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Alicornutopia • View topic - Short Story: "Dogs"

Short Story: "Dogs"

Plain old discussion of Alicorn stories.

Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby Kappa » Sun Aug 30, 2015 6:55 am

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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby jalapeno_dude » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:11 am

(Feel free to delete/edit this if you don't think it has the right tone for the forum, Alicorn!)

After thinking about it for a little bit, it seems like anyone who agrees with Clara's position, in the form "it is better for an animal to exist even if it will suffer," should also be pro-life (i.e. opposed to abortion). It seems if you believe that statement you also should believe that "the existence of an animal by itself has large positive utility" and therefore "preventing an animal from existing has large negative utility". Then just substitute animal->human and you're done. I am pro-choice (not opposed to abortion) but also disagree with Clara's position; I would like to hear from people who are pro-choice (which I assume is most of the people on this forum) but agree with Clara to understand what is wrong with my logic here.
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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby MaggieoftheOwls » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:23 am

Well, for one thing, the difference between pro-life and pro-choice isn't just "is it better for the fetus to exist or not." It is also "is the positive utility incurred by the fetus continuing to exist outweighed by the negative utility incurred by the mother having to continue being pregnant." Pro-lifers believe that in all, or nearly all, cases the answer is no. Pro-choicers believe that it varies by the situation and also that the ability for a woman to choose has a high value all by itself.
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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby Kappa » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:24 am

To me, Clara doesn't come across as proposing what you attribute to her.

Granted that she doesn't say a lot about her reasoning directly, so I might be missing something, Clara's logic seems to run along these lines:

(1) I want dogs.

(2) I disagree with the mainstream societal opinion that it is an atrocity for any creature to exist that suffers without insight.
(2a) And I'm going to take good care of my dogs, so they won't be suffering all that much anyway.

(3) Therefore, I will have dogs.
(3a) I think it is also okay for other people to have dogs (parrots etc) (perhaps only if they will also take good care of their animals), and I will investigate opportunities to steer the cultural consensus in that direction if they come up.
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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby Unbitwise » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:26 am

jalapeno_dude, you made me realize that in the story world, there are no nonhuman minds any more (ignoring the possibility of aliens that haven't been discovered yet). I am willing to justify the continued existence of animals with “we want to live in a a more-rather-than-less interesting universe”. That last being a summary of a moral theory that I've been trying to work out to solve the problem starting from “utilitarianism is reasonable, but both average and total utilitarianism are broken”.

(Note that this does not prohibit other means to reduce animal suffering.)
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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby Alicorn » Sun Aug 30, 2015 11:35 am

I just want to make sure everyone has noticed the implication that the fact that Clara was able to clone herself some dogs means that humanity has the genomes of a lot of animals on file. Except for the ecological collapse that the Extinction kicked off (like, when the rabbits stop reproducing you run into some trouble trying to be a wolf), no animals directly died as as a result and no animal species were genuinely irreversibly extinguished to the point where you couldn't whip up a batch with the right equipment.

Please do not turn this thread into an outright abortion debate, but all prior comments on the subject are tentatively allowed and similar analogies in that vein are likewise.
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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby Bluelantern » Sun Aug 30, 2015 11:43 am

Sorry for my bad english

"Yambe Akka take the stars, they’re zombies!" - Isabella Amariah
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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby DeAnno » Sun Aug 30, 2015 11:45 am

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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby jalapeno_dude » Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:06 pm

Thanks for the responses.

My own replies/things I learned (in keeping with Alicorn's responses, I will try to phrase this in terms of animals rather than abortion):

1. I hadn't realized that people would draw a distinction between "I want this species to exist" and "I want members of this species to exist." If you prefer the former and don't accept the existence of DNA records, etc. as sufficient, it seems you need at least one member of the species to be instantiated (i.e. alive)--and presumably you need enough to have at least a full social group so the animal is "happy"/"content". Obviously in the world of the story humanity has gotten rid of not just animals used for meat but those used as pets. To me that indicates that humanity has decided collectively that there is no way to raise animals, even pampered as pets, without excluding suffering. So we seem to be in a situation where we've chosen a certain number of animals to suffer to satisfy our values, which although it isn't necessarily incorrect seems problematic. (It's the Omelas thought experiment, but with a payoff that seems much less worth it to me.)

2. I find Kappa's (2a) ("And I'm going to take good care of my dogs, so they won't be suffering all that much anyway.") to be morally abhorrent, much more so than (2) by itself. I think this is because it's special pleading--or, in more philosophical terms, it doesn't universalize. I would find a (2b) ("So I'm going to support placing animals in the habitat that minimizes their suffering as much as possible.") or a (2c) ("So I'm going to advocate for training prospective pet owners in how to minimize their pets' suffering") to be much less upsetting.

3. I definitely understand DeAnno's response (except for how you can possibly take acausal bargains seriously without being a utilitarian; maybe you're calling "explicitly not a utilitarian" is what I'd call "having a selfish utility function"). But I don't think you agree with Clara's position in the way I phrased it, really--you constructed an argument which might actually be closer to Clara's "actual" reasoning but which I find much less interesting philosphically. :p

4. I definitely understand MaggieoftheOwls and DeAnno's (slightly different) points re abortion being different because of an offsetting negative utility to the mother (to phrase it overly technically :p). Obviously this is a hugely important factor, and I think by itself is a winning argument for the pro-choice position. But I would much prefer to abandon the premise that potential lives must have positive utility altogether (c.f. Peter Singer's position on infanticide and Greg Egan et al's position on running simulations with human-level or greater agents in them who aren't aware they're simulated being immoral, both of which I broadly hold and which don't have this negative utility feature to the same extent).
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Re: Short Story: "Dogs"

Postby Kappa » Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:25 pm

I should maybe have phrased 2a differently, or hit the distinction a little harder when pointing out Clara's apparent(-to-me) reasoning. Let me try again.

At some point in her life, Clara considers the decision of whether or not she will secretly and illegally clone herself some dogs.

In considering this decision, she takes into account the following aspects of the situation:

(1) That she, the potential recipient of these dogs, wants some dogs.

(2) That she, the person deciding whether or not to bring these dogs into the world, believes the existence of dogs is not inherently a moral atrocity.
(2a) That she, the potential future caretaker of these dogs, both has the resources to care for them to an exceptionally high standard and fully intends to do so; and therefore she, the person deciding, can be sure that these dogs will lead happy and comfortable lives.

With these factors in mind, she decides that she will secretly and illegally clone herself some dogs.

Neither "placing animals in the habitat that minimizes their suffering as much as possible" nor "advocate for training prospective pet owners" really has anything to do with the decision of whether or not to secretly and illegally produce and own dogs. They apply somewhat to the decision of whether or not to publicly advocate for animal revivalism, but Lady Clara is not doing that. The farthest she goes in that direction seems to be entertaining the prospect of lending her dogs to a documentary production and then not doing that when the documentary people prove to be anti-animal-existence.
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