Our moral disgust at bestiality follows a similar principle: we recognise immediately that a person who engages in sexual activity with an animal has denigrated their own human sexual capacity. Our disgust in this instance is at the irrational behaviour of a person who treats something important and revered as though it were fit for animals.
Ultimately, I cannot help but feel a growing disdain (if not disgust) for an ethical theory that is so oblivious to the profound rationality of our moral intuitions. This emotional response is, contra Singer, entirely rational, and all the more intense when I consider the ethical tradition our civilisation has abandoned. As C.S. Lewis wrote:
“Those who know the Tao can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself—just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind. And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason (when we feel liking for what ought to be approved) or out of harmony with reason (when we perceive that liking is due but cannot feel it). No emotion is, in itself, a judgement; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it. ”
Zac Alstin works at the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in Adelaide, South Australia.
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