Jake Gordin's rant

David Benatar takes issue with the first year UCT student's comments on vegetarianism

Jake Gordin's rant ("My delusional, arrogant generation", Politicsweb, 25 April 2013) is deeply ironic. Here's a first-year student accusing members of his generation of arrogance because they believe that they can make some difference to the world, yet presumably believes he is immune to the charge of arrogance for thinking that his debut column is going to make a difference. Nor does he consider the possibility that it might be arrogant to pronounce on matters he does not understand.

He trots out a variety of tired arguments justifying the human consumption of animal flesh: "the (carnivorous) animals eat animals, why shouldn't we?"; "the meat industry gives lots of people jobs"; "meat is nutritious"; "meat tastes so good".

Learning all about Natural Selection in his Biology class won't teach him anything about how to evaluate arguments (such as these). For that he might have to reverse the advice he gives the BA students. He may have to take a Philosophy class. There he will learn just what it takes to construct a rigorous argument and how to avoid the appalling ones he provides. He may learn about the ad hominem fallacy, the naturalistic fallacy, the appeal to nature, and many others.

And if he studies some History he may find that incremental changes of individual's attitudes - and campaigns to bring about such changes - have eventually stopped other "economic and industrial behemoths", including one called "slavery". It typically takes a long time - much longer than it should - to make such changes, but that is because people offering compelling arguments against cruel and deadly practices are lampooned, dismissed and resisted by those who smugly refuse to engage honestly with those arguments.

Perhaps Mr Gordin is merely trying to be funny. If so, he should write for Sax Appeal (UCT's RAG mag), not Politicsweb.

David Benatar is Professor and Head of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town

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