Find our conversation on the Sentientism YouTube and Podcast.
Kyle (@KyleJohannsen2 and on PhilPeople) is Adjunct Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Queen’s University. His research is in social & political philosophy, & in animal & environmental ethics. He teaches normative ethics, metaethics, bioethics, business ethics, cyberethics, the philosophy of law & critical thinking. He is the author of “Wild Animal Ethics“.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?” Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the video above, the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple and here on the other platforms.
1:22 Kyle’s Intro
2:25 What’s Real?
- Growing up Roman Catholic. Attending catholic schools. Believing in god.
- “I didn’t like being Catholic. I found it very restrictive… I didn’t like having to pray – it felt fruitless”
- Ethics was being thought about but “I didn’t like the conservative values” e.g. abortion, contraception, sex
- “It just struck me as false.”
- Catholicism did leave the impression that it’s important to think about morality
- Majoring in philosophy
8:25 What Matters?
- “Morality is objective”
- “Even relativists behave like morality is objective… why would you argue unless there were some right answer?”
- Even under objective morality duties vary by context
- Moral objectivism doesn’t have to imply moral realism
- Consistency, coherence, flourishing, co-op as potential groundings
- Goods (welfare, resources, health, relationships), functions (distribution, efficiency, increases) & constraints (respect) values
- “I don’t know if pleasure always wins out”
- Pluralism within Sentientism
21:15 Moral Scope? Sentience
- Anthropocentrism, Sentiocentrism, Biocentrism, Ecocentrism
- Sentientism as Sentiocentrism & Naturalism
- Sentiocentrism itself implies naturalism. It conflicts with many supernatural/religious worldviews (e.g. soul as basis for moral value, use of science to assess sentience)
- Hard cases of marginal sentience (brain injury, foetal development, simplest animals)
28:27 The Journey to Sentientism
- Taking a PhD animal ethics course taught by Will Kymlicka based on Zoopolis
- Concluding that “Sentience is the correct criterion for inclusion in the moral community”
- Pluralism re: various goods. But sentience is a condition for the non-welfare elements to count as good (e.g. health only matters if the being cares about being healthy)
- “Veganism is a moral requirement if sentiocentrism is right”
- Going vegan during the PhD. Cutting out animal products over 8 month transition. Finding social support
32:36 Biocentrism, Ecocentrism?
- Indiv. biocentrism (e.g. blades of grass), holist biocentric (e.g. species), ecocentrism (e.g. ecosystems)
- “I’m really sceptical of these views” – a veneer for anthropocentrism
- Are these things valuable or valued? The reasons for wanting to value them tend to be very anthropocentric
- Environmental pragmatism “seems crazy to me”
- “Expanding the moral community should have big practical implications” as it does within humanity
- Biocentrism & ecocentrism are trying to put a progressive veneer on anthropocentrism. Trying to make it look progressive when its not
- Wild animal suffering exposes tensions between environmental & sentiocentric ethics. Dropping the “appeal to nature” fallacy resolves some of the tension
- “That’s moral progress – you have to interfere in things”
- Most bio/ecocentrists grant no practical moral consideration to farmed animals
41:13 Wild Animal Suffering
- Thinking about wild & farmed animals from day one (for most, wild animals come later)
- Effective Altruism: scale, tractability, neglectedness
- Most wild animals are “r-strategists”. Short, painful lives
- The need for more research re: tractability
- Gene drives (e.g. amp nociception but reduce the affect of pain)
51:49 The Future
- Anthropocene: humans are the main thing influencing the natural world
- Duties of justice
- Looking for win-wins e.g. Elimination of the screw-fly parasite
- “Veganism frees us to care about wild animals”
- Ending animal farming enables re-wilding. But low/high suffering ecosystems?
- Consistent moral consideration for non-sentients makes human discrimination less likely
- Non-biological sentience (AI) & S-risk?
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at sentientism.info. Join Kyle on our “I’m a Sentientist” wall.
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Thanks Graham for the production!