Tobias (@TobiasLeenaert) is an author & a vegan advocacy consultant. He blogs at Veganstrategist.org & wrote “How to Create a Vegan World”. He is the co-founder of ProVeg International. He is an Effective Altruist – thinking about the best ways to achieve a compassionate society. He also describes himself as a “Slow opinionist”.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
1:28 Tobias’ Intro – A life of vegan advocacy
- Setting up EVA, then “meta-activism” helping other activists be more effective
2:37 What’s Real?
- Being confirmed as a Catholic & attending Catholic school because “that’s just what you do”
- Defending rational & scientific worldviews
- “I’m not the most devout atheist you can find”… there’s a possibility there’s “something more”
- Could religious visions one day be made real through technology? Reincarnation, heaven, creation/simulation?
- “Maybe religious ideas are perversions of what is technologically possible”
- Science fiction
- Hallucinogenics & “religious” experiences
- The hard problem of consciousness vs. “it’s just what doing this sort of info processing feels like”
- The echoes of religious ideas even for those who no longer believe. The Exorcist” movie
15:34 What Matters Morally?
- Being raised as an ethical person. Volunteering at 12 yrs old
- A teenage phase of being less morally engaged, then “it came back – especially with animals”
- “That empathy was there always – without needing a system of rules”
- Emotional & rational bases for compassionate ethics
- “You can be a vegan sociopath”… decide rationally to act compassionately without feeling empathy
22:12 Extending moral consideration to non-humans
- Loving companion cats and dogs at home as a child
- Wondering what’s the difference between them & cows we eat
- “If I can’t answer that question I have to stop eating animals”
- Taking 10 years to go vegan even after that realisation
- The power of taste preference… overcoming intertia
- Making a bet to go without meat for a month. Then carrying on
- Empathy, reasoning, then practice
- “Making compassion easier”
- Peter Singer’s shallow pond thought experiment
- Anthropocentrism, sentiocentrism, biocentrism, ecocentrism
- Wild animal suffering & artificial sentients
- “I don’t see the point in going beyond sentientism – only sentient beings can suffer by definition”
- The dangers of environmentalists granting moral consideration to species or populations that have no concerns & can’t experience
- By definition suffering is bad
- Sentientism as the only moral discrimination?
- Environmentalism often being a veneer on anthropocentrism
- Humans appreciating the aesthetics of the wild but not the suffering within it
- Taking the perspective of the other
- Imagine extreme suffering & you won’t philosophise – you’ll just say “please help me”
- The most important interests & needs are the most common across species
- Why even many vegans have a blind-spot re: wild animal suffering
- Consequentialism, utility, virtue, deontology & care ethics
- Do the general public care about wild animal suffering more than vegans?
- “Many people have replaced god with nature”
- Theodicies & the brutality of “nature”
46:55 The Future
- It’s simple & obvious that we should stop killing & exploiting animals… maybe this century
- Tech alternatives, awareness, behaviour, then norms will shift
- “If people have to make too much effort – it won’t happen”
- “We can create bliss for humans – but how do we do that for other sentients”
- Decisions re: companion, liminal & wild animals. How many & how will they live
- Population control, suffering alleviation
- Re-wilding. Trophic chains and suffering levels
- “We are the only ones who can do it… If you want a universe without terrible suffering… you need at least one intelligence to be raised to an incredible, advanced level.”
- Toby Ord’s “The Precipice” doesn’t mention the human role in caring for other sentients
- “That’s one reason we shouldn’t go extinct”
- Alien & artificial sentience
- “I would say we should not develop artificial sentience”… the chance of massive suffering is quite high
57:07 Vegan Advocacy
- Risks of welfarist dead ends & ethics-washing
- Incrementalism with a clear abolitionist goal
- More aggressive tactics will become more fruitful as alternatives become easier
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.
Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.
Thanks Graham for the post-production.