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Additional info for Albert Schweitzer's Reverence for Life

Sample text

Yet, making sense is one thing; justifying is another. Why ought we to cultivate such feelings towards all non-human life? The answer cannot be that all life has value, for that begs the question. The will-to-live argument is designed to show that we ought to feel empathy and compassion because all lives are like us, in a morally relevant way. That way consists in having a will to live, understood as tendencies to survive and develop according to its nature. Even after we set aside anthropomorphic images, however, we can understand most organisms as having these tendencies.

In effect, ‘necessary’ means without sacrificing other moral reasons that have greater importance in the situation; necessity is what is necessary in order to meet more morally pressing ideals. Good moral judgment means finding a reasonable way to balance the conflicting claims emerging from multiple moral ideals, personal projects of self-realization and love, concern for the development of other persons, and caring about the survival of non-human lives. It requires due attention to each applicable moral reason, and attempts to factor them together in a unified judgment about what ought to be done, all things considered.

Schweitzer’s refusal to make differential judgments about sentient and non-sentient species obscures the urgency of this question. 57 If cows and cabbages are equally sacred, why should eating the one raise greater moral qualms than eating the other? Once we recognize moral differences between sentient and non-sentient life, especially as we attend to the suffering inflicted on sentient creatures in modern meat production, the issue becomes important within an ethics of reverence for life. Responsible decisions about eating meat depend on motives and intentions, as well as on situational factors about meat production.

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