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Archive for the ‘cannibalism’ Category

Consensual Cannibalism is Less Wrong Than Childbirth

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Tauriq Moosa argues that there’s nothing wrong with eating somebody who wants to be eaten.

I proceed to tilt viciously in the direction of some dangerous windmills.

Also on 3 Quarks Daily, Tauriq’s epic pessimist manifesto.


Written by Sister Y

December 24, 2010 at 3:21 am

The Rationality of Continuing to Live

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Suicide is caused by mental illness – isn’t it? Because it’s irrational to take one’s life – you’d have to be crazy. At a minimum, we must prevent those whose rationality is impaired from killing themselves. And we should assume that everyone who attempts suicide is irrational. Shouldn’t we?

But what about the decision to go on living?

Put a different way – why is life – objectively, in all cases – better than death?

Choosing life – not committing suicide – is also an act (or, in some cases, an omission). Why should we assume that the act of choosing life is always rational and freely chosen, never the product of a delusion?

In fact, the act of choosing life may frequently be irrational and poorly chosen. Optimistic bias often causes people to overvalue the future utility of their lives. But we do not think to second-guess those who, perhaps foolishly, choose to go on living. Nor should we, by forcing them to die! But no more should we second-guess those who choose to die, by forcing them to live instead.

From Contingency Cannibalism, by “Shiguro Takada”:

Starvation is a vicious enemy . . . . Your brain, without your conscious thought, decides which organs to sustain, which ones to break down, and which entrails not to supply with nutrients stolen from other parts of your body. Still, through the communication of pain, your body sends messages to your anguished mind.

Those muscles you worked so hard to acquire deteriorate rapidly. You lose your spleen. Your liver and bladder fail. As you grow decrepit, you can barely walk away from your own waste. You piss your pants and find that something that isn’t quite like feces soils your briefs as you literally shit yourself on yourself.

Unrelieved, unrescued, and, after several days of starvation, too enfeebled, your brain, heart, and lungs are among the last to go, so you are aware of your fate – you experience the terror and misery of a lingering death until a merciful coma ensues. (For some odd reason, few people starving to death opt instead to put a bullet into their heads. Perhaps it is because in the final stages they are too weak to do much.) Your emaciated carcass becomes pungent debris beside the road.

“Takada” wisely questions the rationality of the starving person’s decision not to end his life. But the reason I reproduce this description of starvation is that, for many of us, this is an accurate description of what life is like all the time. “Pungent debris beside the road” is our most optimistic possible future. Is our pain severe and permanent enough to make living irrational? To make suicide rational?

Or is life a precious gift?

Written by Sister Y

October 24, 2008 at 2:37 am

Take My Ten Kids – Please.

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The biggest shock to public officials came last week, when a single father walked into an Omaha hospital and surrendered nine of his 10 children, ages 1 to 17, saying that his wife had died and he could no longer cope with the burden of raising them.

(From a New York Times article on parents abandoning older children pursuant to a law designed to prevent “dumpster babies.”)

Frequent abandonment of older children, considered by some to be an abuse of the Nebraska safe surrender law, is just another piece of evidence that children and their parents often have radically different interests. The most you can say about procreation is that it might, under very special conditions, be altruistic (unless David Benatar is right). Even heathen evolutionary biologists tell us that parents have a strong genetic predisposition to behave altruistically toward their children, once those children are born.

But, in practice, it is more complicated than that. Parents and children have somewhat overlapping, but largely opposed, evolutionary interests. Parenting is often far from altruistic. Parents abandon their difficult children. Parents maim, kill, and rape their children. In jurisdictions that allow it, they sell their children. Under conditions of starvation, they eat their children.

Are we really sure that parents, in general, have their children’s best interests at heart?

Written by Sister Y

October 2, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Three Meditations on the Sweetness of Life

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From The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, by David Hackett Fischer:

Then, inconceivably, torrential rains came again in 1316. The grain crop failed a third year in a row. Europe began to experience the worst famine in its history. When other sources of food ran out, people began to eat one another. Peasant families consumed the bodies of the dead. Corpses were dug up from their burying grounds and eaten. In jail the convicts ceased to be fed; we are told that starving inmates “ferociously attacked new prisoners and devoured them half alive.” Condemned criminals were cut down from the gallows, butchered, and eaten. Parents killed their children for food, and children murdered their parents.

From Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine, by Jasper Becker:

There are enough reports from different parts of the country to make it clear that the practice of cannibalism was not restricted to any one region, class or nationality. Peasants not only ate the flesh of the dead, they also sold it, and they killed and ate children, both their own and those of others. Given the dimensions of the famine, it is quite conceivable that cannibalism was practised on a scale unprecedented in the history of the twentieth century.

From the report of the United States Congress Commission on the Ukrainian Famine, reported in Becker, above:

Very frequent is the phenomenon of hallucination in which people see their children only as animals, kill them and eat them. Later, some, having recuperated with proper food, do not remember wanting to eat their children and deny even being able to think of such a thing. The phenomenon in question is the result of a lack of vitamins and would prove to be a very interesting study, alas one which is banned even from consideration from a scientific point of view.

Written by Sister Y

May 30, 2008 at 6:10 am