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Rhys Southan

Writer, philosophy student, freelance

Rhys Southan is a freelance writer who has has written for The New Inquiry and The New York Times, among others. He is a student of philosophy at the University of Oxford and is slowly working on a book about the ethics of eating meat.

Written by Rhys Southan



Recent Comments

We have greater moral obligations to robots than to humans

Rhys Southan

“If we create genuinely conscious robots, we are deeply causally connected to them, and so substantially responsible for their welfare. That is the root of our special obligation.”

This is a question for Schwitzgebel: How do you see this obligation working in reference to animal farming? Farmers create their animals through breeding, which might be relevantly similar to the creation of robots or children. One possible response could be to say that indeed we have a greater obligation to farm animals than we do to wild animals for this very reason; we need to be more concerned with farm animal suffering than wild animal suffering, because we in some sense created the farm animals. Bu...

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What if?

Rhys Southan

People fight over how history is taught because what we learn about the past influences how we behave now. American conservatives want us to think the US has a heroic past, because that belief has political implications. It is a belief, for instance, that likely helps it to sustain severe racial inequality and the lax gun laws in the country. I think counterfactuals can be valuable by helping us to break out of historical assumptions that might otherwise be difficult to question.

This makes killing Hitler a relatively useless counterfactual: most people already accept that Hitler was a terrible person who caused a lot of harm and that the world would be better if he had died in inf...

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If babies were randomly allocated to families would racism end?

Rhys Southan

Damien Quinn is right to point out the fundamental contradiction in this piece. The authors write, “we say that the product of one’s love lies not in the genetic production of a human being but in the mutual cultivation of the life of a child.” Yet they also claim that people do care more about their genetic offspring, and this is why randomizing child distribution would decrease social ills. (“Since any man might be your biological brother, any woman your biological sister, concern for them would have to be expressed by a concern for a common good.”)

If people care more about their biological offspring, how does a massive baby swap not impact their enthusiasm about having children...

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A ‘humanely’ killed animal is still killed – and that’s wrong

Rhys Southan

I just want to respond to the paragraph that starts, “To say that a sentient being – any sentient being – is not harmed by death is decidedly odd” and ends, “Animals in traps will chew their paws or limbs off and thereby inflict excruciating suffering on themselves in order to continue to live.”

Their teleological argument for the harm of death in this paragraph doesn’t distinguish between good and bad sentience, and so it implies that someone who is in constant agony has an interest in living because sentience evolved to improve survival. Their analogy about the teleology of the eye doesn’t help either. Someone with eyes may have no interest in seeing if they are appalled by every...

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Why is death bad?

Rhys Southan

I like the focus that this article puts on the uncertainty problem for the deprivation view of the harm of death. This issue can be pushed even further. In strict determinism, life can only turn out one way, and that includes dying at a specific time. If the timing of my death is inevitable, because of laws of nature and the physical make-up of the universe, then there is no plausible counterfactual in which I live longer than the point at which I will die. It seems that if the timing of each of our deaths is inevitable, and if we need plausible counterfactually longer lives for death the be a deprivation, then (if determinism is true) death cannot be a deprivation.

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