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existential1 wrote (edited )

Readings like this make me search for a term that better represents my personal practice. One of my largest criticisms with veganism as represented here are that:

a) The same psychology that carnists apply to animals is what these vegans apply to plants. That being, the argument of non-feeling and non-sentience as the basis of justification of killing being ok. It truly demonstrates

b) A lack of real relationship or companionship with any plants in their life. If you've ever grown a tree from seed, or truly cared for a plant, you would not argue they don't feel or not have sentience. There's also an lack of

c) Application of same industrial critique of the mass-murder of animals to the industrial critique of mass-murder of plants and animals and insects on plant farms.

My view is that the argument in favor of consuming plants cannot be based on a further hierarchical anthropocentric views of plant consciousness and existence. That is simply a repetition of what vegans critique in carnists. In fact, for most people it seems that de-emphasizing the universe of experience of the other is a precondition to justifying consuming of the other irrespective of if the other is an animal, plant, or anything else.

So what does that leave? Conscious acknowledgement that something must die for us to live. The thing that died no doubt wanted to live. It did not want to be consumed. It wanted to produce offspring so that they may live just as most living things do. But living is a choice that means someone else has to die for those of us who can't photosynthesize. That is the burden of living for us. To build mental boundaries around what can and can't feel or what can and can't have a desire to live is a result of cowardice to accept the responsibility that your own survival depends on the murder of others. That is just the truth.

So to me, a better term must be out there, and I don't know what it is, but for the acceptance that for us to live other things must die...and that if something has to die it should be the things that can best regenerate themselves and has the least amount of impact on others. I believe that analysis identifies plants as the best case of harm reduction, but it is not without murder. It is not nice or pleasant for them. And it is not generally something to virtue signal about. It's just a way to move through this life without unduly burdening the planet as much as is practicable. And a lot of vegan literature, including that of the anarchist persuasion, really needs more self analysis before pointing at others.

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ziq wrote

Why do plants have to die to feed you? You don't need to kill a plant to harvest its fruit or seed, and even greens grow back after you harvest them.

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existential1 wrote (edited )

Oh they don't in-general. I know how you harvest :) And we've spoken about how I let my greens overwinter after they go to seed and they grow new heads from the old growth of the previous year and I harvest some there without ever killing anything. But we both know that you and I are exceptions to the rule that most people tend to completely dig up any cruciferous vegetable they harvest (or the farm-worker does).

There's definitely a spectrum to it though when it comes to fruit/nuts. For example, with many fruits we could say that the seeds are what are "alive" in some state, whether dormant or not, while the body is not. For example, we generally eat the bodies of apples and avocados and not the seed. The seed would be the thing living in a very loosely termed state of suspended animation. But if we mishandle the seed(s) by throwing them in the trash or in somewhere they can't grow, then we've effectively killed the ones that didn't die en-route to us. Other creatures tend to eat these sorts of things and poop the seed and the seed grows. We generally don't fulfill that role as we (again, most people) don't let our poop hit the soil and generate new life. No, we send the seed to die a watery death.

Similarly, with nuts, those are most definitely things living in a state of suspended animation. The trees that produce them generally know that most will not survive, so they create a lot of them at once. But that in and of itself is evidence that the tree knows that mass murder is occurring on some level and attempts to account for it. As I said in my original post, I believe we should eat these things not because they aren't alive or don't have a desire to live, but because they are the most capable of dealing with our eating of them on a large scale. It's a form of harm reduction.

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ruin wrote

So what does that leave? Conscious acknowledgement that something must die for us to live. The thing that died no doubt wanted to live. It did not want to be consumed. It wanted to produce offspring so that they may live just as most living things do. But living is a choice that means someone else has to die for those of us who can't photosynthesize. That is the burden of living for us. To build mental boundaries around what can and can't feel or what can and can't have a desire to live is a result of cowardice to accept the responsibility that your own survival depends on the murder of others. That is just the truth.

Very well said. I’d go back a bit further that the burden begins with the incredibly anthropocentric notion that the universe gives a fuck about our decisions or actions one way or the other.

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existential1 wrote

I agree. In using that framing, I'd argue that in a sense we're all actors who get to choose how we play. And a lot of people choose to build mental structures that support a tremendous amount of guilt and/or accountability avoidance through feigned ignorance.

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Ennui wrote

How is the value of a life measured? By the living thing. Therefore, you and I cannot determine the value of another life for that living being except in a superficial way. How do we know that something besides ourselves is part of the universe of experience? If we say that life requires some realm of experience, then the question becomes how we know that something besides ourselves is alive. Your critique of anthropocentric conceptions of consciousness shows that we should not assume our human experience is the only one, but it opens up the door to skepticism (or, rather, the skepticism was always there), e.g. how do we know anything else is conscious. It also leads to the question of whether traditionally dead things (rocks) are alive. What is your answer to these questions?

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existential1 wrote (edited )

To the former, I tend to ask the question, "What would happen if I did nothing?" As it regards many plants, lets use lettuce as an example, it grows to certain point then flowers and provides for insects, then it seeds. The seeds fall and more lettuce grows. If I cover half the lettuce in shade, it bends towards the side with more light. For fruit tree seeds, if I plant them in the right conditions, they grow. If I put them in a poor situation, they die. If they can transcend the poor situation I put them in, they will live albeit with signs of stress or trauma via scars or thinness in certain areas. It's truly not all that different than anything else that we would say lives. I think what I've attempted to express in other posts here is that even the idea of the universe of experience is something we can communicate and express to each other but cannot do so with other creatures. We cannot know what they do or don't experience except through poor inference. However, some people choose to use inference to assume they experience nothing while I choose to use to to the contrary. This is not currently a provable thing. And it bothers me that an entire culture has been built on the assumption that not only it is currently provable, but has been proven. So as I've said in other posts, given the unprovability one way or the other, what evidence is available to form an opinion of what might be the case? A lot of folks seem to use human and/or animal physiology to explain a phenomena that we still cannot fully grasp in humans and try to map it to other species. I find this notion to be terribly off-base given what we may deduce from the size of the known universe. But that then leads to a whole 'nother conversation.

Towards the second question, my basic answer is I don't know. The more complicated answer is no if I'm using the conventional definition of alive that fits for a lot of biological things but not viruses. It again gets back to Godel's incompleteness theorem. The very definitions we use for things like "alive" or "conscious" necessarily create edge cases that do not fit in either category squarely. And since I know these paradoxes exist and cannot be solved at the level of the words themselves, I know that there may be a further abstraction that can resolve the seemingly paradoxical. But I don't know what those are at the moment...so I say again, I don't know. And truthfully, nobody does. But people find comfort in accepting certain definitions without ever thinking about the paradoxical edge cases.

EDIT: I appreciate the questions :)

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moonlune wrote

there aren't any texts about what you're talking about because you're wrong: plants aren't sentient. And even if they were (they aren't), you couldn't compare plant "sentience" to animal sentience.

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existential1 wrote

The literal definition is: 1: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sentient

You're doing exactly what I accuse most people of doing with things they eat. You even tacitly concede that it can't be proven that they aren't. Yet you then proceed to argue that they aren't because you can't prove it. That's an assumption. The way in which this

And even if they were (they aren't), you couldn't compare plant "sentience" to animal sentience.

sentence proves my exact point about the farcicity of proclaiming facts around other being's states by use of anthropocentric reasoning with anthropocentric limits of perception without acknowledging them as actual constraints worth accepting with humility. But go on about how "we" can't compare one to the other, I'm interested to read your case.

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moonlune wrote (edited )

actually they don't have a nervous system so they aren't.

plants reacting to physical stimuli isn't sentience.

You may believe they are, on a spiritual plane or whatever, but I personally don't believe in that so that's why I put it in quotes.

Discussions around veganism don't need any more pseudoscience.

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existential1 wrote (edited )

but I personally don't believe in that so that's why I put it in quotes

I'm glad you realize this is a belief thing for you. In fact, any scientific examination of sentience will quickly find it is a term that suffers more than most from Godel's incompleteness theorem. By attempting to define what is sentient and what is not you rather quickly run into contradictions. That is another reason why I spoke about the lack of humility in most people about the limits of anthropocentric perception.

Here's a quick existence-proof like supposition that you will have to defend (in my opinion it is an unreasonable thing to defend) in order to hold to your currently stated position...Since you seem to be appealing to science, then you no-doubt know that there are billions of star systems in the known universe. And you no-doubt know that there are many planets we are finding to possibly host life like our own planet. And because you just stated plants can't be sentient because they don't have a nervous system, you would no-doubt then posit that no form of life anywhere in the universe could be sentient without a nervous system. Personally, I find this conclusion to be unreasonable and a position that only makes sense if you believe we have an understanding of sentience in-general that maps well to anything other than infinitesimally small slice of the observable universe we see and have been able to comprehend thus-far.

In fact, cognitive scientists still aren't near having a universally agreed-upon idea of what consciousness even is, let alone sentience. Here's some evidence for that:

A challenge for an objective science of consciousness is to dissect an essentially subjective phenomenon. As investigators cannot experience another subject’s conscious states, they rely on the subject’s observable behavior to track consciousness...

Scientists primarily study phenomenal consciousness through subjective reports. We can treat reports in neuroscience as conceptual in that they express how the subject recognizes things to be, whether regarding what they perceive (perceptual or observational reports, as in psychophysics) or regarding what mental states they are in (introspective reports)....

from: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-neuroscience/#Futu

So even folks who study consciousness and have humans to report effects need people to report what they're experiencing. It's a science that is nearly completely contingent on a form of communication that we simply do not have with anything except humans. And that is why in animal cognition and other things, studies are conducted and inference is used. Nothing can be found in any way except inference because we simply cannot know unless we can communicate with the subject in this particular area of science. Because we cannot communicate to the same level, we cannot be certain of findings. We can say findings match assumptions, but what are the assumptions? Anyway, I actually love science...that's why I moderate the Math forum here. But I do not subscribe to uncritical examination of science. And I'm sorry, but the fields of science that deal with consciousness have a lot of issues that are related to poor definitions and inference errors. And that's hard science, not "psuedoscience" as you feel the rest of what I've said is.

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moonlune wrote (edited )

There are other tools than simply asking a subject if they're sentient.

I have no idea about non-measurable exobiology thought-experiment. Or even the sentience of AIs and robots, or fringe medical cases. I'm not an expert. I do however know the tree in my garden and the carrots in my plate aren't sentient. (However, that doesn't mean they're not important to me!)

We can't ask rocks if they are sentient, and it's pretty clear they aren't... Would you argue that there's a possibility that they're sentient and unable to communicate with us? What's the difference between rocks and plants?

Are there any studies that come to the conclusion that plant are, in fact, sentient (as defined by the description you yourself use?) edit: nah they're all just clickbait

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existential1 wrote (edited )

Towards the clickbait end, I mean, all of the scientific theories of everything are just clickbait as well. As I hope I've explained well enough to this point, until we have an ability to more effectively communicate with other beings, we'll never be able to affirmatively prove or disprove sentience in non-human form. I believe it's a lot more scientific to keep an open mind about it and say, "We don't and can't know yet so I choose to assume..." the positive or negative. I don't view our current discourse and inquiry into plants in this manner all that different than what science thought about Black people as late as 1900...which is that we lacked some basic features that define humanity. Of course the science was wrong, but if one wanted to appeal to science at the time, they'd have to concede to the contrary.

I say that to say, science is not infallible, and sometimes it outright denies common sense because is itself a human endeavor that cannot escape the faults of its practitioners. If society at large chooses to belittle other forms of life to justify wat it eats, scientists will find logical reasoning to justify it. That is the history of science, unfortunately. It has the promise to be more, but in reality it rarely is. And like I said, I love science...but I also accept the limits of it.

EDIT: Here's a good book that may help if I'm not being clear about the fact that science itself is not infallible and there are many things that we know it cannot answer: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/outer-limits-reason

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lastfutures wrote

Let's be clear, when you say they aren't sentient, what you mean is they aren't similar enough to humans for you.

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moonlune wrote

What I mean plants are pretty cool and everything but sentient has a precise definition that /u/existential1 linked to, and plants aren't that (at least according to every piece of science I've read up till now).

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lastfutures wrote (edited )

You are using an anthropocentric definition (sentience requires a nervous system like ours), as existential said.

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moonlune wrote

Ok so you agree that plants aren't sentient, using the (anthropocentric) definition that everybody uses to describe sentence?

Wouldn't it be better to create a new acid-word to describe this different non-anthropocentric form of sentience instead?

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lastfutures wrote (edited )

No, I'm saying the way you use the word is just anthropocentrism. Creating a new word would just reinforce your own view that I disagree with. Existential said it much better than I could, I defer to their recent post.

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ruin wrote

No need for an acid word in my opinion. I think you made a fair point.

I try to be careful in using anthropocentrism as it’s becoming (if it’s not already) a margarine word in green spaces. Often speciesist would be better suited.

Regardless, as humans it would seem silly not to use some self referential language to describe our sensory existence, sentience, for instance.

It’s always good to decenter ourselves, but when relating to the world we inhabit we shouldn’t be expected to speak in terms implying we are capable of some transcendental pan-species consciousness.

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