REVIEW: Would You Eat Your Cat? by Jeremy Stangroom
- From: ann@xxxxxxxx (Ann Skea)
- Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2010 04:03:55 +0000 (UTC)
TITLE: Would You Eat Your Cat?
AUTHOR: Jeremy Stangroom
PUBLISHER: Crows Nest, Allen Unwin, PO Box 8500, 83 Alexander Street, NSW
2065, Australia. (June 2010)
ISBN: 978 1 74237 258 7 PRICE: A$19.99 (paperback) 144 pages
Reviewed by Ann Skea (ann@xxxxxxxx).
Would you eat your cat? Assuming that it had died from natural causes and you
had shared so much together that you felt it would be fitting tribute, would
you do this? And would it be right to do it? Is there anything immoral in doing
such a thing?
Jeremy Stangroom poses a number of questions in this book which will make you
think about morality, rights and responsibilities, crime and punishment,
society and politics. The cat question is just one of his 25 'ethical
conundrums' all of which are designed to "illuminate various issues in moral
philosophy" and to help you to "shed some light on your own moral commitments".
That may sound like hard going, but the conundrums themselves are presented in
a humorous and light -hearted manner, and possible responses are discussed in a
separate section at the back of the book.
This is philosophy for everyone and the conundrums would make for lively
discussion around the dinner table or over coffee with a friend. Many are very
relevant to all our lives, dealing, for example, with such things as civil
liberties: "Should the policeman stop the climber from climbing Ben Nevis?";
crime and punishment: "Is it right to torture Goldtooth in the hope that he
reveals the location of the [world destroying] bomb"; If "the effect that any
particular individual has on global warming is negligible" can no individual be
held responsible for contributing to climate change?
Stangroom begins the book with a brief introduction which moves from a question
about the Internet and virtual marital infidelity to a brief outline of three
traditional ways of viewing ethical issues: Utilitarianism, Deontological
Ethics, and Virtue Ethics. These three names may sound formidable but
Stangroom's outlines of these positions on morality are admirably clear and
brief. Whether or not they help you to answer the conundrums, they do offer
some clear guidance in thinking about your own responses.
For philosophers, of course, there is never one clear answer to any moral
dilemma, nor are there only three cut-and-dried ways of approaching it. So,
simple as this book seems, the questions it poses are often more complex than
they appear at first glance.
To take the example of eating your cat. In his response to this question
Stangroom suggests that those who think it is not wrong to do so (which is a
moral judgment) value intuition more than feeling, put no moral value on
private behaviour, and reject rational arguments about moral issues. On the
other hand, those who think it is wrong to eat your cat think emotion makes a
poor base for moral judgments,or, he admits, they may be put off by the 'Yuck!"
factor. He also notes that it is not clear that there is a moral issue
involved: the cat is dead and died of natural causes, no-one is harmed by your
eating it, and it is an issue which affects only you.
He offers no further suggestions for further debate, maybe because he hopes you
will consider the issue seriously and ponder the implications of your choice.
You may think, for example that there is nothing wrong with eating your dead
cat. After all, unless you are vegetarian, you eat pigs, lambs, chickens etc.
So, would you also consider eating your deceased, human, best friend? Some
societies might see nothing morally wrong in doing this. The more you think
about it the more complicated the issue can get, unless, perhaps, you just
follow some strictures set down by religion or the law.
Moral philosophy is all about trying to think clearly about our own value
judgments and about moral issues which affect our lives. This small book offers
and enjoyable and stimulating way of examining our own values and the basis on
which we make moral decisions. It is an easily digestible aid to clear
Copyright © Ann Skea 2010
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/
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