As a card-carrying pedant, I consider it my duty to correct errors in language whenever I encounter them. A prime example is Michael Setter’s definition of compassion as “an action”. My dictionary defines compassion as “a feeling of distress and pity for the suffering or misfortune of another”. Compassion is a feeling, an emotion – not an action. It may lead to action (I feel compassion for a beggar, so I drop Bt1,000 into his bowl), but in itself it is not an action.
Setter defines life as “an inherently sacrificial process which is best lived consciously” and goes on to say that conscious awareness will help us decide what to eat. This sounds to me like politically correct fluff, but what he seems to be saying is that living beings have to eat other living beings in order to survive. This is unfortunately true. I can’t think of a single living being that doesn’t survive by eating other living beings, whether they be animals, vegetables or microbes.
If we want to minimise suffering in this flawed samsaric world, logic would require us to restrict ourselves to eating living beings that possess the least amount of consciousness possible. So far as we can determine, plants, if they possess consciousness at all, possess less of it than animals. So if we want to minimise suffering, we should eat plants, not animals. This is one of the rationales for vegetarianism.
If we aspire to cause no suffering at all, we shall have to learn to eat inorganic matter like stones and dirt. So far as we can tell, these possess no consciousness at all, so they are incapable of suffering.
I look forward to the day when science can give us stones that taste like steak and dirt that tastes like fried chicken. Then Dr Frank will be able to tuck into his steaks without arousing the wrath of Eric Bahrt, Jenny Moxham and Diane Cornelius. Then, too, we will be able to outlaw both carnivores and vegetarians, and we’ll all be required to become lithovores (stone-eaters).
Let’s drink a New Year’s toast to the rapid development of stone steaks and dirt-fried chicken. Surely science can do it!
Ever the optimist,
Ye Olde Pedant