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  • Writer's pictureCrone


I've been talking to my dad about consciousness. The RC version and, as much as I understand it, the SM version. Dad says, 'These are people who have too much time to think and have no idea what real life is.'

There's a great deal of truth in this.

Right now I am listening to Susanna Clarke's excellent Piranesi. I loved Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and also adored the TV adaptation. If you read this article you might get a sense why I am so enjoying Piranesi... Clarke contrasts a person who regards the world as of instrumental value alone with another who regards the world as imbued with life and intrinsically valuable.

I am so frustrated at the primacy of cognition, consciousness, sentience, even. Of course one should not harm a being who can feel pain. But should one harm any thing that can be harmed? The rose bush may grow more luxuriant through pruning - and thus perhaps pruning does not harm the rose bush. A tree, though, being cut down, is harmed. It is harmed. It was alive and now is dead. It was part of a network of life, now it is gone. The network may suffer or perhaps greater good may ensue - saplings are granted space and light, maybe. But it seems to me that there is no reason to assume that the good of a human matters more than the good of a tree.

The argument is because we are sentient, conscious and rational. So what? Was the universe designed to favour sentient, conscious, rational beings of others? No. It was not designed for us or for trees or for anything. Our hubris. We think therefore we are supreme. How is that logical? What law dictates that the power of reasoning grants merit or value? It is an assumption - that favours us, those who make the assumption.

If ethics is to be honest, we should say, we made this up, because we are rational and we are self-interested. As time has gone on, we have realised that other beings have some interests and maybe we owe some benevolence to them. Also we realise that if we're to survive we have to care about something other than our immediate wants. So, no more Ms. Utterly Selfish, we're now Ms. Widening Circle. But we are the centre of the circle because this is our theory and until the orcas or the orchids tell us different (ha ha ha), we'll stick with it. They're not complaining, are they?

Instead, with our immense self-aggrandising perspective, we claim that morality is objective and built into the fabric of the fucking universe. Like the universe really did decide that a man is more important than a mango. Nothing apart from us thinks that. Nothing apart from humans believes that humans matter at all.

I want to say, get over yourselves, you sanctimonious moralising arseholes.

No, I haven't received my marks yet. But I doubt they'll improve my mood.

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