Jonathan Safran Foer’s contingent vegetarianism

Mark Rowlands in the Times of London:

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 04 11.02 Among philosophers of a certain persuasion, there is a basic argument for animal rights. Ethics isn’t mathematics; but by the standards of accuracy and precision involved in moral reasoning, this argument is about as unassailable an argument as you can get in moral philosophy. There is a problem with unassailable moral arguments however, and that is that it’s hard to make people care about them. In his book Philosophical Explanations, Robert Nozick entertained a little fantasy about a hypothetical and unspecified argument that is so powerful, so utterly compelling, that refusal to accept it sets up reverberations in the brain and kills the refuser. But bitter experience teaches us that there are no such, as we might call them, Arguments of Mass Destruction. Humans are not rational creatures in this sense; we don’t respond well to logical argument.

We do, however, respond well to pictures. Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of two novels, Everything is Illuminated (2002) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), and the genius of his new gripping, horrible, wonderful book, Eating Animals, lies in his novelist’s ability to take a simple argument, one with empirically unassailable premisses and a conclusion that follows logically from those premisses, and give this abstract argument concrete, detailed, pictorial form, a form grounded in the day-to-day realities of human lives.

Safran Foer’s trajectory (some might say “descent”) into vegetarianism will be familiar to many.

More here.