A Dilemma of Consumer Responsibility


Letter to Philosophy Now sent in under one of my pseudonyms

Published in Issue 104

Dear Editor,

In A Dilemma of Consumer Responsibility, Richard Corry says that if consequentialism (judging actions by their consequences) is the foundation of our morality, then we should seriously consider being vegetarians because of the suffering produced by the meat industry.

In attempting to produce a logically coherent moral view of the world, he looks in great detail at the inconsistencies thrown up by eating meat and watching child pornography. I found this an interesting mental exercise, even though I did not agree with what he was saying. However, part way through, I began to wonder what purpose this and similar articles serve. The idea clearly is to establish a rational framework for morality with no logical loose-ends. But although we may use our reason to point up inconsistencies in our moral codes, we need to take note of the fact that over the millennia philosophers have failed to agree upon a comprehensive rational approach to morality, and in practice the public do not take any notice of their (varying) Olympian pronouncements as to how their lives ought to be lived.

If moral codes are simply a means to enable us to live together as social beings this is hardly surprising. So, whilst disappointing to philosophers, there is no reason to suppose that there is some great logic which can be applied to this. Indeed, the fact that our moral codes change with both time and place indicates the opposite. As individuals and groups we may explain to others why we feel that particular things are unfair and so try to influence the consensus view. Fortunately, however, in a democracy what is treated as a criminal act is a decision taken democratically, not imposed by special interest groups, whether religious or quasi-religious; or indeed by philosophers, whether vegetarians or carnivores.

Thomas Jeffreys, Warwickshire

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