Re: virus: Cow

Dan Plante (
Fri, 21 May 1999 01:57:29 -0700

>At 11:17 PM 20/05/99 -0400, Richard Aynesworthy wrote:

> did I avoid the essence of your question?

...he asked, all petulant and doe-eyed. Give me a break. Over-analysis and $64 words don't make an effective smoke screen for most of the people I've read posts from on this list.

>You asked for a
>definition of a complex concept, [living organism] and I gave the
>best one I have at my disposal at present. Right now I'm trying very
>hard to come to a better definition, looking at the theory behind
>self-organising systems and autopoiesis, but it's a process. I can't
>give you a pat and simple answer - I don't know that there is one.

There isn't, there _can't_ be, which is part of what I was trying to get at and you know it. So if, as you state, you have no rigourous, internally consistent definition of "living organism", from what philosophical soapbox do you unequivocally assert that a cow _is_ one, even to the point of berating and admonishing others for not harvesting their own grease-ball burgers as a kind of penance, as you do below? Let's be honest with each other, okay? We both know that a cow is a living thing, we don't need a scientifically rigourous definition to acknowledge this obvious and rather large fact, we just need to realise that this fact exists within a certain narrow context (human spatio-temporal scale), and when you try to exceed the bounds of this context (Gaia, viruses, prions) the definition of "life" loses its integrity and starts to get fuzzy.

You can't use philosophical rigour as a foundation for your opinions, because that doesn't exist. If you practiced a certain modicum of honest, critical self-analysis, you'd realise that your stance, at its core, is a purely emotional one; that its based on the aesthetic milieu instilled within you over the years by every major and minor experience you've had since birth. There is no absolute, invariant, cosmological principle that demands sanctity for any and all "living things".

But, you know what? I have sort of the same view on life and killing as you do, up to a point. I just don't kid myself that its drawn from anything more authorative than my own aesthetic sense. I just don't "like" unnecessary cruelty, and I try to discourage it wherever I see it. On the other hand, since I know it is, ultimately, just my opinion, I can't bring myself to piously beat other people over the head with it.

>> Also, you started out by insinuating meat eaters are analogous to
>> rapists
>...that's not what I said. Reconstructing from memory, the exchange
>went like this:

Right, that's not what you said, but it is what you insinuated. One of the drawbacks of being percieved as exceptionally bright, is an inability to feign stupidity with any degree of efficacy. No one on this list has ever let me off the hook (thank Christ), so I feel obliged to show you the same respect.


>(1)Cows taste good, they have for millions of years. [original
>(2)Rape feels good, it has for millions of years. [my response]
> intention with this was to illustrate that the original
>statement (1) looked glibly at one aspect of a complex issue and
>reduced a question of ethical significance to a glib quip.
>...the fact that meat tastes good doesn't have anything to do with
>the ethical questions surrounding the issue of humyn/animal
>relations. It's a statement of preference.
>, yet below you start out with a stance of philosophical
>> pragmatism, and end up arguing from aesthetics. Argument for its own
>> sake, rather than as a means to an end, is fun for some people. For
>> others, it's just a pointless waste of time and energy
>...again, I attempted in the best way I know to answer the question
>you asked. I'll try again.
>>>> 2) Identify exactly how far down the food chain of "living
>>>> organisms" you go before you cease to bother yourself with the
>>>> considerations you grant to cows, and:
>...I bother myself at all levels of the "chain of organisms". I
>acknowledge and accept that I must destroy some living systems in
>order to maintain the integrity of my own system. This is neither a
>source of joy or regret to me, it is a simple fact.
>...I respect all living systems for the complexity they represent and
>the intricacy of their function. I try, insofar as I am able to
>consider the implications of all my actions, again accepting that I
>can neither predict or control many of the consequences of my acts.
>3) Why you draw the line there.
>...I haven't figured out where the "line" IS yet, I don't know that I
>ever will arrive at a fixed distinction. At present, I find the idea
>of autopoiesis as defined in the work of Humberto Maturana and
>Francisco Varela to be illuminating. I can't give a summary or
>synopsis, it's a system that's new to me.
>...The question of how best to structure my relations to the living
>systems around me, within the living system in which I am embedded is
>something I think about a LOT. I find it endlessly complex and
>...I really am not trying to be argumentative here. If you've
>perceived my responses as such then all I can ask is that you please
>take into account the limitations of this medium as a vehicle for
>p.s. Please do not address me by a deliberate misspelling of my
>chosen tag. I don't know why you've chosen to do so, I find it
>>>...I have to kill to live, an implacable fact. I eat as low on the
>>>food chain as is consistent with my material situation [ie. living
>> in >urban north america with no present option to alter that
>>>circumstance] and the continuation of my person. I don't demand that
>>>cows not be killed [I don't *demand* anything], but I think that
>>>blandly consuming a being with a mind without participating directly
>>>in the death of that being, getting your hands dirty, as it were, is
>>>both thoughtless and disrespectful.
>>>...sticking with cows for the moment. A cow is a complex, intricate,
>>>wonderful creature. Cows are beautiful, biologically fascinating and
>>>rife with significance in the history of the humyn organism.
>>>Mechanically raising, slaughtering, packaging and eating creatures
>>>with as much integral meaning to our culture, thoughtways, myth-
>>>structures and history [in story and analysis], doing so while
>>>deliberately distancing ourselves from exactly what that entails, is
>>>blind and ignorant [willfully so] and incredibly selfish.
>>> want to eat a cow, fine. Take responsibility for your choice.
>>>hell, realize that you are MAKING a CHOICE. Raise the cow. Put your
>>>own energy and time into the life of this organism. Then participate
>>>in the slaughter and butchery, or at least watch. Have respect for
>>>what you destroy.
>>>[I think I answered point 3 above]
>>>> 3) Why you draw the line there.
>>>> Thanks,
>>>> Dan
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