Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Consider the Lobster

I really don't intend to harp on this whole animal/language thing for much longer, but I just re-read this brilliant piece by the late David Foster Wallace (if you haven't read anything by him, might I suggest his collection of essays "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". Hilarious and heartbreaking, but I digress...) called "Consider the Lobster". I again am faced with 2 opposing arguments, both with which I agree: namely, that we can never know an animal's experience (or another human's for that matter, hence this damned mind/body problem we keep encountering) and so language and emotion I THINK (as in, logic/science, etc.) are imbued upon the object, and so I can't claim that an animal feels pain, at least not in the way I feel pain. However, I also FEEL (as in, an emotional/spiritual/psychological response) that animals do feel pain and do suffer in ways that are like mine (if not ours).

The discussion of Alex's work in class today taught me that these language games, the distinctions I want to make among types of understanding, simultaneously blend and bleed all over each other, into one another. But they also wall themselves off from one another, keeping my scientific understanding distant from my religious beliefs (a little Wittgenstein, no?) and that for me, the interesting study of language doesn't happen within the walls, but rather in those bloody areas in between.

I highly recommend Wallace's essay. It is a bit long (and I suggest printing the whole essay and reading the footnotes as you go along, as that's often where the story lies with Wallace) but tragic and exciting and beautiful.

Consider the Lobster


Loz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loz said...

Well due to this article i can definately acknowledge many of the reactions, and discomforts.
I too found myself questioning what it is that allows me to enjoy the animal products i do. Of course i don't want any animal to suffer for my love of eating (which Wallace makes a good argument that Lobsters do exhibit signs of having, a "preference" for lack of a better word, of not being boiled alive.)
For me I think it comes down to out of sight, out of mind. That said i am allergic to all seawater and fresh water fish including Shellfish.

This doesn't however, excuse some of the other meats i have eaten. I love Veal, Lamb, Venison and Horse meat yet as Wallace mentions, i guess i just haven't thought about the production of each. It is interesting to think of what it is in my brain that makes my mouth water at the thought of those meats yet not think to much about where they come from.

I know i get hassle from my sisters when they remember that i've eaten the animal that resembles their my little ponys growing up, but what is it that makes one animal okay to eat over another?

Is it just an animals potential for being a pet that makes them taboo for eating purposes? They way they are prepared? Do we care how Ostriches and Alligators are prepared? Both of which are really tasty meats. Allergies aside, the lobster cooking process is enough to put me off them. Does this make me a hypocrite eating one animal and not another "because" of the manner in which they are prepared.
I'm probably rambling now, but that article definately made me think.

Anonymous said...

i'm allergic to fish too! only not shellfish. weird.

Jorgen said...

An animal reacts to pain, that is far and away enough for me. Capitalist over-production/killing animals too.

That's why I am vegetarian (was vegan, but I don't know yet know how to make that cost effective on a student income). I could never even consider eating animal flesh again; let alone condoning that one have its throat cut for my pleasure.

And in this vein, I think that it is the number 1 reason why people actually still eat animal, the fact that they can't communicate. I'm sure if a baby cow could beg for its life in English, we would be more aware of the pain we are actually causing. But they would beg for their lives, and they do, unfortunately not in a way communicable with the person doing the throat-slicing.

(sensitive issue obviously)