QUESTION TEXT: Some vegetarians have argued that there are…
QUESTION TYPE: Role in Argument
CONCLUSION: If the only argument for avoiding meat were ethical (we shouldn’t eat conscious creatures) then it would be less clear that we ought to avoid meat.
REASONING: Vegetarians argue that there are two individually sufficient reasons for eating meat. But if we removed one reason the other might seem less compelling as a sufficient reason.
ANALYSIS: This is an interesting argument. I hesitate to call it good or bad. It’s more thought provoking than anything. Vegetarians think that not hurting animals is a sufficient reason not to eat meat.
But they also think meat is less healthy. So the issue seems clear. Eating meat is more ethical and better for you. So there’s no advantage to eating meat.
But what would vegetarians think if meat was essential for good health? Then vegetarians would face a tough choice. The ethical choice would also make them sick and unhealthy. It’s likely that fewer people would become vegetarians purely on ethical grounds.
It’s purely a thought experiment. The argument does not attempt to prove one way or the other if meat is essential to health or whether meat is instead unhealthy.
The author’s hypothetical situation transforms vegetarianism from an easy choice (it helps us and helps animals) to a hard choice (it hurts us but helps animals).
The author is suggesting that it is both the ethical and self-interested reasons combined that make vegetarianism an easy choice for many people.
This is just a hypothetical argument. We don’t know what the author actually believes is true.
- No. For all we know the author might agree that vegetarians are correct. The argument is a thought experiment.
- Actually the author is suggesting that the two reasons support each other. It’s easier to give up meat for ethical reasons (benefiting others) if we also think that giving it up is healthy (benefiting ourselves).
- No. The author might actually think that vegetarianism is healthy. But he is asking us to imagine what we would think if we were 100% certain that vegetarianism was actually unhealthy. It is totally hypothetical.
- CORRECT. The author is implying that we think ethics is a sufficient reason only because we are also convinced that eating vegetarian is healthy too. The author is suggesting that we actually think it is both reasons combined that make a sufficient justification.
- Not quite. It could still be the case that ethics are a sufficient reason to avoid meat. The author is making a hypothetical argument about what would happen if that weren’t true.
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