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RFD for Animal Rights Debate

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11/17/2015 4:50:04 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
This is my RFD for the debate between bsh1 and FourTrouble linked here:

Well, it's a great debate, and I could spend several hours working on this RFD covering every intricate detail. However, I think rather than going through the debate round by round, argument by argument, I'm going to make an effort to address the more important points of the debate and how they decide the outcome.

So, I'll begin where I always begin my RFDs: burdens.

This debate had a lot of good argumentation on where burdens belong and why, but (and this is probably the only time I've ever said this) there's too much of it. Both sides are spending a lot of time here, and while I can see why that time might be well spent, I feel that there is a clear piece missing that makes all of this time spent relatively worthless:

Why should I care whose burden it is?

I'm told time and time again that it matters, and when it comes to burdens there is a basic understanding that one side has more to prove than the other. The problem is, even if I'm buying that one side holds the BoP, it's not clear what that means beyond "if our views are so close that you cannot tell who's winning, you vote for the side without BoP". That's a relatively weak burden, one that's easily conquered and, in this debate, would never even come into play for me when it comes to judging the outcome. There could have been burdens that mattered more if Con had really taken the time to elucidate them, but this whole "tie goes to the runner" burdens analysis just isn't doing anything for him, and that's even if I'm buying his argumentation on this level.

But I'm not, and the reason why has to do with some cognitive dissonance. As I see it, either this is a debate about discussing norms and general views, or it's about fundamentally changing the mindset that backs many of our laws and thus leading to changes to how we do things. I'm leaning towards the former, but in either case, I find it difficult to buy Con's burden analysis. If it's the former, then there's no real world impact, and so what countries do with the norm change is irrelevant and I treat both sides equally. If it's the latter, then I have to treat Con's frameworks in the same light, which a) is also a shift away from the status quo, since none of these are applied absolutely and yet they're being treated as entirely independent, b) even if they were emblematic of the status quo, Pro clearly explains why the status quo is not self-justifying, and I never get a response to that.

So the most I'm doing is treating burdens as a way to prevent a tie, but as I said, it's not going to alter the outcome of this debate. And yet this is where the debaters spent over 7000 characters throughout these arguments. Know when to let the point drop, guys.

Alright, with that done, I'm going to get into the framework comparison.

Pro's framework is very straightforward, and it's simply that animals should have a right to not be subject to needless suffering. I'll address the various outcomes of that framework shortly, but it's important to be clear on what his case is, because Con spends a good deal of time arguing about what it isn't. Namely, it doesn't shut down animal testing, hunting, or eating of meat. It would almost certainly put a dent in all of them, but the outcomes I'm getting from Con are all very focused on not being able to engage in these actions ever again, rather than any linear reduction in their occurrence.

Con's actually got 4 different frameworks that he alternately advocates. He tells me to drop faith out, so I do, which leaves me with 2 frameworks that each focus on consensus (Rawls and Forst), and one alternative that focuses on using the law to prevent needless suffering rather than establishing rights. Whether he established these well is something I'll explain as I go through the debate, though I will make clear that I'm not buying the argument that Con cannot reasonably run multiple frameworkers that are directly contradictory. That's not to say that the contradictions don't factor, since arguments made in support of one can be used against another, but it does not immediately preclude Con's running of multiple frameworks.

So, let's focus on the frameworks. Before I get into the specifics, though, I need to be clear on how I'm evaluating them.

All of them are clear shifts away from the status quo, and each would require changes to the ways we implement rights if they are to be implemented. For Pro, that's a large part of the point. He may not be arguing specifically for a policy change, but the change in mindset is really no less substantial, if we take it to mean anything at all. For Con, the prospect of implementing either of the consensus frameworks is never really discussed. Perhaps, as he says in R5, Con meant these frameworks not as alternative changes to how countries treat animals and humans (as he did with his other framework), but rather as means for simply showcasing what justice requires.

There are two potential pitfalls two this view.

The first is that Con can fail to prove that either of his consensus frameworks represent a reasonable view of justice. If Con's frameworks don't represent justice, then Pro's framework could, and his framework requires that justice affect rights structures.

The second is that justice can be shown to require rights. Con had to directly attack this view, and thus attack the requirement of human rights.

As to whether Pro's argument is justified, it really mainly comes down to the same basic questions: is it just to give animals a right against needless suffering, and does justice require it?

The answers to these concerns decide the debate.

So let's start on whether Con's frameworks are just. Arbitrariness is really the chief mode by which this is decided, but what makes this difficult is that each debater appears to be looking at the issue of what's arbitrary from different perspectives. Pro assesses this through the lens of choosing where rights should apply (i.e. selecting a reason why rights should be allocated to certain parties and not others on the basis of a trait that doesn't have any clear relevance or excludes necessary parties), while Con assesses this through the lens of how those rights are applied (i.e. determining how the law enforces those rights on a case-by-case basis). I see strength in both arguments, but also weaknesses. What suffices as a non-arbitrary criteria for allocating rights under Pro's estimation is at least somewhat uncertain beyond the view that it has to be something sharp that manages to include all humans, and Con does point to sharp delineations with each of his frameworks. Con's point has value, but I have a hard time seeing it as unique considering that the application of the law is always going to be at least somewhat arbitrary, just as the application of rights will be somewhat arbitrary. Moreover, as Pro argued, rights are more difficult to circumvent or just ignore, which at least makes them more concrete in some regards than the legal alternative, and what suffices as acceding to a contract contract or as providing a justification seems no less arbitrary.
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11/17/2015 4:50:24 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
So all of this is a long way of saying that both sides have their pitfalls, but they both have sufficient justification to affirm that their frameworks are just, it's just a question of where things will be arbitrary rather than if they will.

Though it's less contentious, the second issue of justice = requirement is what the debate really hinges upon. There's a basic question of whether justice can really require anything, but that's easily addressed when justice is defined as fairness. I think this is where Con misses with a lot of his responses because much of Pro's case hinges on justice = fairness, which is silently conceded following the third round. After that concession, I just have to look at what is necessary for fairness to occur, which is for rights to be applied fairly across the board and for laws to apply in the same manner. Now, perhaps the just thing to do is to treat all rights as unimportant and simply ascribe fair laws, but Con tells me that that's not his advocacy. As such, I'm forced to buy that justice can require rights, so long as there's some basic unfairness in how rights are allocated (through imbalance in the application of rights).

That's not to say that this results in a definitive win for Pro. Con does produce several responses, focused mainly on things like anthropocentricism and the fact that Pro is providing only very restricted rights, though none of these are particularly convincing. Anthropocentricism in the allocation of rights and the application of law is non-unique, the only real question is whether or not Pro is reinforcing it. I suppose it's possible he is, but affording a right, even one that can be arbitrarily scaled, is not clearly more anthropocentric than affording no rights at all, and even if it is, I don't have a clear impact of engaging in that anthropacentricism. It speaks to a reduced impact on Pro's part, but it doesn't obviate it completely, and it doesn't turn it either.

What works better is where Con engages in the fairness rhetoric. This plays out mainly through the point that there's an unfair asymmetry, in affording them rights, since they can't be held responsible for their actions. It's an argument to which Pro isn't particularly responsive. I think it's a potent point that showcases a clear injustice in the application of any rights to animals.

Pro does mention that there are humans who aren't held responsible in the same sense. I do buy Con's response to infants, since they would presumably be held responsible for their actions at some point down the road, but it's not clear that those who are mentally enfeebled are capable of the same level of responsibility. In fact, Pro tells me that rights are restricted on the basis of responsibility. Nonetheless, I still buy that the asymetry is a source of concern when it comes to fairness, and so I'd have to balance this loss of fairness with the gain in fairness that Pro's winning. In that case, I'd probably lean Con, because Con showed me how the potential harms of engaging in this asymmetry directly affect humans, while Pro's case had more nebulous impacts for humans. I'd still have to take into consideration the fact that animals still matter, but it would be substantial.

The problem is that we're not comparing the allocation of rights via Pro's framework to rights as they exist now. I'm still comparing to Con's frameworks, which would necessarily remove rights from certain human beings if ever implemented. That's fine since we haven't necessarily established the need for universal human rights in the first place, but if we're comparing outcomes of engaging in these frameworks, only Con's deny rights to certain humans. For infants, we have to depend on the view that their potential to engage in social contracts and justify their actions will be sufficient to give them rights, which is at least uncertain. For the mentally enfeebled, there's no clear route to rights at all.

So, if I'm focused on human outcomes, I have quite a bit from Con that could matter. The asymmetry, the potential costs to courts, and the general view that these rights may come at the cost of some human freedoms weighs on me. The problem is that I must balance that against the reality that Con's views frameworks for justice would fundamentally treat some humans as undeserving of rights, and view all all animals in the same light. So Con is presenting me with several risks of harm (though the costs argument is at least uncertain in terms of its harm with Pro's turn in play) that could potentially affect everyone, and Pro's presenting me with certain benefits that affect smaller populations of humans and all animals. If this was just about humans, it would be a tough decision, but without a clear reason to ignore impacts to animals (in fact, I'm told several times that it's unreasonable to treat them as beings unworthy of consideration) and only a minor reason to prefer direct human impacts, it weighs strongly on me in the end. The combination of those certain harms with the effects of essentially justifying the removal of rights from certain humans, the more uncertain harms that Con expresses just don't match up.

Thus, I vote Pro.
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11/17/2015 5:03:28 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Thanks for the RFD, whiteflame.
If you'd like a vote on your debate, please send me a link. I'll do my best to offer a sufficient RFD in your favor.

Also: If you'd like to vote bomb a debate and need help crafting a sufficient RFD, let me know.
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11/17/2015 8:27:01 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Yeah, I understand your point about BOP. I tried to impact it to the debate by saying that "Since he fails to justify and explain why we should adopt any of his frameworks, he's failed to meet his BOP." But, in hindsight, I could've done this a lot more clearly, and less time should've been spent on it.

Thanks for the vote and the RFD. It's greatly appreciated.
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