Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Perspective, Compulsion and Vegetarianism

"It's not until I'd been vegetarian for a year that I suddenly came to the conclusion that it's a bit odd that we're (most people, anyway) ok with seeing chunks of dismembered animal randomly across the course of the day, be it on TV or (as per what triggered me writing this) an image in the side bar of Facebook.
I used to be ok with it, but now I'm faintly horrified/disgusted.
This makes me wonder what else we're ok with but wouldn't be after a very slight perspective shift?"
- L.S. (Facebook status)
I think that everything we do falls somewhere in this territory... Inserting into our bodies the mangled remains of life-forms (plant and/or animal) right through our sensory nexus is pretty weird in general (for example). Even from one gob full to the next it can turn from a compulsive need, to pure revulsion. The negative feeling (e.g. of imminent vomiting) suddenly starts promoting all the ugly aspects of this 'food' to the forefront of our minds.

As with 99% of instances, it's ex post facto - 'reasoning' that crops up to tell a story justifying and reinforcing an emotional decision that's already been made. It can go the other way too - dwelling on thoughts to change a feeling, but it's pretty uncommon; generally they need to collide in the same direction (at least for a brief time).


The things you might do with someone you are in 'love' with is an equally palpable example. Love is literally a cognitive blind spot to critical thought processes with regard to a particular person, object or subject. Fall out of love and suddenly a whole bunch of physical contact no longer makes any kind of sense. Purely in terms of microbes, etcetera, it would be no better than getting it on with a granny. But there's a bunch of sensory associations (aesthetics) tied up with such matters. There's almost certainly higher levels of reasoning to back them up too, down the line, but in the moment they are entirely arbitrary neuroses.

Religion, science, celebrity gossip, watching/reading the news, playing games, are all compulsions. From one moment to the next there's not time (or brain power) to reflect on the founding principles, end goals and moral obligations of biochemistry... A scientist is just doing their lab/paperwork because that's what they're doing! Certainly you see people taking all the same cognitive short-cuts and biases when preaching 'science' dogmatically, as when religious fools try to justify their state of mind.

That's not to say that everyone is always equally wrong and right, in some nihilistic, moral relativism kind of way. Just that most things that transpire are more inherently empty of absolute meaning than people realise. Consequences always arise non-arbitrarily, they have different meanings from different perspectives and more significantly, on different time scales.

The closest thing I see to fundamental 'goodness' is increasing complexity; increasing information and integration of said information (i.e. conciousness). Algorithmically, a maximisation of potential future options, perhaps.


From Nutrition Data

Unfortunately this says relatively little about minimising suffering, and of course, living in the now, our decision making information is always woefully incomplete. Personally, I feel some disgust at repeatedly buying and eating dead mammals, but I chose to avoid dwelling on (or finding more) thoughts along these lines. I say this is because I feel that I probably need this nutrition to improve my personal health, in the context of the various (seemingly helpful) dietary exclusions that I've made. 
Via David Pearce.

But there is compulsion born of taste expectation and habit, which are more often what's driving the next Sainsbury's trip. And it does seem like an awful lot of flesh to get through, on a day to day basis. All the worst when I don't seem to be getting any visible health improvements. Life is a bit of a crap shoot. I guess one hopes it averages out over a large enough population.

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