Philosophy of the Arts


Our Parents’ Speciesism

The wisdom in the way our parents lived, and the speciesism therein: they might think of other people first as members of this or that family, and then, perhaps, also, as ugly, or beautiful. They would simply assume that since these people had parents, so they would if not soon then eventually find a partner for live and start a family, etc.

Speciesism is the reproach that one discriminate members of the others species to privilege those of one’s own. There is an element of truth in this resistance to such self-upheaval. I would like to use the term in a different sense here, though. When one looks at ethical debates about the problems of contemporary life, and science, one finds that for each and every aspect of a decision tragic cases are presented which, it is argued, should be universalised over. The resultant stalemates are inherent in this approach. We know from centuries of literary texts that tragedies come up in every angle of human life. They are individual; they cannot, at least not straightforwardly be universalised over. Thus, a debate about whether or not we should abort embryos with a genetic disposition for some particular form of cancer ends with some or other political decision, to be run over in another ten years by the next debate, and, what is even more tragical—I think ethics itself is tragic—by law suits and new scientific developments. There is no stopping science.
One way to deal with this predicament is by speciesism. First, it must be established, as I did above, what it means to be a member of a species, then we can counter every development that tampers with such essence. We cannot discuss cosmetic surgery by pointing at tragic cases—even though they may teach us things—and universalise over them, as there are bound to be found tragedies on either side of the dilemmas. Instead, cosmetic surgery cannot possibly be defended by reference to what it means to be a member of the human species, as one’s children will not look like their beautiful, cosmetically constructed parents.

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