evidence go pretty deep into Epistomology, the study of how we know what we know. That's a giant pile of worms. Great fun, but I've already created a monster with this post so I'll leave it.
TL;DR: It's all really a question of whether or not moral intuitions provide solid evidence for moral claims. Also, I want to see Batman again.
I too picked an ethic. Mine is Christian with a good deal of Epicurean infusion. Religiously I believe we can eat animals, but need to care for the whole world (that's man's job). So I eat them. I don't kill things for the fun of it.
Presuming an agnostic world view for a moment, the same applies. You can do what you want. There are consequences. You've made one of them feeling bad at the thought of eating a complex animal. Why does that matter? I'm not saying you're totally wrong for thinking that. Just try to understand truly why. Is it because something got imported into your world view to make you think that it should matter. If so is that a valid importation?
The agnostic view is there since I think, or at least assume, the majority of people on HN are agnostic. From such a view point, there is no tenable, logical reason that one should not eat meat or, in this specific case, a creature of intelligence. Such an argument comes from emotion. That's as equal as anything else in an agonistic, amoral universe. I just want to people to realize that it's a simple choice, not an absolute. Further, I prefer people coming from such a world view to ponder what they view properly. I find many pull from a Judeo-Christian ethic without realizing it. I'd like people to either break from it for a new model, or, at least, realize there is common ground between them and their theistic peers.
Unfortunately Buddhists and Jains don't get away any better. They have an underlying belief in a Universal truth. The Universe can punish (at least for Buddhists; I have trouble pinning Jains down on from a karmic perspective since I'm not terribly familiar with them).
Edit: critic -> critique
 Or, for weak agnosticism, currently unknown.
Seriously though, I think the "blind faith" usage of the term faith is its weakest form. "Trust" and "confidence" are good synonyms. Because as a rule, humans have faith in a great many things, and the vast majority of those faiths are not characterized by a lack of knowledge or evidence. Consider the following statements:
- The astronauts had faith in the laws of physics.
- My husband was unfaithful to me.
- I've lost my faith in humanity because FooBar was elected.
- Have you no faith in me?
- The war started when our allies broke faith with us.
- You should always negotiate in good faith.
- My dog has been my faithful companion for a great many years.
Think about the faith being represented by those phrases. Does the person who had the faith have it without intimate knowledge of the object of the faith? No! The faith existed because of what they knew about the object, not in spite of it.
> In fact, I argue that such is the definition of faith -- to trust despite not knowing.
I don't think that's such a big difference. Believing in something is trusting it to exist and to have the properties that you think it does. If the astronauts were wrong about the laws of physics, it would have broken their trust and thus their faith.
Hell, just for funsies, to drive the point home:
> belief - Trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something
We agree in the main. My point is one of where we put the emphasis.
My counterargument, if it is one, is simply that when humans actually have faith in something, it's almost always "trusting what I don't know is going on, because of what I know of this object in other circumstances".
The husband "trusts" his wife to be faithful, not because he has a tracker on her and so knows where she goes at all hours, but because he knows who she is when she's with him.
A soldier "has faith in" in the general's battle plan because of the general's past victories.
I'm just arguing that all the really useful definitions of faith imply that the trust is actually rooted in knowledge and past experience, not merely blind, hopeful, stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears-and-sing-la-la-la ignorance of reality.
1. I don't think it serves much purpose if it's directly synonymous with trust.
2. Such a definition of faith runs directly against the definition of agnosticism, which asserts that such knowledge is unattainable.
I think the word faith brings to the table much of the denotation of trust, but with the connotation of doing it despite not knowing. After all, there are many husbands who find their wife cheating. There are many soldiers that end up dead, despite the best general's most careful planning. There's a level of the unknowable in all these scenarios, and faith is the continuation of belief in the face of these unknowns.
Or, put this way: The saying is that "trust is something earned". It's earned through proof of intention via past experience. I think faith removes this "earning" step -- it's trust without necessarily being earned.
You have used an analogy here, in order to aid your point, but it is not valid. Laws of physics do not intersect with faith. At all.
Sure there is. Mass production of meat is one of the major fuels for global warming, so if our fitness function optimizes for survival of our species, we better go veggie.
inb4 Prisoner's Dilemma
Edit: grammar clarification.
So, why is it still acceptable to most Catholics?
Because this is not proven. Soy is pretty bad for us. The best diet to date is the mediterranean diet. While not having much beef, it does include ample amounts of fish with some chicken. If we focus on science, vegetarianism is not the best course. Moderation that includes taking life is so far (and this can change) the best solution.
Edit: formatting to break response from quote.
There's enough evidence to suggest that it is, and conclusively.
When I went vegan, I also thought I was choosing a sub-optimum diet, but it was a compromise I was willing to make. As I got more educated on nutrition, I came to realize that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks substantially.
People have been vegan for thousands of years. There's a plethora of information on the problems that animal products cause. Do a search for endotoxemia, if you want one (of the many) general issues cause by animal products.
> Soy is pretty bad for us.
No it's not, Vincent Price foundation-sponsored research notwithstanding. There's more actual estrogen in cow's milk. To suffer deleterious effects from soy, you need to eat nothing but soy. Not no other protein - nothing but soy.
And that just soy, that's not 'no animal products'. I know people who avoid both due to allergies, and are healthy. I eat plenty of soy, and my doctor tells me I'm doing great. My bloodwork never comes back 'ok' - it's comes back 'optimum'.
> If we focus on science, vegetarianism is not the best course.
It is. Please don't trust me: go look it up.
And regardless: what is 'best' for our health, isn't 'what is necessary', which was my original question, and is the edict I am questioning. Thousands of people live and thrive without animal products, include centenarians and high performance athletes, so clearly, it is not so deleterious as to prevent one from thriving.
Is it not important to strive to be a good person, if you can? Is this not a part of catholicism too?
A few years ago foods like eggs and coffee were poison. You should eat margarine instead of butter, now it is the other way around.
This science branch seems to attract charlatans.
It seems like it is incredibly difficult to perform conclusive research around nutrition, human growth etc without violating a bunch of ethical standards. The relative inability to perform research that comes to solid conclusions combined with the fact that food is something that people make purchasing decisions around every day (ie there are lots of $'s involved) creates huge scope for dubious ideas and ethically dubious businesses to thrive.
Regardless, the healthiness of vegetables isn't new science, nor is our understanding of the fundamental requirements of the human body. We know humans require iodine, vitamin d and other essential vitamins to survive. We know humans can't manufacture 9 specific amines that we colloquially refer to as 'protein', and require them from their diet. This isn't new science, and we know that it's possible to be healthy and vegan, which is why the World Health Organization, Kaiser Permanente, among other health organizations have started promoting plant-based diets.
(If I'm feeling cynical, my usual answer to the question 'where do you get your protein?' is 'which ones are you specifically concerned about?', since the questioner invariably doesn't actually know what a protein is, but vaguely knows that meat has it, and broccoli "doesn't".)
(Broccoli has almost as much protein, on a caloric basis, as steak (8 grams per 100 cals vs 11 grams). Though, that's kind of a cop-out answer, because while broccoli contains all the right proteins, it only has very little of one of them. Then again, nobody has to live just on broccoli - just like nobody in their right mind would live on nothing but steak. Add a few beans to your diet and boom, broccoli is now as complete as steak. I have more trouble >choosing< what to eat than ever having trouble 'finding enough things I can eat' :) )
There have been vegans for literally thousands of years - both buddhist and jainist religions espouse vegan or at least extremely plant based diets. What is new, however, is the plethora of new vegan food products and services, that have made being vegan vastly easier than it has ever been to be vegan - fermented cheeses, dozens of 'meat' substitutes, even brand new kinds of food, like Quorn. It's kind of crazy (and not entirely good for my waist :))
If you have any further questions, I'd be happy to answer them. I also have sources that I consider science-based and would recommend to others, but particularly those with a skeptical eye :)
It's true we (most of us) don't absolutely need to kill animals for food. On the other hand there is a vast human momentum in the direction of raising, killing, and eating animals. That doesn't change overnight, or even in a generation or 5. It takes a long time to change such things.
My theory: It's for a similar reason that homosexuality has been taboo for so long. In the beginning, tribes needed to procreate in order to survive, and homosexuality didn't help with that, and it may have hurt. So it was written into old books: go forth and multiply, and don't have fun with those of the same gender. That won't produce offspring.
But now the challenges of survival do not involve "not enough offspring". So we no longer NEED to worry so much about homosexuality, not for 1000 years. And yet, the belief and habit of mind continues.
I would argue there are two pre-requisites for that: consciousness, and culture.
With no culture, starting from zero, during the limited span of a single life, it would be pretty hard to come up with grand concepts such as the circle of life.
Alternatively, some scientists and philosophers believe that ethics predate human beings - that they exist in many if not all social animals. In other words, some basic ethical emotions evolved. They then form the basis for our more sophisticated ethical and legal systems.
Also, while you can argue that at some level the universe is "amoral" - it's just particles and laws of physics, right? - you can see that logic requires similar ethical systems in all social creatures. Things like "don't harm others, reciprocate help that you receive, help your elders, protect the young, etc." At some level, those derive logically for social organisms. So one could argue that such ethical laws are fixed and given in the same way that higher mathematics is fixed and given.
I know many will not like that conclusion, but again, presuming an amoral universe, and I have little evidence outside of a religious world view that I'm wrong to presume such, there is no right or wrong. You admitted in your first sentence. Comment is helpful in that many people, from all backgrounds, assume that ethics are absolute. An atheist will never claim otherwise in discourse. However, they act contrarily to this view. They get mad when someone violates one of their rules.
Edit: corrected to empirically.
I'm not sure what you mean by your atheist comment. It is not contradictory to hold strong morals while accepting moral relativism. As long as you accept that there is no objective moral truth, but have some coherent basis for your beliefs, there is no contradiction. Having no morals whatsoever would be inhuman.
The entirety of my atheist morality is centered around the recognition that other humans are as acutely conscious as I am, and inflicting suffering on them (or allowing them to suffer through negligence or inaction) is cruel and distasteful. This is a fancy version of "treat others as you want to be treated", and is rooted in basic human empathy which stretches back millions of years - there is evidence of early hominids surviving years after grievous injuries because they were supported by other hominids.
That I feel this was selected for as an effective strategy to ensure survival rather than laid down by a god does not mean I reject the views or hold them weakly. I see no contradiction in stating that my feelings are a byproduct of biology while still having them.
The trouble with this worldview comes when someone who holds it thinks anyone other than themselves ought to behave this way. Once you say people should treat others a certain way, you've crossed the line into moral absolutism. You think other people should live by some standard which you find better than the one they live by. Why should they?
In the morally relativistic worldview, where do the terms "wrong", "bad", and "evil" find their roots?
Put another way, why shouldn't I go around raping people? Isn't that good for the survival of my genes?
Quoting myself: "The entirety of my atheist morality is centered around the recognition that other humans are as acutely conscious as I am, and inflicting suffering on them...is cruel and distasteful". I'm honestly not sure how you made the leap to my comment justifying rape, though I take your question in good faith.
Maybe you're pointing out that I've misunderstood relativism/absolutism? I feel that a moral hierarchy exists, but it does not exist independently of the (collective) human mind. I do think that everyone should behave with empathy because all humans have an equal capacity to suffer, and from that conclusion you get obvious things like "rape is bad", "murder is bad", etc. This still leaves a lot of ambiguity, however, and doesn't result in a strict, absolute code of ethics.
Am I actually a moral absolutist, but misunderstanding the terminology?
Taking your reply in reverse order:
> Am I actually a moral absolutist, but misunderstanding
> the terminology?
I think as soon as you use terms like "should", "ought to", "right", "wrong", "good", "bad", and "evil" that you're making an objective statement about an ideal state to which you think the world should conform, ought to conform, etc. From a theistic point of view, those words make sense, but from an atheistic point of view, every time you use one of those words to refer to someone else's behavior, I'm going to ask, "Why?". Basically, if you try to effect any moral change at all in anyone, you've proven that you actually think there is at least one thing which you consider to be "right" for the other person to do, regardless of what they think about it.
> I do think that everyone should behave with empathy
> because all humans have an equal capacity to suffer,
> and from that conclusion you get obvious things like
> "rape is bad", "murder is bad",
Here's what I think is a stronger, more formalized version of your argument:
Premise #1: All humans have an equal capacity to suffer.
Premise #2: Suffering is a specific electrochemical impulse in a human's brain.
Premise #3: Every human dislikes the "Suffering Impulse"
Premise #4: Human beings *ought* to reciprocate their dislikes.
Conclusion: Therefore, everyone *should* behave with empathy.
> I feel that a moral hierarchy exists, but it does not
> exist independently of the (collective) human mind.
Also, I highly recommend that atheists read Frederich Nietzsche's "Parable of the Madman". It's another take on the moral implications of atheism.
I think when most people say "moral relativism", they're talking about the descriptive or meta-ethical definitions. Even though I don't believe there is any objective universal truth that says murder is wrong, I still have based my moral system on the idea that society will not function if murder is allowed, so I and my society should remove anyone who violates this standard from our society. That is ideally what jail is for.
Your definition seems to push this to the absurd, and almost circle back on itself. Who are you to say that I shouldn't force others to live by my standard? Isn't that just your personal position, that you should keep to yourself?
If torturing animals could make them talk, maybe we should do it for research, even if they end up telling us lies...
If that's the case, do you think it's okay if a human sets a dog on fire just for fun? How about mentally challenged humans? Should their pain be disregarded?
P.S: I didn't down vote.
I'm sure that given the choice between not being tortured and being tortured, you would pick the former. And that's because you recognize that pain -even if subjective and sometimes necessary- is a negative feeling for the one experiencing it.
What's arbitrary is saying that you don't want to inflict pain on human babies but are okay with inflicting pain on baby pigs, assuming both are equally capable of experiencing pain and distress. You are picking an arbitrary trait (species) and ignoring the relevant one (ability to feel pain).
Every ethics system that we have is a might makes right. People need to realize this. When someone makes any ethics claim they have to realize that it is at best only useful for a specific location and point in time. Eating animals or not is a preference. Who we keep alive and who we don't is too.
What I wanted to make people think about is why they hold their views. What assumptions are they making? Are those assumptions sound?
For example, why not kill people for food? Best argument I can have from an amoral background (the universe created ducks that rape and hamsters that eat their young) is it destabilizes a society. The assumption is that society is good. Therefore anything that makes it worse, is bad.
An interesting thing to ponder are questions like "Is society good?" Could we have limited cannibalism? Would that make society more stable?
In particular, there are only so many ethical systems that can work for a social species like ours.
If that is true, then our ethics predate humanity and are not arbitrary, or at least their core isn't. In some sense, then, our ethics are true and universal.
I'd say yes, for me, as long as I will them. Or, put differently, they're decisions more than discoveries. Decisions based on discoveries, but ultimately decisions nonetheless. I consider murder evil because I decided it is. I can explain my reasons but even the ideas I have from others I made my own by thinking them through, so they're my reasons. I agree to the law that makes murder illegal because I consider murder wrong, I don't consider murder wrong just because it's illegal. There is clearly some overlap there and some amount of rationalization, but that's what I strive for. Vet everything, repeatedly, kick my own tires. If it's in my pocket I either have to make it mine or get rid of it. I don't to leave the world the clusterfuck of second-hand half-truths I started out as, if I can avoid it. Even my own errors would be an improvement.
> There are probably statistical truths. Such as generally don't kill people.
I don't know anything about statistics but I know that that's not how statistics work :P
Ultimately science is of no help here. Seeing the world more clearly gives us better tools to make decisions, but those can't make those decisions for us. They can't even try. Science can tell you how much weight a bridge can bear, not whether you should build or cross or burn it.
From your previous comment:
> Every ethics system that we have is a might makes right. People need to realize this.
I absolutely agree. The disagreement is mostly about what constitutes might. For example, I genuinely think slavery, all sorts of exploitation and parasitism, harm and hurt people on both ends. Always, without fail, quick or slow it will do the work. In the same vein I think obedience is fit for children, not for adults.
More importantly, I think "might" or "power" are very crude words. I like to differentiate between power as in "not being powerless" (the German word for unconscious, "ohnmächtig", which literally means "without any power", gives a hint of that), and power over others. One I consider positive (and it's not zero-sum either, to the contrary), the other very much negative.
I think only a weak person, someone compensating something, would seek power over others, or not look for ways to responsibly get rid of it once it was trusted upon them (by becoming a parent or a million other perfectly legitimate situations).
Last but not least, and the universe "has morality" only in the sense that I and others in it insist they do. Morals only make sense between "persons", however you want to define those, so of course the universe is amoral.
> What leads you to believe that there is a universal truth especially in light of the fact that the universe does little to actively preserve life
As for universal truth, well, there is something here, something is going on. None of us can ever know it completely, and none of us can know it the same way, but it's still the same thing we have different views about. I can't prove this, but I'm at ease with this assumption for now. Worked out so far, on my scale.
But truth and morals are apples and oranges, and as for morals, exactly because the universe, certainly empty space and a lot of planetoids, is so very hostile to life (as we know it) I think we should stop following narcissistic pied pipers who in the end get nothing out of it either into all sorts of dead ends. Just because why not.
> the fact that the universe does little to actively preserve life
What does "actively" even mean? What "actions" would an universe do? We are part of the universe, do our actions count towards the actions of the universe?
It passively sustains us, for a while. Which, for all we know, might mean the universe is as busy as a one-legged person in an ass-kicking contest. Should it shoot food from space at starving people? We have the sun, that people still starve is our doing at this point. When I called the universe and outer space hostile to life, I was harsh. The universe is rich in elements and bursting with energy. It bombards our planet with so much sun light we get skin cancer from lying on the beach for looking better to others, while people starve and wars are waged. And we call the universe hostile to life? No. Even accepting the heat death of the universe, we're clearly projecting.
How does a parent actively support their child becoming an adult? What about supporting them being an adult? At some point, "active" becomes an oxymoron. So, if you actively sustain life, then what is the life doing? Don't get me wrong, just laboring to live is not a desirable life to me either - but "just living" is not even life, it's just hysteria in a void or a mall which are the same thing.
Some or all of the above may be BS, I admit I layed it on as thick as I could. For better or worse, this is how I see it :)
The instinctual human ability to mentalize about another creature's state of being is likely where our capacity to, for example, domesticate animals and keep them as a food source came from in the first place. That same ability is what enables us to consider the ethics of whether or not, or how much, to eat them.
Unless one is strictly involved in a predator-prey food relationship (i.e. hunting is your only means of procuring animal-based food), you can't separate the practice of mass-production or collection of animals for food with the "worry" about their welfare, both at an individual and population level.
For the general concept of animal herd vs people collective (effectually herd vs herd), this doesn't much matter. The best argument one can muster its that we, being rational, should preserve a reasonable food chain. The idea goes like this: A stable, sustainable food chain allows us to continue living; continue living is a good thing; therefore we will manage the food chain. Nothing here says that we should exclude from the food chain anything with an intelligence. Such a pronouncement is merely a feel good. It's an extension onto the animals of the view that we, ourselves, would not like to be eaten. If such a measure were carried out without hypocrisy, one would not eat any animals. Drawing an arbitrary line is ok for the individual. It has no weight as moral imperative or generalizable postulate.
Why stop there? Why is continued living a good thing in the broader scope of the universe?
> Nothing here says that we should exclude from the food chain anything with an intelligence.
Then why not eat other humans too. If you do away with all ethics what argument do you have against it?
To deny that human emotion and feeling have any value is to deny the value of humanity.
I don't necessarily think it is. I empathize with Joker in the dark night series. If I wasn't a Christian, I'd be a Nihilistic Existentialist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism).
I addressed this elsewhere. TL;DR: as long as you don't disturb society, go ahead. Disturbing society is a relativistic metric that I chose since it seems to make my life nicer.
There are personal (and group) ethics which the OP appeared to be reflecting on when they pondered whether or not to eat the octopus. These arise from a mix of rational, irrational, habitual, and even hypocritical thought processes, and that's all part of the human condition.
A very reasonable, consistent position.
Although there is a gray area the closer to the line you get (insects for example), that does not diminish the fact that we can say with high degree of certainly are sentient (cows) and are not sentient (wheat).
Fine line you got there. Why do you have it? I'd take an actual response, but the question is rhetorical. I just want people to know why they make decisions they do. I also don't want people to harm others that don't agree. For example, you should have no power to prevent me from eating a chicken legally.
High expectations for someone thats been here for almost 10 years
But I should correct you, ALL ethics are manmade, although I'm sure you are aware because anybody that would say that has accepted nihilism and the futility of moral relativity.
A) now you've gone and made me feel old. :(
B) I hope to raise awareness about how HN should be. I'm not making a rallying cry, "Make HN Great Again!" We should be more civil. People coming in for the first time might not know that.
Are you better than lions? Are you better than sharks? Are you better than the bacteria in your guts? They all are pretty successful.
Humans are so arrogant.
Lions are much better than me at hunting, but on making moral judgements that aim to minimize harm, I think I am better.
If you go down the road of basing your morals on what lions do, you will end up trying to justify why infanticide is a good practice when a father dies. Or why might makes right.
I agree that humans are arrogant. That is pretty evident in the way they treat other species.
Was it afraid of you? I've never seen an octopus in the wild so I'm guessing it must be an experience. Would you mind sharing a bit more of what happened?
In retrospective I kind of wish it hadn't happened but I appreciate that I have experience to share:
The PADI divemaster located one while we were scouting a reef and chased it out with knife then placed it on my hand. I disagree that the experience was forced upon the octopus now .. I respect them; they are very intelligent.
Anyway -- in my hand it expressed itself with touch. Initially tightening and posing itself in a drawn-back manner it spread on my hand and decided I was safe to explore. Our eyes met and my body relaxed. The octopus began to relax.
A tentacle wrapped around my wrist almost reassuringly. The octopus let me know I was not food. He / she seemed content to just hang out but I chose to let the encounter deescalate and put my hand near a rock then slowly unwound his / her tentacle.
The octopus seemed to understand my intent (my fear?) and glided over to the nearby rock to watch me go.
It's pretty sad what we are doing to the oceans.
The following videos of my pig demonstrate this.
Video 2: Pig is first learning the task.
Video 3: Pig has slightly optimized the task.
Video 1: Pig has mastered the task.
I always find it very hypocritical that the same people who have no problem eating pork are outraged over people eating dogs in Asia.
Definitely are Asia (Laos and Cambodia, I think)
A pig wants to live just like a dog does. They want to avoid pain and suffering just like a dog does. They seek comfort just like dogs. The fact that they were bred for a certain human purpose, doesn't change any of that.
In a society, people seem to taboo things which indicate a general lack of emotion toward other members of the society. With farm animals, there are social (and religious and legal!) rules around maintenance and slaughter, and farmers deal with large groups of animals, so the relationship between farmer and animal is one-to-many and doesn't leave much room for long term emotional bonds to form.
For working animals and pets, the bond is one-to-one, and involves working directly with the animal in question. The relationship with a working animal is much closer to the relationship with another human. Thus, killing a dog in a society where the role of a dog is to herd cattle makes you seem dangerous to the people around you, while killing a cow in a society where cows are food is explicitly sanctioned and not an indication that you might murder your co-workers.
Pigs have never been domesticated in that way in large numbers and have always generally been used as food, or for limited other purposes, occasionally as pets.
I think this difference in lineage and purpose leads to a very meaningful distinction.
You know how Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a pig that has been genetically bred to want to be eaten? Like that is it's greatest desire in the world.
Dogs have been selectively bred over thousands of years to want to be our friends - to trust us, and to work together as companions. To deliberately kill and eat an animal like that is worse than eating any other.
The dog species doesn't trust us (in any meaningful way). Individuals dogs do. Likewise, regardless of what we've bred "food" animals for, properly cared for farmed animal will hold the same implicit trust in a farmer as a dog does with his owner.
These evaluations need to be made at the individual level to make any sense.
You can find the same exact "smile" in goats, sheep and pigs, they're definitely not making that face because they're happy.
But a dog's smile is so much more, posture, sounds, tail wagging..
A dog's smile makes me smile.
And for that matter, humans can bare their teeth as well..
Or the average age of the site is too young to remember Pulp Fiction.
« Some people have gone so far, especially with show pigs, as to slather sun screen onto their pigs when they know that they will be out in the sun for a considerable time and they don't want them to get dirty with mud. »
You could also just keep your pet pig indoors all the time.
This is a short survey article that goes into more detail on pig intelligence: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982210...
(2 January 2017)
Amazing creatures, incredibly friendly and even affectionate.
I really enjoy going to visit them. I come away with a huge grin on my face.
I bet there are more animals that you don't eat than you do, and maybe there are even more that you would not be prepared to eat than you would.
I would consider heating human. I have nothing against another mammal. However, I would require humane treatment of said human (or any animal or byproduct I eat).
I'm not going to pretend I'm some morally superior being. But I'd like to at least reduce suffering of beings. After all, something else must die for me to eat (and I can't live on milk and honey).
They would revert back to natural tool users with each succeeding generation. As an order, they wouldn't even be able to dominate house cats.
We don't know, but most studies that look at what does well in acidic oceans come up with jelly fish. Lots of jelly fish.
Yum, heavy metal infused jelly fish...
What I am more interested in, is to know how it is smart, not how much. How does it perceive? How does it connect and process information? How does it interract?
Is there a way to approach this subject besides shape shifting into an octopus?
I don't think humans can ever fully understanding other species. Yet, the more we observe, cut, and process other animals, the more of ourselves we discover. Rats dream and laugh! Crows use tools! Dogs understand fairness! Is it really any surprise that we have so much in common?
> We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are.
While not really equipt with fortune-telling capabilities, Paul and most other octopi (as aquarists will share) have very distinct personalities, have favorite caretakers they can individually recognize, and in the wild will save food, trade rocks and have learned to pull diving masks off humans who bother them.
But they weren't arguing about the plural form, but that cuttlefish win in a battle of intelligence. Also, if you watch the video it says all are correct.
AFAIK we have established that quite a few animals for example apes such as the Orangutan are able to identify and reason about themselves in relation to the rest of the world. They are capable of deception, cooperation etc. And of course a range of complex feelings.
The color changing and arms of an octopus would at least allow for complex information communication.
God I hate science reporting. It's like they can't help but interject spasmodic blather into an article.
I feel like the author is playing a trick on me, and feels like when Feynman cracked the joke about a French curve "The French curve is made so that the lowest point on each curve, no matter how you turn it, the tangent is always horizontal."  Neat! ... wait. Oh. Right. Of course.
If you really think this is just "spasmodic blather," then I think you may be missing a lot of important things about the human experience--and even, I'd submit, some of the true wonder of science. (This is not to say, however, that you must find it interesting, much less persuasive. I don't.)
This will be one of the first things I will try if and when I am in Korea. I'm not bothered by it since I'm Korean but I can understand the reaction, I'm sure Hindus aren't too thrilled by our cow consumption either.
Pretty smart for mass produced babies. Humans wouldn't stand a chance.
"And yet... could we be missing something here? While they can’t see much of their own kaleidoscopic skins, they can clearly sense inside what they are doing. Remote cameras on the seabed show octopuses crackling with color changes, even when there is no other creature present to observe them. Godfrey-Smith believes this is just a byproduct of neural activity, no more than an expressive quirk. But maybe it isn’t. Perhaps they are talking to themselves."
In any case, the smart/brain weight ratio is not in humans' favor here, that is for sure!