Timothy Hsiao teaches philosophy at Florida Gulf Coast University. He’s written several papers on the moral justification for eating meat. His most recent paper offers a defense of industrial animal agriculture, also known as “factory farming.”
Most people think that there is nothing wrong with eating industrially farmed meat. Interestingly, even ethicists—who are more likely to rate meat consumption as a morally bad thing—still consume meat at nearly the same rate as non-philosophers. But some, including not a few philosophers, argue that is it morally problematic, at least in the way that it is commonly practiced. As far as we know, Hsiao is the only philosopher who has actually defended the more commonly held view in print.
So, it would surely be appropriate to assign Hsiao’s paper in a pro-con spirit in an ethics class… right? Apparently not, according to Jeff Sebo (UNC Chapel Hill):
Let’s be honest here. What percentage of the population of planet Earth do you think opposes the practice of factory farming on grounds of its morally objectionable treatment of animals? What percent do you think are even vegetarian on moral grounds? I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about murder or rape, here. We’re talking about the morality of factory farming—a practice behind the supply of food to billions of people.
If Sebo and his leftist colleagues are so certain about the ethics of factory farming that they take the issue to be “safely closed without sacrificing objectivity” and therefore not worth discussion, is there any doubt they think the same about, say, abortion? Is there any doubt that they gleefully assign Peter Singer or Michael Tooley’s pro-infanticide articles in their ethics classes? Or what about homosexuality? Transgenderism? Immigration? Is there any doubt that Jeff Sebo would assign his own paper defending the moral permissibility of incest to his students? And yet, it’s Hsiao’s view—a view that literally billions of people hold—that’s supposed to be beyond the pale! These people suffer from what I have called inverted moral qualia.
If they had any shred of integrity, they’d drop any public pretense to objectivity in their pedagogy. It’s clear that they, in their unbridled, group-reinforced moral certitude that they mistake for objective enlightenment, regard as beyond the pale whatever view they happen to disagree with. They have zero interest in giving opposing viewpoints airtime, revealing, once again, just how illiberal, intolerant, and indeed anti-philosophical they really are. The soil of the university is infertile for budding philosophers. It has instead itself become a factory farm of fauxlosophers who won’t even acknowledge, much less engage with, a position they consider wrong.
We here at Rightly Considered, on the other hand, value debate and the free exchange of ideas. As it happens, some of us here disagree with Hsiao about the ethics of factory farming, and the ethical treatment of animals generally. So what did we do? We organized a philosophical exchange on it (see Hulk’s original post, AR-15’s reply, and Hulk’s rejoinder). But it isn’t exactly news that leftists are allergic to disagreement, leftist philosophers being no exception. Our views are as systematically suppressed and ignored in the blogosphere as they are in the classroom by the self-styled champions of tolerance and diversity.