I read posts here that call different things, "harmful to humanity." Others call something, "good" or "bad" or "evil."
A very simple question, who gets to decide the definition of "harmful to humanity" and what is there critieria? The same for "good," "bad," and "evil?" These are not material terms. If everything is material isn't there just "is" and not these moral declarations if one is being thoroughly atheist?
Help me understand your position so I am fair and honest about the views. Thanks.
In my experience, good, bad, evil, and "harmful to humanity" - these definitions can be subjective and individual, or the individual may defer to another to decide on the definition for you.
Where there is secular law, we have legal and illegal, and the definitions of good and bad may have been factored into the making of these laws to some extent. In these societies, good and bad are individual, though society will have an impact on the individual's ideas.
Where religious law is in force, such as with sharia law, there may be someone who is called upon to make these judgements for the individual.
So that's the "who".
The criteria? As diverse as the indviduals making the decisions, though their criteria is informed by the society they live in to some extent.
I personally understand "evil" as a religious concept - "against god."
The concepts of good and bad are tricky. In the question of abortion, is it good or bad? Circumstances count for a lot here, but even when you get to the specifics, you'll get differing opinions because people's priorities are different.
I think "good" is "reducing suffering", "bad", "creating suffering", to be very simplistic, as not even that holds in every circumstance. Is it bad to upset someone by telling them the truth? Hard to say without detail.
"Harmful to humanity" - more or less everyone gets to decide, each of us weighing in on the discussion to a greater or lesser degree. There is no one person or group who has the final say, there.
Then again, it could be that your definitions of sentience differ - the dictionary defines sentience as being, "able to perceive or feel things," but I've known those who view sentience as possessing self-awareness, such as being able to recognize onesself in a mirror. I've known cats bristle at the "cat" in the mirror, and seen birds (OK, one --) fly into a mirror, thinking they're going to hook up with the one they're flying toward.
A little thought tells one that "sentience" was originally meant to mean "having senses." Well, just about all life has some form of sense. Even jellyfish, who have no brain. Even protozoa, who lack even a nervous system. They can gravitate toward food and light. Yes, and even plants, who react to light and fight wars amongst themselves for space, light, water and other resources in the forest.
Taking a strict definition of sentience, almost nothing edible is left.
Again John, I'm really not in this, but I'm a big plant person - I mean, plants are important to me, not that I'm a giant rhubarb - and I can't say it's pain, but plants been documented to have registered on an electroencephalograph when their branches have been clipped.
"Suffering" is a word with a variety of applications. If I don't water my plants sufficiently, they wilt, and I've even heard people refer to underwatered plants as suffering from underwatering.
If my definition leads to almost nothing being edible, that's not true for me. It's just true using YOUR concepts, which is a good enough reason to find them specious. I just follow terms and definitions to their ultimate logical conclusions to see if they become absurd or untenable.
I think self-awareness is relevant when one can be aware of and anxious about one's own future. I.e., it's probably not relevant except for humans, because only humans are aware that one's future can be influenced by the way humans treat other humans around the world.
As for defining sentience, are we just complicating the more relevant question of "how much can an animal suffer"? I.e., it often doesn't take much more than one's own empathy to determine if another animal is suffering, which (imo) is the real issue.
That nothing should suffer is a stipulation you are making, whether based on evidence or emotion. It's not a law of the universe and it CERTAINLY isn't a law of nature here on earth that nothing should suffer. Quite the opposite actually, if a law is involved at all.
I don't really know how to apply the concept of "necessity" to suffering, but without that the concept of "unnecessary suffering" doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I mean, is ANY suffering necessary or is it all merely incidental?
There's no way to quantify how much another creature can suffer because the suffering of another is something one imagines. Empathy is based on imagination. Our own suffering is the only real suffering we shall ever know. The suffering of others is imaginary, even should it be real to others, a situation for which there will never be proof.
To believe in the suffering of others and act on same requires faith as well as imagination, so believe in the suffering of others if you like, but in doing so be aware what you are doing and on what basis.
The consciousness of others is something of a Shroedinger's Cat of psychology, except that it's a cat that forever remains boxed. (An imperfect analogy but I hope you get my drift.) It is largely what Ludwig Wittgenstein's later philosophy was about, and he might have been the deepest epistemological thinker of the 20th Century. It's hard enough to know if a man feels pain or is really feeling pain. What about a lobster?