Alan Dawrst wrote:I haven't read the full paper, so I can't tell: Is he suggesting that such integrity is useful for suggesting a rough prior probability of welfare in the absence of more data, or that integrity is valuable in and of itself?
He addressed that point directly, but lots of background is needed for his idea to make any sense.
I liked the Würbel article because it provided what seemed to be an appropriate way to extend a consequentialist ethic to the nonhuman world while relying on (mostly) objective bases of measurement. An ethic based exclusively on happiness has no direct relevance to plants, mountains, or organisms that are thought to be too simple to experience pain, so the single ethical basis of utilitarianism quickly degenerates into ethical pluralism with a collection of unrelated ethical principles jury-rigged to explain ethical intuitions. That seems to undermine the rationale of utiltiarianism, which claims validity in part by denying ethical pluralism!!!! There are ways to bundle many independent "first principles" to explain why people value plants, biosystems, or even some landscapes, but it seems more consice to me to observe Würbels basis of integrity described as integrity of form, function, and behavior. An example of another (ethically pluralistic) way to describe biocentric ethics is from Singer
who argued that some plants (or forests) have value because of their rarity and the difficulty of replacing them. He also said that it is OK to destroy plants as long as they are replaced. There is some appeal to those ideas, but is there a non-anthropocentric way to explain why it would be wrong to chop down all the redwoods and replace them with trees planted in planters in a warehouse in Chicago (with some assumptions like the warehouse already existed and excluding the anthropocentric aesthetic ethic)? Yes, Würbel's system.
Würbel observed that most animal ethics are based on a "sentientist" approach, meaning that the ethic is based on the assumption (or assertion) that sentience should be the basis for an ethic. He said that there is no justification for an ethical line between humans and nonhuman animals (he cited Ryder; but Dawkins also made this case by saying that humans are apes and there is no natural category between apes). Utilitarianism seems to avoid the problem by pointing to utility, and deontology makes absolute ethical claims, but typically relies on a sentientist approach. There still remains an unjustified ethical distinction between organisms:
"From a biocentric perspective, harvesting a lettuce for a salad and (humanely) killing a pig for a stew represent similar degrees of ethical offence. Given both the pig and the lettuce are survival machines employed by genes to compete in natural selection (Dawkins, 1976), there is no a priori reason why we should deny the lettuce, but not the pig, our ethical concern." (Würbel, 2009, p. 120)
I am aware of the good arguments to afford preference to organisms that feel pain, but accepting the value of avoiding pain does not require one to reject a broader "super-principle" that is biocentric instead of "sentientist." When Singer argued that (some) plants have value from their rarity and irreplacability (if they become extinct), I find no a priori reason to draw the line at plants as opposed to all life. Würbel observed: "In this respect, ‘sentientism’ is analogous to ‘speciesism’" (p. 120). There might be some basis for extending the principle of integrity to inanimate objects of nature, but let's put that aside for now.
To avoid arbitrary ethical distinctions of who or what should receive ethical consideration, Würbel reviewed the content of what *well-being* means and the problem of including desires as part of a measure of well-being (desires lead us to overeat, take dangerous drugs, and animals might suffer problems from fulfillment of some desires or impulses--and measuring animal desires is difficult or impossible). He uses the word *integrity* to mean "integrity of form and function" (p. 124) and then says "integrity may to some extent relieve animal welfare scientists from the burden ‘to make measureable what is not so’ (i.e. subjective experiences)" (p. 124). Part of his argument was to cite a couple studies about the imprecise relationship between suffering and functioning. I relate this to the idea of making a human "suffer" by not allowing the human to have access to cocain and surgary softdrinks. That type of "suffering" results in longer life and integrity of form, function. He proposed that we use integrity not as a proxy for subjective well-being, but as the target metric itself (p. 125)
. Adding integrity of behavior is a bit complicated, but the general idea is that internally-motivated behaviors and behaviors that stem from the generic type of stimuli from the environment are preferable (excluding being eaten by a lion but allowing animals a place to hide if they become scared).