I don't find any of the arguments for veganism compelling, and neither do I find any of the arguments against veganism compelling either. Since making no choice about what to eat would mean death, how do I handle a situation where I don't have compelling reasons to act one way or another (where I remain agnostic about what is right on this moral question)?

Does it make sense to alternate practices? (vegan 1 week, non-vegan 1 week, repeat). This answer seems totally ridiculous to me, but it is the best I could come up with.

  • 3
    A situation like what? Surely you don't need to engage yourself in philosophical argument every time you need to eat. That's an eating disorder, not an intellectual inquiry.
    – user4894
    Apr 9 '16 at 19:15
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buridan's_ass
    – Dave
    Apr 10 '16 at 2:44
  • @user4894 this is a thought experiment, pal. Apr 10 '16 at 5:49
  • I've clipped this down a bit and tried to generalize it. I'm not sure if I've lost the sense of what you are wondering, but it's a common type of moral quandary to be in a situation where inaction and indecision is impossible but one finds oneself wanting to remain agnostic on the question.
    – virmaior
    Apr 13 '16 at 0:17
  • This is called the liberty of indifference, and the Buridan donkey who starved to death unable to choose between two identical piles of hay is the classical example informationphilosopher.com/freedom/indifference.html There is an obvious solution, flip a coin and go vegan if heads, non-vegan if tails. If you are truly indifferent this should work, if not, that will come out.
    – Conifold
    Apr 13 '16 at 0:21

The situation you find yourself in is one which classical logic starts to have trouble, making this a surprisingly good question despite the downvotes. In classical logic, there is a law of the excluded middle: "A thing either is or is not." This makes logic very powerful at slicing away at problems until one finds a solution. However, in some situations, the law of the excluded middle is a poor model of reality. As you have noticed, "veganism is good" (good(veganism)) and "veganism is not good" (!good(veganism)) are both not compelling to you. The law of the excluded middle is simply not an ideal tool in this scenario as phrased.

In these situations, one must be cautious when applying classical logic because it can lead one astray, as you have noticed: it is suggesting to you that you must make a decision. Do you need to be at a decision point right now? Can you reframe the problem such that the problem is no longer unsolvable? In particular, can you reframe it such that you can defer answering the question until new information comes to light.

Donald Rumsfeld is famous for his phrase about the knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns (can I call Rumsfeld a philosopher?). The question of "is veganism good" is a known unknown. You know its there, but you don't know the answer. This part has lead you to the stance that you need to be agnostic to veganism. However, when we start talking about not just believing but acting, the unknown unknowns creep in. What if the price of beef goes up (acting vegan looks better)? What if science shows actual issues with GMO soy (making meatitarianism look better)? What if you start dating a vegan? What if your vegan girlfriend suddenly starts eating meat? If you are not fully committed to veganism or meatitarianism, it seems very reasonable that any of these unknown unknowns that come up should influence your actions, while being committed to one side or the other would suggest these unknown unknowns should not influence your actions.

A solution to your conundrum is to seek to be open to new inputs and new arguments, no matter how small they might be. You clearly have not decided veganism or meatitarianism, as per your question, so you should act in a way which opens you up to be flexible to future unknowns unknowns influencing you. This path would make it reasonable to eat some meat, because you need to keep your gut flora ready-and-able to tackle meats if you go meatitarian, but it also suggests spending days as a vegan. Do this not to be a vegan, but to better understand what life as a vegan would be like if you chose that path. Explore vegan recpies. Some of them may taste good to you, and then you should eat them regardless of your final decision on veganism! Be flexible enough so that, when you finally arrive at a choice about veganism, you are fully prepared for whichever path you take.

Many people I know have explored such a middle road. One destination it may arrive at is flexitarian. Flexitarians typically eat vegetarian, but they wont let it cramp their lifestyle. If they are at a restaurant with friends and cannot find vegan fare (an unknown unknown), they will eat a meat dish so that they get food, and they typically will not make a big fuss about it so as to not disrupt the meal.

  • I agree with Cort Ammon in general terms. But still I believe that there is a posibility before zugswang. Classical logic develops under the assumption that you can know the "truthness" of propositions. If it is possible to eat food you don't know if it contains meat (or animal derivatives) you would be not deciding and still could keep eating (and keeping alive by the way). Apr 9 '16 at 20:18

I have a feeling this question will get closed as being off topic or incorrectly asked but I'll give you an answer anyway:

Why do you need to have a compelling reason to eat vegan or non-vegan in the first place? If you are essentially neutral towards your dietary intake, I suggest eating what you feel is best for yourself and allow that to be the compelling reason.


There are a few different ways philosophers have approached this problem. Here are a few examples.

  1. Probabilistic - How certain are you that veganism is morally licit or illicit? What is the moral cost of consuming meat? What is the opportunity cost of not eating meat? You know have an expected-value problem, solve it out and make your decision that way.

  2. Utilitarian - Consumption of meat comes with some costs and some benefits. Benefits might include a diet with more protein; costs might include a diet with more fat or environmental impact. Look at the utility of marginal meat consumption, and consume meat until you reach the point of diminishing returns. (Vegans are people that, having done this calculation, hit diminishing returns already at zero consumption.)

  3. Ask "for what end do cows, chickens, etc. exist?" For some, the only end for which a chicken continues to exist is to provide humans with food. For others, a chicken's existence has value in itself. Which do you agree with?


I know that this is hypothetical but perhaps another approach to consider is that there are some additional Pros and Cons that as of yet you have not taken into account? Also to consider would be the weighting that is applied to each of the Pros and Cons. Is it possible that maybe you have overly weighed certain arguments as compared to others? As to the original question of 1 week Vegan, 1 week carnivore that doesn't sound ridiculous at all given the quandary you present. This way you get the best of both worlds... until such a time when experiences on both sides of the coin tip the scales in one direction or another. Great question!

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