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Killing a Squirrel?

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tobyk100
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Thanks for all the replies and disscussion. I might as well tell you all the truth:

My family got an air gun to shoot racoons and possum, who were eating our chickens (nothing morally wrong with that I suppose). I was thinking about killing the raccoons, realizing I would have to be up late at night and have good aim. So I decided to do some target practice. I got a tenis ball and started to shoot at it. Surprisingly I could hit it from a good distance, I guess it is easier to shoot a rifle than it looks. After a while I decided to do some live target practice. I started walking around my yard looking for a squirrel and when I saw one I went down on one knee, clicked the saftey off and hit the squirrel right in the neck. I'm not going to lie; I felt pretty good about my aim, but I also felt/feel bad.

I don't feel bad for the squirrel or its family, I just feel bad because I had no reason to shoot it. I guess it was for personal entertainment, which is a reason and that makes me think there is nothing immoral. So the question comes down to this:

Is it wrong to feel pleasure at shooting a harmless animal?

NOT: Is it wrong to shoot a harmless animal?

My answer to the second question is "no." But what about the first question?

Your thoughts?

Edited by tobyk100
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The worst I could say is that your were thoughtless, in shooting a squirrel for no reason. Since squirrels are vermin that deserve to die painfully if they don't stay the hell out of my attic, I might commend you for performing a public service, though your actions probably don't help my cause. The wrong would be in setting out to shoot animals for no reason other than to cause them pain. However, there are plenty of valid reasons to kill squirrels.

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How do you establish the basis for this right? Why is this right so specifically limited? Why is a person's use of "eating" more understandable than a person's use of "improving firearms skill" (for instance)?

Welcome to the forum.

Can you explain how a bear has "determination"? Determination implies lots of things, like decision making, goal setting, etc. etc. I'll give you the "ability" part, but I question the "determination" part.

Webster's definition: Determination: the act of deciding definitely and firmly; also : the result of such an act of decision b : the power or habit of deciding definitely and firmly.

Ya, we could go off on a tangent getting into whether or not animals think ... but I won't. You say towmaatoe and I say towmaytoe..

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But do you thing it's right to feel pleasure at shooting a harmless animal? I understand taking pleasure in recognizing you skills, but I thought the question was about something else.

You mean pleasure because it is a harmless animal? I don't see any reason to take pleasure in that qua harmlessness, no. That's why I added the qualifier "not necessarily;" because it is possible the shooter is enjoying that rather than his shooting skill. I don't think that was the intent of the questioner, though.

Of course, if you have decided that squirrels are vermin then you could conceivably take pleasure in ridding the world of vermin (assuming you were rational to conclude that). But I think that to qualify as vermin, it would be impossible to also qualify as completely, 100% harmless. Of course then there is the question of whether any animal actually could qualify as completely harmless. Most can at least poop on you.

Ya, we could go off on a tangent getting into whether or not animals think ... but I won't. You say towmaatoe and I say towmaytoe..

I think what he was looking for was: "Oh, I didn't mean to imply that bears have volition; they don't." If you agree with that, then just say so and save everyone the trouble of an argument.

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Let me clarify. I didn't find pleasure in the fact that it was harmless, I took pleasure in the fact that I could shoot it (it happened to be harmless). I put harmless in there to make the point that there was no justification (as in danger, food, ect.) beside the pride of being able to shoot it. I felt good about my aim/skill.

So I think I have (with your help) answered the question for myself. It is moral because I took pleasure in my ability to properly utilize this particular instrument.

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Ya, we could go off on a tangent getting into whether or not animals think ... but I won't. You say towmaatoe and I say towmaytoe..

I didn't think you could support that. And yes, Inspector pretty much nailed what I was looking for.

Edited by RationalBiker
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I think what he was looking for was: "Oh, I didn't mean to imply that bears have volition; they don't." If you agree with that, then just say so and save everyone the trouble of an argument.

An argument was exactly what I was not going to indulge in. In the example I set forth, volition/determination was clearly "implied" & understood. Splitting hairs over a definition was not going to add anything substantive to the meaning of my example. Therefore, "If you agree with that, then just say so and save everyone the trouble of an argument." But in a nice way.

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An argument was exactly what I was not going to indulge in. In the example I set forth, volition/determination was clearly "implied" & understood. Splitting hairs over a definition was not going to add anything substantive to the meaning of my example. Therefore, "If you agree with that, then just say so and save everyone the trouble of an argument." But in a nice way.

Um, you still didn't give a straight answer.

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I didn't think you could support that. And yes, Inspector pretty much nailed what I was looking for.

What's to support? Look, let me translate my story for you since you are obviously more interested in "intellectualizing" and arguing than seeing the simple point. This thread was started on the question of is it wrong to kill an animal just for the sake of killing. Then it evolved into an endless defense and counter-defense of "what-abouts" involving hunting, varmint eradication, killing for sport, killing for fun & even mindless killing just because one can. So, here it is ... I do not believe that killing is a sport. Period. I don't find it amusing or even interesting. Especially enough to turn it into a subject for dissection of its various "pointless" facets. Yes, I do believe that animals can think and therefore be influenced by "determination". Although their thoughts are more-than-likely limited to avenues of simple necessity they do have to make decisions in order to survive. Can I prove this beyond simple calculated logic via observation ... nope. Have I engaged in any enlightening conversations with animals lately for the purpose of garnering "support" from them that they would rather live than die or even if dying for a cause is of value to them ... nope. However, as a human being I do believe that being guided be some type of "prime directive" (if you will), that killing is wrong, is a pretty good insurance policy against the rationalizing through "intellectual" discourse, that killing is ok. Now if the whole area of interest for you in this discussion is "can animals experience determination" (and I must assume that you believe that they can’t, therefore making it ok to kill them(?)) and that that is of more importance than "killing is wrong" then you are truly a contrarian and would argue with a wall while that wall was falling on you. Have a nice day.

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To be honest I think killing things is probably something that's hardwired into our brains. We're not the greatest hunters nature has ever produced for no reason. Compassion and empathy on the other hand might also have biological roots, which I assume accounts for the reasons why you're feeling bad about killing a squirrel.

Objectively speaking though, I don't think there's much of a different between say, squashing a cockroach, swatting a fly, or killing a deer. The only real difference is that since biologically we're closer to a deer, we innately feel worse about killing it due to natural empathy. Likewise I would probably feel worse about butchering a chimpanzee than I would about shooting a deer due to genetic proximity.

The act of killing an animal doesn't really bother me, unless in doing so we are damaging the environment in which we live. For instance the systemic elimination of large predators as it effects the ecology, or hell, the thousands of species wiped out daily from the bulldozing of rain forests. However, the intentional torturing of animals WOULD concern me, in so far as what it implies about a person's mental state, and the potential of those tendencies being transferred to a fellow human being (especially in regards to myself, my family, and my friends).

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To be honest I think killing things is probably something that's hardwired into our brains. We're not the greatest hunters nature has ever produced for no reason. Compassion and empathy on the other hand might also have biological roots, which I assume accounts for the reasons why you're feeling bad about killing a squirrel.

Objectively speaking though, I don't think there's much of a different between say, squashing a cockroach, swatting a fly, or killing a deer. The only real difference is that since biologically we're closer to a deer, we innately feel worse about killing it due to natural empathy. Likewise I would probably feel worse about butchering a chimpanzee than I would about shooting a deer due to genetic proximity.

The act of killing an animal doesn't really bother me, unless in doing so we are damaging the environment in which we live. For instance the systemic elimination of large predators as it effects the ecology, or hell, the thousands of species wiped out daily from the bulldozing of rain forests. However, the intentional torturing of animals WOULD concern me, in so far as what it implies about a person's mental state, and the potential of those tendencies being transferred to a fellow human being (especially in regards to myself, my family, and my friends).

Are you sure you belong on an Objectivist board? A lot of the ideas you put forth here run directly against Objectivism.

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Are you sure you belong on an Objectivist board? A lot of the ideas you put forth here run directly against Objectivism.

If every single person on this board has the exact same ideas, then why are we even here? Just so we can have a great big intellectual circle jerk?

Edited by Moebius
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Explanation, coming right up

To be honest I think killing things is probably something that's hardwired into our brains.

This is against the idea that each person is born tabula rasa, that is with no innate ideas. No, killing is not "hardwired" into our brains, just as nothing is "hardwired" in the sense you mean.

Compassion and empathy on the other hand might also have biological roots, which I assume accounts for the reasons why you're feeling bad about killing a squirrel.

Emotions are automatic responses based on chosen value systems. While the range of emotions possible (fear, happiness, compassion, empathy, etc.) may be limited and defined by biological roots, the causes of these reactions (killing a squirrel) are not.

The only real difference is that since biologically we're closer to a deer, we innately feel worse about killing it due to natural empathy. Likewise I would probably feel worse about butchering a chimpanzee than I would about shooting a deer due to genetic proximity.

There is no such thing as an "innate" feeling or "natural" empathy or even a pre-conceptual knowledge of genetic proximity.

The act of killing an animal doesn't really bother me, unless in doing so we are damaging the environment in which we live. For instance the systemic elimination of large predators as it effects the ecology, or hell, the thousands of species wiped out daily from the bulldozing of rain forests. However, the intentional torturing of animals WOULD concern me, in so far as what it implies about a person's mental state, and the potential of those tendencies being transferred to a fellow human being (especially in regards to myself, my family, and my friends).

This here is a mixed bag of proper ideas and an odd form of environmentalism, which is fundamentally anti-mind and anti-life.

I strongly reccomend reading Altas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, both by Ayn Rand, if you haven't already, and if you have, I reccomend Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Dr. Leonard Peikoff. He explains all these principles and more in a way that I am not currently equipped to do.

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If every single person on this board has the exact same ideas, then why are we even here? Just so we can have a great big intellectual circle jerk?

It's not that we all have the same ideas (far from it), it's that we agree on (or at least agree to agree on for the sake of discussion) the same fundamental principles. The purpose of this forum is to discuss and apply Objectivism from the viewpoint of those who accept Objectivism, or at least its primary ideas. I refer you to any of the members marked "Moderator" or to the forum rules for a full description of what I mean.

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This is against the idea that each person is born tabula rasa, that is with no innate ideas. No, killing is not "hardwired" into our brains, just as nothing is "hardwired" in the sense you mean.

I agree that each person is born with no innate ideas, at least in terms of ethics. In essence I think we're born as amoral beings, though with the ability to form rational thoughts.

However there are certain things I think that can be considered "instincts" that is biologically rooted into our psyche. That's what I mean by "hardwired". This is something that I deducted based on my belief in the theory of evolution. If I hold evolution to be true, that would mean that killing (or at least hunting and also to some extent the desire for violence - though violence is a loaded word that may impart ideas of moral judgment) is probably something integrated into our biological brain, the same way that lust and hunger is. I believe that to be true because logically it would appear that better killers or hunters would make for better providers for food, a necessary quality for survival.

So unless by being born without innate feelings you deny the existence of animal instincts, or that you accept that we are born with instincts but that killing isn't one of them, I maintain what I said to true without necessarily contradicting your original statement.

Emotions are automatic responses based on chosen value systems. While the range of emotions possible (fear, happiness, compassion, empathy, etc.) may be limited and defined by biological roots, the causes of these reactions (killing a squirrel) are not.

I'm not sure I understand exactly what you mean. I agree that emotions at its most basic level is a biological response, although NOT NECESSARILY based on a chosen value system. For instance when a one month old babe laughs or cries, I don't think it's caused by his or her value system, although it's certain an automated response. To be clear though, I do not deny that our values dictate largely how we feel about most things in the world.

Bottomline is this: I believe that a man's rationality exists CONCURRENTLY with our reptilian and mammalian natures, and each influences the other. Though I would agree that rationality exists independent of emotions and values.

I have read both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There are aspects of objectivism that I like, such as the idea that a man should always pursuit his rational self-interest, that there is a mind-independent reality which we perceive with our senses, or that the role of art is to transform abstract ideas into something that can interact with the human consciousness.

Honestly as far as I can tell the only thing that we disagree with, and I'm not sure if this applies to every other objectivist, is that I believe that biology and evolution plays an enormous role in the way our psyches are formed. This is something that we can agree to disagree with, however it does rub me the wrong way when you say something like "I'm not sure if you belong on this board..."

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However there are certain things I think that can be considered "instincts" that is biologically rooted into our psyche. That's what I mean by "hardwired".
That's a common mistake, and I myself made it, but I now understand that it isn't true, from a scientific perspective. The distinction that really made the difference for me is that between actual knowledge, which is what instinct refers to (in part -- there's also the "automatic compulsion" aspect), and a faculty for learning and reasoning. The faculty of reason is indeed hardwired, and let me emphasize that the faculty of reason is, but not any actual system of formal or informal logical inference.
If I hold evolution to be true, that would mean that killing (or at least hunting and also to some extent the desire for violence - though violence is a loaded word that may impart ideas of moral judgment) is probably something integrated into our biological brain, the same way that lust and hunger is.
Why does that follow? Are you claiming that a species always retains all of the cognitive traits of its ancestors?
So unless by being born without innate feelings you deny the existence of animal instincts, or that you accept that we are born with instincts but that killing isn't one of them, I maintain what I said to true without necessarily contradicting your original statement.
Man has no innate feelings of animal instincts. I'm glad we've straightened that up.
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That's a common mistake, and I myself made it, but I now understand that it isn't true, from a scientific perspective. The distinction that really made the difference for me is that between actual knowledge, which is what instinct refers to (in part -- there's also the "automatic compulsion" aspect), and a faculty for learning and reasoning. The faculty of reason is indeed hardwired, and let me emphasize that the faculty of reason is, but not any actual system of formal or informal logical inference.

I'm not sure I understand entirely what you're mean by equating "instinct" with "actual knowledge". To me an instinct is something that you're born with, and has nothing to do with knowledge. Although I agree that the faculty of reason is hardwired, instincts are as well - hence what I said about a man's rationality existing concurrently with his base instincts. Which brings us to this part:

Why does that follow? Are you claiming that a species always retains all of the cognitive traits of its ancestors?

Yes, that is precisely what I'm saying. Or at the very least, human beings possesses a portion of our ancestor's cognitive traits. The structure of the human brain consists of three parts. The brain stem, or archipallium, is the oldest part of our brain, which controls things like hunger, fight-or-flight fear reactions, and aggression. The limbic system, or paleopallium, which controls the emotions, hormone control, and social hierarchy. And finally the neocortex, which controls the intellects. All three parts are connected by nerves, and can potentially override each other.

Now I'm not neurologist, so maybe someone more knowledgeable on the subject could correct me if I'm wrong. But for animals early on the evolutionary chain, such as reptiles and amphibians, the archipallium dominates almost the entirety of their brain. For older mammals like cats, dogs, and horses, they have a large limbic system. For humans however, the neocortex takes up roughly 2/3 of our brain. Now, when we talk about "the faculty of reason", what we're really talking about is the neocortex. And when we talk about "instincts", we're really talking about the lower brain functions.

In essence, what I'm saying is that regardless of whatever value system or reasoning capacity you choose to acquire later in life, there is a part of your biological brain that can, when it chooses to, override or influence your thoughts (and therefore behavior). So in conclusion:

Man has no innate feelings of animal instincts. I'm glad we've straightened that up.

No, personally I don't think so.

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I'm not sure I understand entirely what you're mean by equating "instinct" with "actual knowledge". To me an instinct is something that you're born with, and has nothing to do with knowledge.
I was born with two feet and two ears. Are feet and ears instincts?
Although I agree that the faculty of reason is hardwired, instincts are as well
Right, but irrelevant to the discussion at hand, since man has no instincts.
Yes, that is precisely what I'm saying. Or at the very least, human beings possesses a portion of our ancestor's cognitive traits.
I think if you really intend to support the stronger claim, in full knowledge of what you just implied, you must be utterly insane, deluded, or some other adjective. I won't touch the weaker claim, until you fully renounce the stronger claim. So now, I would really like you to think about the full set of cognitive abilities of all life-forms on Earth, and think very seriously about whether you really intend to scientifically defend some bizarre theory of cognitive monotonicity, where once an organism acquires a mental trait, then that trait can never by any evolutionary process be removed from its descendants. I have nothing to say about the remains of your post until you give full consideration to what you actually said, and declare your willingness to defend the claim scientifically. If you want me to, I will destroy each and every one of your arguments that all cognitive aspects of a brain are irrevocably passed on to all offspring, if you have any arguments. At your leisure, sir.
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What's to support?

Your claim that an animal is capable of determination, I thought that was obviously what I was questioning.

Look, let me translate my story for you since you are obviously more interested in "intellectualizing" and arguing than seeing the simple point.

The point is that you haven't made a point if part of what you are trying to establilsh is wrong. I don't understand how you think you can separate the two things.

So, here it is ... I do not believe that killing is a sport. Period.

Yes, I do believe that animals can think and therefore be influenced by "determination".

However, as a human being I do believe that being guided be some type of "prime directive" (if you will), that killing is wrong, is a pretty good insurance policy against the rationalizing through "intellectual" discourse, that killing is ok.

I'm not concerned with what you "believe". You can "believe" anything you want in difference to all known facts; people do it every day. But if you come to this board and make statements that require such faith or whim instead of statements that you can support by some facts, you will be called on them. If you don't like being asked to explain your claims, you have come to the wrong place. If you are not interested in facts and reason ("intellectualizing") while examining an issue, you have come to the wrong place.

then you are truly a contrarian and would argue with a wall while that wall was falling on you.

This is a personal attack and it's a violation of the forum rules which will not be tolerated. If you have no interest in supporting your claims on this board, don't make them.

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I'm not sure I understand entirely what you're mean by equating "instinct" with "actual knowledge". To me an instinct is something that you're born with, and has nothing to do with knowledge.

Hi Moebius,

From what I can see you are operating with a somewhat sketchy definition of instinct and suggest you attempt to define it as clearly as possible. When evolution first became popular, explaining behaviour(human and animal) in terms of instincts became very common. A "selfish instinct" or a "achievment instinct." This notion of behaviour is very out dated and wrong.

What I think you might have in mind are tendencies toward behavior that result from physiological factors. Eating carbohydrates for example, increase serotonin which has a calming effect. So when distressed we might quickly learn that a large piece of chocolate cake makes you feel better. This response to carbohydrates and inclination toward chocolate cake does not equate to an instinct.

If you take any particular example of something you call an "instinct" and research its actual dynamics, you will find that the propenisty for that behavior is a combination of subconscious learning and physiological response that rewards or punishes us based on the particular stimulus.

The only instinct that humans are still thought to have is an infants suckling, and I have some doubts about that.

Hope that helps.

Regards,

Gordon

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