Friday, July 22, 2016

Does Knowledge Increase our Moral Obligations?

From guest blogger, Kara.

Norcross’s example of Fred’s Basement utilizes the love of puppies and shock factor of extreme torture for gustatory pleasure. Most people think Fred is a sadist, and that a love of chocolate does not justify torturing animals. Documentaries like Food Inc. have striven to make people aware of the devastating treatment of animals in the factory farm industry. If we follow the logical path of Fred:
1.       If it’s wrong to torture puppies for gustatory pleasure, then it’s wrong to support factory farming
2.       It is wrong to torture puppies for gustatory pleasure
3.       Therefore it’s wrong to support factory farming
In the second portion of Norcross’s article, he claims you get a cup of coffee which has cocoamone, unbeknowest to you. You enjoy the chocolate mousse way more, and when you learn about the cocoamone and how it is extracted, decide not to get another serving.
I have an issue with the moment you learn of the torture-you become a moral problem. Everything we eat, wear, are a part of-we have a moral obligation to know what we are doing. It is not enough to stay purposefully ignorant for the purpose of being morally pure.

Does this mean that the article that informs people about the industrial farming industry is the moral code? Does the information presented serve as the ultimate moral path? Why is ignorance an acceptable defense in a moral pickle?

For example, anyone who goes to Henry Vilas Zoo sees many animals in tiny cages. The polar bear does the same motion, diving in the water, flipping over, and surfacing-hundreds of times per day. The zoo sells cute souvenirs, and claims to be the best of educational tools for animals.
But seeing a sad polar bear, or alligator in a foot and a half of water is clearly not the best outcome for the animals. I don’t need to watch Blackfish to realize whales probably don’t have the best quality of life in captivity. Does this make me more morally corrupt than the individual who thinks Shamu is happy as can be? When and why do knowledge dictate morality? If parents take their children to zoos, to increase their child’s well-being and worldiness, are they morally corrupt for supporting animal cruelty? What if they, too, are ignorant to the cruelty?

My main bone of contention is: Does knowledge, or lack there of, increase our moral obligations? Or are we always morally obligated to do the best we can, think about our impact, and try to be as knowledgeable as possible without direct information? Am I worse for eating a cheeseburger while watching Food Inc. than Fred is for having his neighbor torture puppies? What if I’m eating a cheeseburger while watching a Tysoncommercial for happy cows? The end for the animal is the same either way. But-am I more morally culpable in one situation than another? 

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