I was reading the first answer in this thread which considers vegetarianism from a moral standpoint: An excuse for not being a vegetarian

Is it ethical for human beings to eat meat? To consider this question, we need a moral framework capable of including both humans and animals; and that additionally matches our ethical intuitions on at least the following three test questions: Is human cannibalism acceptable? No. Is carnivorism among animals (such as a cat eating a mouse) acceptable? Yes. Are human actions vital to survival (such as eating plants, or killing viruses) acceptable? Yes.

My question is, why are these answers intuitively obvious? The author states them matter-of-factly, yet all of them seem like very interesting and deep philosophical questions in and of themselves, and yet, that entire aspect is completely skipped by the answer.

  1. Is cannibalism acceptable?

Murder is intuitively not acceptable, disrespecting somebody's wishes for what should happen to their body post-mortem is intuitively not acceptable but is the mere act of eating the meat of a dead body that happens to belong to the same species as oneself intuitively an unacceptable thing? Why? I don't see why that is obvious.

Don't get me wrong, eating something that was human meat would probably make me want to puke. But that doesn't make the act "intuitively immoral". I would also feel disgusted and a feeling of gross if I watched two human males having sex together, but that doesn't mean homosexuality is intuitively wrong.

  1. Is carnivorism among animals (cat eating mouse) acceptable?

Again, not only do I not think this has an obvious answer, but I also think it's a fallacy to answer it matter-of-factly. Because of note that this question is the same as "Is it okay to eat meat" (except reduced to the level of animals), which is what the entire answer is supposed to address. So by answering this question as an obvious yes and taking it as a premise to answer that it is okay to eat meat (on a human level), this then seems like this is an example of begging the question.

  1. Are human actions vital to survival acceptable?

Once again, why is this an obvious yes? If it is vital to my survival to torture a littler baby to death, then does that mean it's "obviously acceptable" to do that? I mean, come on. This third question I would say actually is obvious... except the obvious answer is not yes, it's "not necessarily".

  • 3
    I think you raise some interesting points, but I'm not quite seeing the SE-answerable question you have about philosophy here. Can you clarify what you need help with in terms of philosophy?
    – virmaior
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 2:20
  • Welcome to SE Philosophy! Please be aware that questions are subject to editing and closure, and that reflects the site's policies on acceptable questions and NOT a personal attack. What to avoid in questions. Questions, including those that are closed, can be edited to bring them within guidelines. Keeping questions on-topic. Additional clarification at the meta site.
    – J D
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 17:16
  • Noam Chomsky said, Vegetarianism is following the philosophy of moral Consciousness. m.youtube.com/watch?v=JJucBx7ZF5M
    – user47436
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 8:57
  • Many animals will eat their young when the safety of their burrow or nest or den is in doubt. It is as meaningless to discuss whether that is moral or not, as to bypass moral judgment on human diet by appeal to animal behaviour. We have a cultural sense of bodily sacredness, which also stops us treating bodies 'disrespectfully'. Singer talks about us putting a 'circle of moral concern' around our species only, and that creates inconsistencies which can only be resolved by religious ideas, like 'only humans have souls'. Elephants grieve & visit remains, which they handle tenderly.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented May 5, 2021 at 16:46

3 Answers 3


I don't think that the first statement re cannibalism is always and everywhere intuitively obvious. Herodotus actually discusses this as an example, citing some ancient people for whom solemn and reverential consumption of the dead was a way of honouring them. But it is certainly a very strong moral taboo in most cultures.

The second statement about wild animals I think is intuitively obvious; describing the natural behaviour of wild animals as immoral is just silly.

The third statement is, I think, false. Under normal circumstances most actions necessarily for survival would thus be deemed ethically OK. But it is not hard to come up with counter examples.

Being pedantic - the term 'acceptable' in the original question needs to be explicated for this question to have a proper philosophical sense.


My question is, why are these answers intuitively obvious? The author states them matter-of-factly, yet all of them seem like very interesting and deep philosophical questions in and of themselves, and yet, that entire aspect is completely skipped by the answer.

Intuition varies between people and is something that we believe without rational backing so it makes sense that clashing intuitions exists. They are matter of fact because they are intuitive to the person so they don't need explaining. Seems like circular logic but that is intuitive thinking usually is.

I personally think that intuition is not very valuable as it is not very reliable due to how it can easily be swayed by emotions or experiences (e.g. the baby torturing you proposed).


Think of the opposite: absurd (wildly unreasonable, illogical or inappropriate). We think eating other people is wildly inappropriate!

However, a cat eating a mouse is appropriate. This is basically wild animal to wild animal, mano a mano. It is understandable for wild "beasts" to battle it out. This isn't fallacious. (That would be reading too far in, and coughing up--ahem, look what the cat dragged in--a hair ball that never was.)

Additionally, a civilized person in a survival situation has essentially just became a wild animal. The struggle to survive isn't absurd, it's relevant. Although, this is the most dubious statement of the bunch if going beyond eating plants and eradicating disease.

All in all, the point of those statements was (as they said) to develop a moral framework. They seemed to make an informal or perhaps Socratic syllogism:

~C = Human cannibalism is not acceptable

A = Carnivorism among animals is acceptable

V = Human actions vital to survival are acceptable

~C^A^V; therefore, in these circumstances, we should _________.


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