plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

"The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?" - Jeremy Bentham
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Ruairi
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plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by Ruairi » Sun May 22, 2011 2:07 pm

what do you guys think about plants that eat animals like the venus fly trap? they're not sentient but the flys and stuff they eat are

DanielLC
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Re: plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by DanielLC » Sun May 22, 2011 10:45 pm

I think flies are negligibly sentient. I'd be more worried about animals that eat smarter animals, like pigs.

Also, I don't think the sentience of a predator is significant compared to its effect on the pray.
Consequentialism: The belief that doing the right thing makes the world a better place.

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Ruairi
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Re: plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by Ruairi » Thu May 26, 2011 4:55 pm

i used to have one and the flys seemed very sentient when it was closing on them.

as reagrds the second part of your post what do you mean exactly?

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Re: plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by DanielLC » Thu May 26, 2011 6:28 pm

First part: read Sentience and Brain size.

Second, I mean that if you have a predator that creates one utilon by existing, and destroys 100 by eating, it has a net utility of -99 utilons. If you have a similar predator that isn't sentient, it has a net utility of -100 utilons. How much does a 1% difference matter? You should try to kill both of them.

Also, come to think of it, most diseases are such predators.
Consequentialism: The belief that doing the right thing makes the world a better place.

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RyanCarey
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Re: plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by RyanCarey » Fri May 27, 2011 1:59 am

Yeah, I think it's true. A venus fly trap is causing suffering by eating sentient beings. So are humans. Neither of these is a good thing. The main difference is that humans can, at least in theory, change their mind about the ethics of eating. So it's the humans, especially the open-minded ones, who deserve the focus of our attention. :)
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LadyMorgana
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Re: plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by LadyMorgana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:08 am

Okay this is weird that I've just seen this because today I encouraged the girl I look after (I'm a nanny) to buy a venus flytrap and then panicked lol.

I encouraged her to buy it because it was from Oxfam. Then I worried about the extra flies that would experience painful deaths because of my action. Then I realised that the flies would probably have had painful deaths anyway. Then we agreed that she should squish some flies quickly and feed them to her plant. Then we said she should squish some spiders too because they give flies very painful deaths.

I love that I can have such conversations with an 8-year-old :)
"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind" -- Bertrand Russell, Autobiography

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Ruairi
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Re: plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by Ruairi » Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:02 am

jeez yea she must have awesome parents if you can talk to her about stuff like that!:D youll probably have to wriggle the fly around a little (maybe a very little) in the fly traps mouth and then let it go when it closes because it senses the movement and then shuts

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Re: plants that eat animals and utilitarianism

Post by Ubuntu » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:21 pm

"I think flies are negligibly sentient. I'd be more worried about animals that eat smarter animals, like pigs."

Either someone is sentient (they have subjective experience) or they don't. There are no degrees to sentience. Even if some animals feel emotional states less intensely in response to the same stimuli, have less accurate sensory perception or are cognitively less developed; you either experience subjective mental states or you don't. Either someone can see or they can't see. Less accurate vision doesn't mean one can see less, although some animals do have a wider range of vision. The only negligible amount of pain (if happiness and pain are the mental states you care about) is 0. The mildest amount of happiness or pain is still good or bad, it's just not as good or bad as more intense (or prolonged) happiness or pain. Either flies can experience some amount of pain or they can't and that wouldn't be directly related to how cognitively developed they are. Many non-human animals have sharper senses or senses that we lack despite being cognitively less developed. Humans who are more cognitively developed don't experience pain more intensely than humans who are less so. Humans don't have the largest brains, even relative to our size.

"Also, I don't think the sentience of a predator is significant compared to its effect on the pray."

I agree (if I understand you right). I don't have a problem with eliminating all venus fly traps or bacteria or viruses that cause illness (in sentient animals) if doing so doesn't indirectly disadvantage sentient beings. I have a 'problem' with eliminating sentient predators even when it's justified.

" Then I realised that the flies would probably have had painful deaths anyway. "

I don't know how many flies benefit more, overall, from their lives than they are harmed by them but I'm sure they experience some happiness when eating and mating and maybe even from other things like flying, basking in the sun or warm light, finding certain smells or things to be interesting or just enjoying the moment (I admit I'm being very speculative with the last two and maybe flying). I remember reading an article that claimed that fruit flies who weren't able to mate were more likely to indulge in alcohol.

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