In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
01:12 Helen’s Intro
02:49 What’s Real?
- The passage to caring about ecosystems for many ecocentrists was through a connection to individual animals
- Growing up atheist “just like everybody else in the Soviet Union” in Moscow
- Parents who were “wild about wilderness”
- Visiting Siberia “in the summer & without gulags”
- “I loved fairy tales” but firmly naturalistic
- “I’m still 99% atheist with 1% reserved for doubt”
- Political dissident parents, pushing back on ideology
- “When you don’t have religion you create a religion yourself – & that was communism… we had Lenin & Marx as our gods…”
- Lenin, Marx & Engels as a “holy trinity”?
- “My parents instructed me that it was bullshit”
- Naturalistic ontology (no supernatural) & epistemology (use evidence & reason)
- Flat earth, anti-vaxx, one party states…
13:45 What (& Who) Matters?
- Kant, deontology, consequentialism…
- “You can call me a cynic – I don’t think there is any absolute morality – I think we invent it.”
- Injustice & unfairness
- Frans de Waal’s fairness experiments with chimps
- “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are all about us humans” (vs. https://sentientism.info/how/sentientist-development-goals)
- “Why don’t we have the same moral consideration for billions of other living beings – it just seems inconsistent… unjust”
- Environmental Justice isn’t about the env. its about distribution of goods & harms among humans
- Wokeness, fairness, division & distribution. The risks of forcing pure equality (e.g. Soviet Union – bloody revolution then a new elite emerges)
- Avoiding relativism & nihilism. Can we construct a universal morality?
- The impacts on Soviet Union of WWII then Stalin
- “I see our planet as one of billions – so it doesn’t really matter”
- Anthropology & cultural relativism “why is human sacrifice & cannibalism a good thing?”
- Moral progress “but things can be turned back too”
- Survival & reproductive rationales for morality “Otherwise you get beaten up”
- “Anger at inconsistency… it pisses me off that it just applies to one single species”
- Writing picture novels as a child “Animals don’t want to be in cages or eaten… There’s something strange going on… the way we treat them… something has to be done”
- Feminism: “I’m just not interested to be honest”
- “There was no such thing as veganism in the Soviet Union”
- “If you don’t do it it doesn’t matter at all – there are 8 billion others”
- “I’m not vegan, I’m a flexitarian… I can even eat meat… although the last time I did was a long time ago”
- Can the drive to reduce our individual impact go too far? Guilt, nihilism, even suicide?
- “If I’m too strict myself… I get so angry at them… & at the whole world”
- “What’s the most efficient way for me… to influence… open-minded dialogue”
- “children are the worst thing you can do for the environment… even if you bring them up well”
- “I actually feel more comfortable sinning a bit”
- “Not talking to the converted”
- Recognising the value in our own sentient flourishing. Not just minimising impact
- The pros & cons of every consumption decision vs. the explicit suffering & death caused through animal products “the victim is there on the plate”
- “Some of us are predators… the lion shouldn’t feel guily about eating an antelope”
- Leopold’s Land Ethics
- Natural predation vs. industrial agri
- Animal rights/welfare
- “I do see us human beings as part of nature… we’ve become a kind of cancer… like a virus”
53:14 How Can We Make a Better World?
- J. Baird Callicott’s “A Triangular Affair”
- “Individuals comprise species & species comprise ecosystems”
- Ecocentric & sentiocentric common fronts (win-wins) & common enemies (e.g. animal agri)
- Invasive species
- Hierarchies of sentience vs. pure egalitarianism
- “My daughter is much more harmful to the environment than an earthworm”
- Ethical progress & regression
- Afghanistani Taliban
- Learning from indigenous & non-western ethics
- Animals in politics & law
- CSR/ESG in business
- Family planning & population taboos
- Degrowth business models
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. Helen and I are already there!
Thanks Graham for the post-production.