Discerning Motivations, part 2
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Discerning Motivations, part 2

We humans are quite adept at convincing ourselves that our actions are fully justified, even when our behavior is harmful and self-serving. Last week, I suggested that seeking the views of those who regard themselves as victims can help us ascertain whether or not we are victimizing others. However, people sometimes victimize by claiming to be “victims,” so this strategy has its weaknesses. I offer another approach that, while imperfect, can help us determine whether our motives are laudable.

If we honestly looked at how we feel when we make decisions, doing our best to be impartial observers, we might gain insight into our own motivations. For example, if we felt good about the death of a perceived enemy, then less than admirable motivations might be at play, such as revenge, glory for “our” group, or personal gain. On the other hand, if we genuinely regretted the harm we caused, regardless of whether or not the victim was identified as an “enemy,” our leading motivation might have been self-defense or the defense of other potential victims.

This strategy has its limitations when it comes to animal issues. Animal exploitation pervades our entire culture, and tragically such exploitation is generally linked to extreme animal abuse. People participate in animal exploitation so routinely that doing so generates little emotional response. For example, few people recognize how they feel when they eat animal flesh, though they might get some insight into how strongly they feel about eating flesh if they imagined becoming vegetarian or vegan. That prospect is so disturbing for many people that they refuse to even think about it.

Next essay, I’ll conclude my thoughts about evil.

Go on to: Is Factory Farming the Greatest Evil Ever?
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