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In the summer, humans are often troubled by mosquitoes: they are annoying and harmful, piercing our skin and stealing our blood almost always without our consent. Under normal circumstances, should a human do these things, we would consider it a crime. I believe that what humans hold as crimes are also undoubtedly immoral. However, female mosquitoes cannot accomplish their reproductive goals without stealing blood from those they prey on. So it seems to stealing blood is their duty, and they seem do not have a strong enough will (or one at all) to refuse it; hence this action looks more amoral than immoral.

Is my reasoning accurate?

  • 1
    This question was the inspiration for philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/6819/2953 – user2953 May 11 '13 at 21:49
  • Related to this. – Popopo May 14 '13 at 13:47
  • We kill animals to eat. A lot more impactful to the victim then taking a bit of blood. This is not immoral (although I'm sure some may argue this) and many other animals also do the same. – Cynapse Apr 25 '14 at 2:24
  • This is the best question on this site. – user132181 Apr 25 '14 at 17:15
  • Is it immoral for flowerpots to fall on peoples' heads? – WillO Mar 10 '16 at 3:26
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Mosquitoes are not moral agents and therefore cannot be subjected to the same morals as humans. It is not immoral for a mosquito to do anything because they cannot grasp the concept of morality.

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    Mosquitoes are not moral agents because they don't have mens rea? – Popopo May 10 '13 at 16:58
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    @Gewirth - 'they cannot grasp the concept of morality.' When was the last time you spoke to a mosquito about this? :-) – Vector May 10 '13 at 19:26
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So it seems to stealing blood is their bounden duty, and they seem do not have enough free wills to refuse it; hence this action looks more unmoral than immoral.

I believe that you have already given the very correct answer to your own question: It is not immoral.

  • But I'm not sure. So the key question is that are they really not moral agents? – Popopo May 14 '13 at 13:38
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    @Popopo - as I said above, you'll have to discuss that with a mosquito. :-) But based on our perception of them, they certainly are not, as you explained. – Vector May 14 '13 at 17:08
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Morality exists only in human brains. It is a human invention for organizing in society. Mosquitoes are perfect in all their actions. No question of being moral or immoral.

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    "morality exists only in human brains. it is a human invention for organizing in society." This is debatable. – James Kingsbery Apr 25 '14 at 16:52
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The answer to this is wholly dependent on how you conceive of morality. In many philosophical traditions, judgments of morality can only be applied to sentient beings with free will and knowledge of the consequences of their actions. That is roughly the standard applied in the law in most western countries.

However, it's possible to conceive of a universal moral system capable of making moral judgements of all things, living, non-living, sentient, non-sentient and so forth. Only under such a system could we apply a moral judgment to mosquitoes.

Personally I'm very sympathetic to the notion of universal morality, and my moral sense tells me that the parasitic life style is indeed immoral. But if we allowed a lawyer for the mosquito to make objections, I'm sure she would point out that the individual mosquito cannot choose other than to suck blood; and also that the typical human lifestyle is arguably much more immoral in terms of its consumption of the lives and resources of other living beings than is a little theft of blood from a creature that hardly notices its disappearance.

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Can it be said that morality is something that can be experienced by animals, when moral judgments and moral laws are human creations? I think not. Therefore, how is it immoral for mosquitos to take blood from other animals? The answer is, no.

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  • I'd imagine the answer Plato would give is that it is good ("moral") for a Mosquito to take blood. Much in the same way that a chair is good if it fits well to the form of being a chair, a mosquito is a good mosquito in so much as it fits the form of being a mosquito (which would necessarily mean taking blood). (This, however, seems to me to be begging the question: it's their form because it's what they do, it's what they do because it's their form to do so.)
  • I'd imagine most philosophies coming from religion would say, as Gewirth said, that to ask if something is moral or not requires that the entity have free will, and that mosquitoes lack free will. In that case, the answer is neither.
  • I suppose for a utilitarian who wished to construe all animals in a sort of society, it would depend on how we measured the utility of the existence of mosquitoes. Certain people who equate human and animal utility as comparable (whether explicitly or implicitly by their actions, for example, by deciding to shut off water for farmers to water crops for the sake of certain animals) perform a similar calculation.
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Under normal circumstances, should a human do these things, we would consider it a crime. I believe that what humans hold as crimes are also undoubtedly immoral.

A human is not doing the act, so your first sentence is not sufficient to declare the mosquito's act a crime. This forces you to re-address the question: is the mosquito's act criminal?

I am not aware of any culture which would consider the acts of a mosquito valid for criminal proceedings. However, you may be able to find a tribal culture which considers any act of blood-stealing to be criminal in a religious court governing the universe, which may hand out a criminal penalty. To those cultures, by your claim that criminal acts are immoral, the mosquito's act would be immoral.

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Mosquito blood theft is immoral.

Moral reasoning is the activation of a brain region in social animals that helps regulate interaction. Moral reasoning produces standards of behavior that apply within groups. Violation of these standards by any entity, group member or not, is automatically processed by the moral reasoning of group members as "immoral".

Consider how killing a mosquito for stealing your blood produces the same emotional reward as punishing other moral transgressions, at about the same level as making a rude gesture to punish someone who cuts you off in traffic.

We may retroactively forgive the behavior of the mosquito on the grounds that it could not perform social reasoning, but the initial reaction is the more basic, innate, and real.

  • According to who? Could you add reference? – user2953 May 24 '13 at 15:19
  • "Violation of these standards by any entity, group member or not, is automatically processed by the moral reasoning of group members as "immoral"." (1) I'm fairly sure this is not (a) a logically consistent statement, or (b) true (2) it presupposes that what a group member thinks is moral is actually moral, this is not a given. – Lucas Apr 25 '14 at 2:15

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