The problem of animal pain
November 12, 2009 — 11:50

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Problem of Evil  Tags: ,   Comments: 77

[Cross-posted to my blog.]

Supposedly intense pains that non-human animals undergo provide significant evidence against theism. Why? Well, the thought is that, if he existed, God could have done things better. But how?

Suggestion 1: He could have made something that has the same motivational effects that pain has but that doesn’t hurt.

Response: It’s not clear that this is possible–it may be that the qualia of pain reduce to motivational effects and cognitive content. But let’s grant it’s possible. Now we can ask: Do we have good reason to think God hadn’t done this? After all, if the pain-replacement, call it shpain, had the same motivational effects, we would observe the same kinds of aversive responses to shpain as to pain. Maybe we wouldn’t expect certain kinds of whimpering. But a dog’s whimpering is not quite like human whimpering. I think the reason we see the two as species of the same behavior is because both are associated with similar triggers and similar motivational states. But if the objection to theism that we are evaluating is that God instead of creating pain in animals should have created shpain, then we need evidence that animals experience pain instead of shpain, and if I am right about why we see whimpering as a pain behavior, the whimpering does not provide such evidence.

Maybe we can get some evidence for animals having pain rather than shpain by looking at neurological similarities between humans and animals. This may, however, presuppose the supervenience of the mental on the physical, which is controversial. Furthermore, we do not know enough about how pain systems in the brain work. We know that in addition to similarities between human and non-human brains there are differences. Given that shpain and pain have similar triggers and similar motivational results, on the hypothesis that animals have pain rather than shpain, we would expect a lot of neurological similarity and some difference between animal brains and our brains–and that’s exactly what we observe.

Suggestion 2: God could have miraculously prevented pain in those cases in which the motivational role of pain is not important to the animal’s flourishing, say when the animal is certain to die.

Response: Let’s consider the hypothesis that he has, in fact, done so, and see how strong the disconfirming evidence is. It is plausible that God’s miracles would be calculated to produce a particular effect and would be in some way minimal as deviations from the ordinary operations of nature. The reason for that is that there is a great value in the ordinary operations of nature. If so, then what we would expect as a miraculous intervention would be a minimal deviation–one sufficient to relieve the pain. Now, the pain has certain neural correlates. A minimal miraculous intervention might well keep most (if materialism is true) or all (if dualism is true) of these correlates intact. And in particular it might very well be that pain behaviors continue because of the remaining correlates. Now, granted, the fact that we still observe the pain behavior is some evidence against the hypothesis that God has eliminated pain in these cases by being evidence against the hypothesis that God has eliminated pain in a way that eliminates pain behaviors. But unless it was very plausible that the latter is how God would eliminate pain, the evidence against the hypothesis that God has eliminated pain behaviors is not that strong.

Suggestion 3: God could have made a world where animals don’t need pain or anything like it, because conscious non-human animals are never endangered by anything.

Response: To evaluate this would require the evaluation of a different argument from the argument from animal pain–the argument from the red-in-tooth-and-claw nature of our world, bracketing the question of pain. I think it is plausible that animal death is not an evil in itself–animals do not naturally have immortality. But death is an ultimate kind of danger, and if so, then the plausibility of the suggestion is decreased. Maybe we could imagine a world where nobody dies before reproducing, but that would be a world where it would be hard for evolution to work, and evolution is valuable.

Conclusions: The problem of animal pain only becomes a problem when one adds some reason to think that God could have done better here. There are three suggestions to that effect. On the first two, the theist can make the reasonable response that we do not have very strong reason to think God hadn’t done that allegedly better thing. On the last one, we have a broader problem than that of animal pain.

Comments:
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Alex,
    Isn’t this the way to solve every argument from evil where the evil isn’t one that you, AP, suffer in the specious present? I don’t think you can say you’ve addressed the argument from evil in significant way by saying that we’re not in any epistemic position to reason from the premise that animals feel lots of pain when there’s a forest fire, that the holocaust occurred, that the people that surround AP are sentient creatures capable of suffering rather than zombies put on Earth to help AP develop his virtue, etc…
    I think you’re using the expression ‘reasonable response’ in a dubious fashion when the response is ‘for all we know’ we’re in the Matrix, or there’s billions of undetectable miracles that would force us to retract all manner of ordinary knowledge ascriptions, or it’s all a dream, etc…

    November 12, 2009 — 19:22
  • Mike Almeida

    Suggestion 1: He could have made something that has the same motivational effects that pain has but that doesn’t hurt. Response: It’s not clear that this is possible
    It is something close to obvious that higher-order animals suffer pain in the same way we do. I honestly cannot believe that anyone still wonders about it. The functionalist argument is somewhat better, though I’d certainly deny that pain might not hurt, and if (per impossibile) it didn’t hurt, that it was anything but ad hoc to assert ignorance about whether it hurts higher order animals (dogs and cats, for instance, or our fellow primates) and certainty about it hurting human infants or, for that matter, my neighbor.

    November 12, 2009 — 19:45
  • Clayton:
    The analogical argument from my pains to the pains of other human beings is much stronger than the analogical argument from my pains to the pains of non-human animals.
    Mike:
    Well, the suggestion made is that if God exists, he would have made animals have shpain rather than pain. In the context of the discussion of this suggestion, it certainly seems appropriate to ask whether we have evidence that God did not in fact do this.
    Suppose that someone, in the course of an atheological argument, suggested that if God exists, he would have created a plenitude of invisible beings that do not interact with the matter we know. Surely it would be appropriate to query whether we have evidence that God did not in fact do this.
    While I do not want the following speculations to be essential to my argument, I do want to note them, on the question of the obviousness of animal pain:
    1. I do think that the certainty needs to be tempered with the observation that there are plenty of cases where we inappropriately anthropomorphize animals.
    2. The argument for animal pain is analogical in nature. An analogical argument is weakened with any disanalogy. In particular, if it were the case that a theodicy can be more easily found for our pain than for the pain of other animals, that would, surely, be a disanalogy.
    3. Consider this empirical thesis:
    (*) The neural basis (B) of conscious pain is a neural event that is a side-effect of the neural processes that mediate between nerve impulses signality damage (A) and pain/avoidance behaviors/inclinations (C), and the pain does not itself causally mediate this.
    I want to observe two things about (*). First, we do not at present have sufficient data to conclude that (*) is false.
    Second, if (*) were discovered to be true, our analogical argument for pain in non-human animals would be significantly weakened. In us, we have A causing C, and as a side-effect, A causes B as well. In non-human animals, we observe A and C. However, we should not blithely assume that the side-effect B occurs there, too. We have analogical evidence that it does, but we should not overestimate the weight of this evidence. It is, no doubt, very easy to find lots and lots of cases where in species 1, A causes C and has B as a side-effect, while in species 2, A causes C without causing B.
    Moreover, if (*) is true, for aught that we know it could be the case that B is not a non-robust side-effect of A, i.e., that it is a side-effect that happens to be tied very tightly to certain specific details of our neural structure. But in that case, the question whether these details have analogues in the higher animals is certainly an empirical question, and to take the “obviousness” intuition about animal to settle any of these empirical questions seems inappropriate.

    November 12, 2009 — 21:50
  • Mark Murphy

    On this issue you might be interested in looking at some similar thoughts of Mike Murray’s.
    I believe some version of this made it into his book Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, which came out not too long ago.

    November 12, 2009 — 23:02
  • That’s a nice paper, thanks for the reference. The blindsight case, and the distinction between access consciousness and phenomenal consciousness, is really nice in this respect.

    November 12, 2009 — 23:22
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    “The analogical argument from my pains to the pains of other human beings is much stronger than the analogical argument from my pains to the pains of non-human animals.”
    I don’t know that that’s obviously true. I don’t know if our only reasons for attributing mental states are provided by analogical arguments. I don’t see why the reasons we have for attributing mental states to animals are good enough to reason from the premise that animals suffer, some particular animal is suffering, etc… I mean, the arguments that I can offer for thinking that my sister suffers are much more compelling than the arguments I can offer for saying that you suffer, but it would be pretty foolish for me to say that I’m not in a position to say with some certainty that AP has suffered. And, I should add that I have much better evidence for saying that my pets suffered than saying that there were people suffering in far off lands during WWII. Germany? Surely the events that took place there wouldn’t be tolerated by a good God, so I guess the history books are seriously doubtful.
    How about this. Do you think it’s more likely than not given your evidence that animals don’t suffer or do you think they probably do? If you have to concede that they probably do suffer but also concede that their suffering gives you good reason to doubt God’s existence, you’re still in trouble. I guess if you think you know that they probably don’t suffer, you probably shouldn’t be dog sitting for friends anytime soon. But, I guess you could eat factory farmed meat without feeling too bad about it.

    November 13, 2009 — 0:01
  • Mike Rea

    Just FYI, each of Alex’s responses is discussed in some detail in Mike Murray’s 2008 (I think) book, “Nature, Red Tooth in Claw”.

    November 13, 2009 — 6:06
  • Mike:
    Good! So I don’t have to publish this.
    Clayton:
    I am quite willing to say that animal suffering might lower the probability of God’s existence if the latter probability is less than one. But it might not lower it by a lot if the probability of animal suffering is not much more than a half, depending on the probability one assigns to the claim that there would be a theodicy for it.
    Actually, things are even more tricky epistemically than the above indicates.
    1. For a theist, the probability of animal suffering will depend significantly on the probability of there being a good theodicy for animal suffering, and it might even be that there is no specific probability assigned to the claim that animals suffer. This would be a crazy move to make if the claim that animals suffer were “obvious” or extremely well confirmed. But it’s neither as my arguments–or, more precisely, those of Murray show. So the move isn’t crazy.
    2. If I were a naturalist, I would be more distrustful of the sorts of analogical and moral arguments that make me think that animals suffer. For if I were a naturalist, I would count raw intuitions like that one ought to relieve apparent animal pain as having significantly less weight, as I would not think that our minds are designed for truth by an omniscient being. I would place a much greater weight on purely scientific arguments. And as a purely scientific question, the question whether animals suffer pain is not one that we have a conclusive answer to. After all, we do not yet know what the exact neural basis of pain is, and indeed pain continues to be a rather ill-defined and poorly understood phenomenon. We do not know whether the pain is a side-effect of the stimulus, or whether pain is an intermediary between the stimulus and the “pain behavior” (an interesting fact is that some patients under general anesthesia exhibit significant pain behaviors and need to be restrained; I am not sure we know whether they suffering pain which causes the pain behavior, or whether they have the pain behavior without consciousness of the pain).
    On the basis of the purely scientific evidence, I don’t think we are justified in assigning a probability greater than 0.8 to animal pain. It’s a plausible pre-scientific hypothesis, and a working assumption of researchers in the field that has not yet been disconfirmed, but nonetheless it is one that concerns something that is quite ill-understood. Those scientists who think the probability is higher are either paying attention to raw intuitions more than would be justified if naturalist were correct or are influenced by behaviorism or both.

    November 13, 2009 — 7:48
  • Mike Almeida

    Well, the suggestion made is that if God exists, he would have made animals have shpain rather than pain
    I honestly don’t want to be disrespectful, but this position is absolutely delusional. What’s so deeply troubling about this is the fact that animals are suffering tremedous pain and maltreatment right now, in factory farms and elsewhere, absolutely abhorent treatment of fellow creatures which any Christian/theist should be outraged about. We are after all their stewards. The true irony is that not one theist reading this would let their dog be treated badly, I guarantee that, even while they argue that (presumably just those other) animals are experiencing only shpain. There’s a dearth of theological work on the subject, but one excellent work is Andrew Linzey’s _Animal Theology_. I commend Linzey’s work in general.

    November 13, 2009 — 8:59
  • John Alexander

    It is not often that Mike A. and I are in agreement, but here I completely agree with him. I would go a bit further and argue that the only being I know that experiences pain and not shpain is me. I can claim to know that others feel pain only if I believe that there is no such thing as shpain because I base my knowledge of what others are feeling based on empirical clues not any direct experience of their pain (as I have direct experience of my pain.) The clues that others are experiencing pain overlap regardless of species. The assertion “…that if God exists, he would have made animals have shpain rather than pain” needs to be argued for and I do not see how that can be done without begging the question.
    What this has to do with the problem of evil and God’s existence I am not sure in that I do not find Rowean type evidential arguments that convincing even though I believe that a theistically defined God does not exist and the existence of (some forms of) evil is one reason why I think this to be the case. I just happen to think that one cannot derive any defining characteristics of God from evidence about the way this world is. For example from the idea that God created the universe it does not follow that God is omnipotent, only that he is powerful enough to create what he created. The existence of evil may be consistent with there being a theistically defined God, but it is also consistent with there being a perfectly evil God, or imperfectly good God, or there being no God. So the fact that animals feel pain does not support any conclusion regarding the existence and nature of God. Because the evidence does not support any one conclusion over any other so they are cancelled out by the evidence.

    November 13, 2009 — 9:38
  • Mike Rea

    Reading through the comments here, I just noticed that Mark Murphy made the same comment I did…and here is just down the hall. Well, that’ll teach me to read all the way through before jumping in.

    November 13, 2009 — 11:04
  • jordan.nwc

    “I honestly don’t want to be disrespectful, but this position is absolutely delusional. What’s so deeply troubling about this is the fact that animals are suffering tremedous pain and maltreatment right now, in factory farms and elsewhere, absolutely abhorent treatment of fellow creatures which any Christian/theist should be outraged about. We are after all their stewards. The true irony is that not one theist reading this would let their dog be treated badly, I guarantee that, even while they argue that (presumably just those other) animals are experiencing only shpain.”
    Perhaps the position is delusional, but I think that it would end up being delusional in almost the same way that believing (on intuitive grounds) that my dog shares certain higher-level mental properties with humans when I ‘talk to it’ (play with, snuggle with, etc.) – but outside of ‘talking to it’ I don’t believe this – is delusional. Now, there is an asymmetry in that when I’m talking in a cute manner to my dog I don’t carry those specific intuitions about mental properties into contexts outside of the one just mentioned, and form positive beliefs about such mental properties. However, I also don’t carry beliefs (intuitively grounded) about my dogs happiness/pleasure outside of contexts in which I’m talking to it (playing with it, etc.). Why should pain be different, at least for me of course?
    I do agree that animal cruelty is wrong, but not because I see myself justified in believing they feel pain as opposed shpain. It just seems dubious to allow such cruelty when I’m not sure whether or not they do and as you mention we are their stewards. But, this is different from taking a stance on whether the problem of animal suffering is REALLY a problem for the theist as regards the existence of God.

    November 13, 2009 — 13:19
  • “It wasn’t a surprise to me, but in terms of the religious community, they are adamant animals don’t experience any pain, so the results might be a surprise to them…”
    Source: Animals feel the pain of religious slaughter

    November 13, 2009 — 20:22
  • On your first comments, why not respond this way to the problem of human suffering? Why not say – for all we know, humans other than ourselves really experience shpain?
    I think it would be ridiculous to respond this way to human suffering. But if the option is available with non-human animals, why not with humans? And if it’s human testimony that is evidence for pain, why are the noises, neurological events, etc., of other animals not evidence for pain? And why not suppose human testimony is part of the divine facade also?

    November 13, 2009 — 21:52
  • Mike Almeida

    I do agree that animal cruelty is wrong, but not because I see myself justified in believing they feel pain as opposed shpain. It just seems dubious to allow such cruelty when I’m not sure whether or not they do and as you mention we are their stewards. But, this is different from taking a stance on whether the problem of animal suffering is REALLY a problem for the theist as regards the existence of God.
    Obviously, a theist cannot hold that the fact that animals suffer is such a serious problem that it makes theism untenable; otherwise, presumably, he wouldn’t be a theist. What I said is that animals suffer in appalling ways. I can’t for a moment take seriously the suggestion that they don’t. They grimace, yelp, cry, whine, indicate in every way they can that they are experiencing pain. I have no doubt that we can gin up skepticism about whether they’re in pain, just as we can gin up skepticism for our beliefs about the external world, etc. But skepticism about whether animals feel pain, just like skepticism about the external world, are not positions to abide, but problems to solve. They are irritating obstacles to believing what, in sober assessment, outside the philosophy room, we know is the case.

    November 14, 2009 — 8:24
  • jordan.nwc

    “Obviously, a theist cannot hold that the fact that animals suffer is such a serious problem that it makes theism untenable; otherwise, presumably, he wouldn’t be a theist.”
    If animals only suffered shpain then it seems that there wouldn’t be – on this issue – much of a problem as regards God’s existence. If animals suffer pain then either the theist can make sense out of this, or concede this as evidence against their conception of God while still remaining a theist, or simply give up theism. I took you(and I believe correctly) as saying that it seems clearly intuitively true that animals suffer pain and not shpain especially since even those who disagree believe this when they protect their pet from ‘suffering.’ I was providing a reason for why a person might be protective of their pet and yet conclude that one should remain agnostic with regard to animals suffering either pain or shpain. Also, agnosticism about this claim shouldn’t give reason for a theist to accept animal cruelty, but it should give both the theist and non-theist reason to remain non-committal on ‘animal suffering’ being an issue for the existence of God. More specifically, it should make the theist remain non-committal on whether the problem is in fact a problem, or whether they should try to make sense out it, or…
    I’m inclined to some form of Alex’s position.

    November 14, 2009 — 11:36
  • Mike Almeida

    I was providing a reason for why a person might be protective of their pet and yet conclude that one should remain agnostic with regard to animals suffering either pain or shpain.
    I see. Since you’re agnostic on the question, you believe there is about as much reason to believe animals are experiencing pain as to believe that they are experiencing shpain. Of course, shpain doesn’t hurt, pain does. So given your agnosticism, and any decent formlation of the principle of indifference, your view is that the chances are something like .5 that your dog experiences pain rather than schpain (change it up or down a bit if you like, it doesn’t matter to my argument). If that were true, then we’d be completely unjustified about half the time in responding retributively to someone whipping your dog. Suppose Smith whips your dog 50 times, and so does Jones. Neither causes the dog to die or do other damage, they simply inflict pain. Since there is only a .5 chance that the dog is experiencing pain, we cannot rationally conclude that more than half of those strokes were actually painful. But then, we can justifiably punish Smith for the pain 50 strokes inflicts, but we cannot justifiably punish Jones as well. After all, if we punished both for whipping the dog 50 times each, then we must have reason to believe that the chances are better than .5 that the dog is in pain rather than shpain. But, since you’re agnostic, you don’t take that position. I take that as a reductio of the position.
    Here’s another reductio. Suppose now you tell me that you think the chances are about .7 that your dog suffers pain, but you’re still a quasi-agnostic. Ok. I whip your dog twice. Since these events are independent, the most you can rationally conclude is that the chances are only .49 that he felt pain both times. Suppose I whip him 3 times. The chances he felt all of that is about .34. How about 6 times? Now we’re down to .11. The most you could do by way of justified response to my whipping your dog 6 times is about 90% less than what most of us (i.e. those who are not pain skeptics) know is appropriate. I take that as a reductio of pain skepticism as well.

    November 14, 2009 — 14:17
  • Nick Montgomery

    Alex: “But a dog’s whimpering is not quite like human whimpering. I think the reason we see the two as species of the same behavior is because both are associated with similar triggers and similar motivational states.”
    This is somewhat unclear to me. Clearly you don’t want to be skeptical about the pain of other humans, only the pain of animals (If I’m wrong here apologize). Is the implicit idea something along the lines of “People can talk to each other about pain, but animals can’t talk to people about theirs. So our understanding of animal pain is analogical”? If it is, it seems to me that all that is required here is a Kripkensteinian paradox of meaning to bring into doubt what others might mean by pain (this is to say it is possible that a person could use the word pain in all the appropriate ways, but not really mean the same thing as “pain.”) So we should doubt others pain as well, because we only really understand it analogically with our own. But we don’t doubt the pain of others, just as we don’t really doubt the pain of animals. I agree with Mike A on this point.
    Furthermore, it seems that an argument could be made from my last point (that in practice we don’t really doubt the pain of humans or other animals; something I take from the actual Wittgenstein). If we have been created by God in such a way as to recognize pain immediately in animals (humans included), despite our ability to bring into doubt the sensations of others, then we have strong reason for believing that we are, in most cases, recognizing just those real sensations of pain. At least it seems obvious to most Theists that God would not create us with completely faulty faculties. Of course one could suggest that “pain-trackers” are not God given, or any implicit ToM is not God-Given.

    November 14, 2009 — 14:37
  • DL

    Clayton Littlejohn:
    I mean, the arguments that I can offer for thinking that my sister suffers are much more compelling than the arguments I can offer for saying that you suffer […] And, I should add that I have much better evidence for saying that my pets suffered than saying that there were people suffering in far off lands during WWII.

    At first I thought maybe you meant you and your sister were twins and shared a special psychic connection. =) But the problem here isn’t one of direct evidence vs. second- (third-, etc.) hand evidence; the problem is what that evidence is evidence of. I can build a robot that demonstrates all the outward symptoms of pain, but it’s not actually feeling anything.
    It is reasonable (though of course not conclusive) to assume that a human being feels pain just like you do, because the human not only acts out pain-symptoms that match yours, but because the human being matches you in other relevant ways. That is, the human being is not merely physically like you, but also mentally or spiritually like you, or gives evidence of being so (e.g. demonstrates intellectual and volitional similarities by composing music, solving differential equations, making moral decisions not to abuse kittens, etc.). Of course, it’s always hypothetically possible that the alleged human is really just a cleverly constructed robot, but prudence nevertheless demands that you treat it as though it really was human because it could be.
    A chimpanzee is different. Not just physically (and despite the physiological similarities, chimps are materially very different from us!), but drastically so in not having a free will or an intellect (not a human intellect, anyway). Chimps cannot write sonnets or tell jokes or commit murder. Animals might have souls, but they differ so hugely from human souls in terms of intellect and will, it seems unwarranted to assume that they are just the same when it comes to experiencing qualia. Perhaps animals experience other qualia like we do, except for qualia of pain; or perhaps they experience pain but at a drastically reduced level compared to how a human would experience the same physical sensation.
    Why would God make animal’s shpain (if that is indeed what they have instead of pain) look so much like [our real] pain? I think this is Alex’s point about “motivational effects”. Pain signals something bad happening to our bodies — if you put your hand on a hot stove, the pain lets you know you should remove your hand quickly. But if an animal left its paw on a hot stove, it would still be very damaging, so however an animal is going to react, it makes sense that it would react quickly and strongly to escape the source of the pain, or rather we should call it, the source of the damage. Animals also howl when in pain; but this too is very practical, because it alerts other animals to flee the danger, or to summon help. Even the nature of the howling is practical: raucous, screechy yelps travel better than low quiet murmurings.
    That might (maybe!!) be enough to cover one side (why the symptoms would exist even with shpain instead of pain), but what about our reactions? If animals are really just fancy robots, then why do we find the thought of abusing them so repugnant? It’s certainly possible that we’re overreacting, over-anthropomorphizing; but I don’t believe that even our fallen natures are completely debased in that respect. But it is not clear to me that a healthy aversion to animal suffering requires them to feel pain and not shpain. There is surely something wrong with a doctor who enjoys slicing into people, and I don’t mean one who is abusing people. I mean a doctor who only ever operates properly and successfully on genuinely sick patients, but who takes glee in the less savoury aspects his work. Don’t psychologically healthy doctors sometimes feel some pangs about chopping people up, even when it’s the right thing to do?
    So pain isn’t really the issue here. I maintain that we should feel troubled by callously hurting an animal even if the animal isn’t feeling pain. Indeed, we would say there’s something wrong with a person who delights in wantonly destroying furniture and books and alarm clocks, but not because of pain. (Abusing an animal is worse than abusing a book; but then, surely vandalizing God’s stuff is worse than vandalizing my neighbour’s stuff.)
    Thus if animals don’t have to feel pain to act the way they do, or for us to act towards them the way we should, there needs to be some other reason to assume to feel pain the way we do.

    November 14, 2009 — 22:54
  • DL

    Mike Almeida: Since there is only a .5 chance that the dog is experiencing pain, we cannot rationally conclude that more than half of those strokes were actually painful.

    Huh? Even assuming a statistical approach for practicality, and taking your 50/50 odds, there is a 50% chance that all the blows are painful and a 50% chance that none are. There is exactly no chance at all that half the blows are painful.
    Suppose I think that dark spot in the road ahead is 99% likely to be a bag of garbage. But there’s a 1% chance that it’s a person lying there. I have a moral obligation to try to drive around that lump. You cannot conclude from this that I have any moral duty whatsoever not to drive over garbage.

    But skepticism about whether animals feel pain, just like skepticism about the external world, are not positions to abide, but problems to solve. They are irritating obstacles to believing what, in sober assessment, outside the philosophy room, we know is the case.

    Sure; as you say, we all share those intuitions. But some of our intuitions are wrong — that’s one of the reasons why we do philosophy. I not only instinctively attribute real pain to animals, but I also instinctively attribute injustice to animals’ unrewarded suffering. Why is skepticism about one more outrageous than the other? Something’s got to give, unless perhaps you are suggesting that animals get to go to heaven and endure eternal pleasure that outweighs any temporal pain. But I, for one, also have strong intuitions against that suggestion. So again, something’s got to give somewhere.

    They grimace, yelp, cry, whine, indicate in every way they can that they are experiencing pain.

    That begs the question. They’re indicating something, which we assume is pain because that’s what it indicates when we do it. Except when we’re just acting. But as in my previous post, it’s not entirely implausible that a “mere machine” would yelp and cry like an animal would without feeling the pain that we humans usually experience when we yelp.
    You say “we are after all their stewards”, and indeed we are. We are also stewards of the plant kingdom, and of the whole earth. But the earth does not feel our pain. Our responsibilities as Christians do not depend on feelings of pain (even towards other humans, that is only a secondary or indirect guide), but on the order of creation that God has entrusted to us.

    November 14, 2009 — 23:14
  • DL

    Joshua Blanchard: I think it would be ridiculous to respond this way to human suffering. […] And why not suppose human testimony is part of the divine facade also?

    Why not, indeed? It’s been suggested that, for example, aborted babies can go to heaven (as opposed to some sort of neutral limbo), and if God can protect them from the spiritual consequences of being killed so soon, He can certainly protect them from the physical consequences too. And such a notion certainly has instinctive appeal, although I would not on those grounds claim it as a certainty. But in theory, I completely accept that God could be letting us get faked out by the appearances of human suffering while in reality shielding people from the actual qualia of pain in a miraculous way. The reason I don’t think that happens (most of the time, at least!) is that I know I feel pain, and therefore there must be a justification for it, and that justification can apply to any other person. In other words, I have no need to conjecture that human pain is really shpain because I already have other reasons to explain it (like free will, etc., that apply to all human beings but not to animals — i.e. Alex’s disanalogy mentioned above).
    I think the practical argument comes into play here also: it is entirely possible that there walk among us human-like creatures who look and act entirely like real people so far as we can tell, but do not have souls (or at least the right kind of soul to experience pain). Since by definition we cannot tell them apart from ‘real’ people, all our moral obligations to real people apply also to them, by virtue of “better safe than sorry”.
    Is that something only a philosopher could consider, and only while doing philosophy? Actually, I claim it is true! According to the Bible, angels occasionally walk among us in the form of men, but I wouldn’t say angels feel pain. (Angels make an interesting comparison to animals: I believe that angels, being spiritual entities, can experience qualia, have free will, consciousness, etc. just as humans do. I don’t know that they can experience all the same qualia humans can, not even necessarily a superset, so I’m not sure whether they can feel pain or not. Perhaps demons can, or perhaps they can experience something analogous to, but not actually, pain.) At any rate, I doubt when Jacob was wresting the angel, for example, the angel suffered any discomfort. However, it seems likely to me that the angel grunted and moaned as any man would during a wrestling match, because that’s simply part of taking on the appearance of a man.

    November 14, 2009 — 23:40
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    I haven’t had a chance to read Murray’s discussion of animal pain in NRiTaC, but had read Mylan’s review from NDPR (here) and I wonder what people think of his response to Murray which seems relevant to various responses and counter-responses here. Here’s Mylan’s $.02 (which seems right to me given what he says Murray’s position is):
    Murray says:
    “For a mental state to be a conscious state (phenomenally) requires an accompanying higher-order mental state (a HOT) that has that state as its intentional object. The HOT must be a thought that one is, oneself, in that first-order state. Only humans have the cognitive faculties required to form the conception of themselves being in a first-order state that one must have in order to have a HOT. (p. 55)”
    Mylan’s response:
    “If the HOT-account of phenomenal consciousness were correct and if animals lacked the capacity for HOTs, then animals would be incapable of experiencing pain. Murray claims that we aren’t justified in rejecting this neo-Cartesian CD on the basis of our justified acceptances. Here we encounter for the first time a problem that runs throughout the book. Murray never provides an account of epistemic justification that allows us to assess his claims about what we are and aren’t justified in accepting. Let’s fill in that lacuna now. Presumably, Murray has in mind some form of internalistic justification. On internalistic accounts, justification is a function of one’s evidence (either propositional or experiential). Are we justified in rejecting the HOT-account of phenomenal consciousness, i.e., do we have evidence that the HOT-account is false? The answer is “Yes.” First, we have reason to think that the HOT-account of phenomenal consciousness is false when applied to humans, because human infants and severely retarded human beings experience (morally significant) pain, even though they aren’t capable of forming HOTs.
    We also have independent evidence that many animals are capable of experiencing pain, evidence that parallels the evidence we have for thinking our fellow humans are capable of feeling pain: We witness pain behavior, not just reflex actions to noxious stimuli (protective pain), but subsequent pain-induced behavioral modification caused by bodily damage (restorative pain); we observe significant anatomical and neurophysiological similarity between humans and many animals (including all mammals and most vertebrates); endogenous serotonergic and opioid pain-control mechanisms are present in all mammals[11] [Why would organisms incapable of feeling pain have endogenous pain-control systems?]; efferent and afferent nerves run throughout their bodies; analgesics and anesthetics stop animals from exhibiting pain behavior, presumably because these substances prevent the pain itself in much the way they prevent pain in humans; and there is compelling experimental evidence that the capacity to feel pain enhances survival value in animals, based on the self-destructive tendencies displayed by animals that have been surgically deafferented. Based on this cumulative observational, analogical, and experimental evidence, we are clearly justified in accepting that animals can feel pain, and so, we’re justified in rejecting any neo-Cartesian explanation that denies animals have this ability, based on what we justifiably accept.”

    November 15, 2009 — 0:37
  • Mark Murphy

    What I know about working with probabilities is next to nothing. But surely Almeida’s reductios are wrong. Take the second one. Even if the three events of whipping are independent, whether the dog is susceptible to pain in the first whipping is not independent of whether the dog is susceptible to pain in the second whipping, and in the third. So the way to think about how to calculate the probability that one’s response to the whipper as someone who is cruel (etc.) is appropriate is: (the probability that the dog will feel pain if whipped)[(the probability that the dog was whipped the first time)(the probability that the dog was whipped the second time)(the probability that the dog was whipped the third time)]. The probability the dog will feel pain if whipped is .7; assuming that you’re virtually certain in each case of the whipping’s having occurred, the probability that your response to the whipper as someone who has inflicted pain on an animal is correct is just about .7. Which is the right answer.
    I am sure that if I am way off on this someone will correct me rapidly.

    November 15, 2009 — 12:36
  • There’s a great deal of neuroscience literature on pain that allows that there could be sensory pain and appropriate pain behavior without affective pain (unpleasantness, hurting), and that this may actually happen in some species. However, the bulk of the literature says that at least mammals clearly do have the mechanisms that underlie both sensory/behavioral and affective pain. So “we don’t know enough about how pain systems in the brain work” is no longer really true.
    An interesting recent article by Adam Shriver suggests that through genetic engineeering it could very well be possible to “knock out” the affective aspect of pain (the hurting) in livestock while retaining sensory pain and appropriate pain behavior. If genetic engineering could pull off this feat, then surely it couldn’t have been beyond the powers of an omnipotent god to design animals that way to begin with.
    Here’s the article–
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/vrv4m6288w702123/

    November 15, 2009 — 12:54
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    “At first I thought maybe you meant you and your sister were twins and shared a special psychic connection.”
    My sister and I are adopted from different birth parents, so we can’t read each others’ minds like normal siblings can.
    “I can build a robot that demonstrates all the outward symptoms of pain, but it’s not actually feeling anything.”
    I’m sure if you could do that, you could make it look very life-like…
    “That is, the human being is not merely physically like you, but also mentally or spiritually like you,”
    I don’t disagree, but surely the premise in my argument for attributing pain to another person can’t be that they are mentally like me. That better be a conclusion based on something more basic. Whatever provides the justification either isn’t sufficient for outright belief that other human-looking entities that walk, talk, and act or is sufficient for reasonably accepting the hypothesis that infants and non-human animals feel pain.
    “Why would God make animal’s shpain (if that is indeed what they have instead of pain) look so much like [our real] pain? I think this is Alex’s point about “motivational effects”. Pain signals something bad happening to our bodies — if you put your hand on a hot stove, the pain lets you know you should remove your hand quickly. But if an animal left its paw on a hot stove, it would still be very damaging, so however an animal is going to react, it makes sense that it would react quickly and strongly to escape the source of the pain, or rather we should call it, the source of the damage. Animals also howl when in pain; but this too is very practical, because it alerts other animals to flee the danger, or to summon help. Even the nature of the howling is practical: raucous, screechy yelps travel better than low quiet murmurings.”
    So, if God can do that for the animals, why doesn’t God do that for the babes? To paraphrase Jack Donaghy, why should we be deprived of the luxuries our pets enjoy? Sounds like all the painful pains are far more likely to be gratuitous evils if this is the line to pursue.

    November 15, 2009 — 14:59
  • Mike Almeida

    What I know about working with probabilities is next to nothing. But surely Almeida’s reductios are wrong
    Mark, I can’t follow that at all. The argument has been that God created these animals so that they feel only shpain, not some combination of pain and shpain. This is what is supposed to get the rational theist off the evil hook. If your credence for the dog being the kind of thing that feels only shpain is .7, then that credence does not change after the first (or ten thousandth) whipping. What the dog does, and what you observe, will not affect your credence. What the dog does is engage in pain behavior which the hypothesis of shpain explains as well as he hypothesis of pain, or so the theists to whom I am responding believe. You have no reason to alter your hypothesis of shpain on the basis of what you observe post whipping, and so no reason to alter your credence. I, on the other hand, would say that you have good reason to alter your credence for the dog being in pain after the first whipping, if you had such bizarre credences to begin with.

    November 15, 2009 — 15:32
  • Mike Almeida

    Huh? Even assuming a statistical approach for practicality, and taking your 50/50 odds, there is a 50% chance that all the blows are painful and a 50% chance that none are.
    What don’t you follow? To say that my credence is .5 for all (say, 100) of the blows being painful is just to say that I believe that no more than .5 of them are. That much is obvious. But that is just to say that I believe that no more than 50 of them are. Equally obvious. But then I could not justifiably punish anyone for inflicting more than half of the blows, since I don’t believe more than half of them are painful.
    Your argument about the person and the bag moves the argument from theoretical reason to practical reason. I don’t argue from practical reason, so it is not obviously related to the argument I offered.

    November 15, 2009 — 15:45
  • Mike Almeida

    If genetic engineering could pull off this feat, then surely it couldn’t have been beyond the powers of an omnipotent god to design animals that way to begin with.
    I don’t think anyone is denying that God could have done so. The argument is that he didn’t, and some compelling evidence for this is nicely adduced in Engel’s NDPR review cited above.

    November 15, 2009 — 15:49
  • Mike Almeida

    The probability the dog will feel pain if whipped is .7
    I didn’t come close to denying this. Here’s what I said,
    The chances he felt all of that is about .34. How about 6 times? Now we’re down to .11.
    The probability that the dog felt all of that pain, that is, felt pain on each occasion that he was whipped, is .11. That is consistent with the position that the probability that he felt some pain is .89 (not .7). The absurd consequence is this,
    The most you could do by way of justified response to my whipping your dog 6 times is about 90% less than what most of us (i.e. those who are not pain skeptics) know is appropriate. I take that as a reductio of pain skepticism as well.
    Just to be absolutely clear, the absurd consequence is that the justified response to the whipper is just a response proportionate to the amount of pain we are justified in believing he inflicted. The amount of pain we are justified in believing he inflicted is about 10% of the total pain we non-skeptics know he inflicted.

    November 15, 2009 — 16:11
  • Mark Murphy

    Mike, I didn’t say that you denied the assumption that the probability the dog will feel pain if whipped is .7; what I said that is that you drew an absurd consequence from this that doesn’t seem to follow from it. And I’m sorry to be unclear or dense, Mike, but I’m still not seeing it.
    Suppose that you whip my dog on three occasions. I chastise you for this malfeasance in a way that all agree is appropriate to chastise someone who caused three instances of pain-by-whipping to a dog. The question is: What is the probability that my chastising you was appropriate?
    It seems that, if the probability that the dog feels pain when whipped is .7, then the probability that my chastising you was appropriate should be .7. The point of the second reductio was, I take it, to show that the probability was only about .3, and so on from there.
    But the failure of independence seemed to be plain. For either you were responsible for three instances of causing-pain-by-whipping, or were responsible for none. The probability that you were responsible for three instances of pain-by-whipping, given the .7 chance of pain-if-whipped and given that you did the three whippings, is .7. The probability that you were responsible for zero instances of pain-by-whipping, given the .7 chance of pain-if-whipped and given that you did the three whippings, is .3.

    November 15, 2009 — 16:38
  • Jean Kazez

    Mike, I was responding to Alexander Pruss’s post, not to any of the comments. One if his points was that that we can’t tell whether animals have pain (which hurts) or shpain (which just causes appropriate behaviors). He says: “shpain and pain have similar triggers and similar motivational results.”
    I believe the recent literature on animal pain says otherwise. It actually says animals can be experimentally shown to have pain states that are comprised of multiple components (involving different regions of the brain). You can retain shpain but get rid of pain, and vice versa. Given what the best research tells us about pain, there’s no dodging the question why God didn’t prevent animals from having full affective suffering. The relevant research is covered in Adam Shriver’s article (link above), which covers a different body of research about animal pain than Mylan Engel does.

    November 15, 2009 — 16:40
  • Jesse

    Hey Clayton,
    Mylan’s criticism of Murray with respect to HOT may very well be correct. By the way, I didn’t mean to imply that I accept the neo-Cartesian ‘causa dei’. I was just looking to see what implications it could have. Another interesting neo-Cartesian alternative that Murray gives is the following:
    “4. Most nonhuman animals lack the cognitive faculties required to be in a higher-order state of recognizing themselves to be in a first-order state of pain. Those that can on occasion achieve a second-order access to their first-order states of pain nonetheless do not have the capacity to regard that second-order states as undesirable.”
    In support of this last claim, Murray says that “On evolutionary grounds, it is reasonable to suppose that if animals exhibit certain behaviors when they are exposed to potentially injurious (noxious) stimuli, they do so because reacting this way has proven to be adaptive” (pg. 57). He goes on to explain why this may not be implausible.
    Again, it’s not a thesis I accept, though the scientific evidence for it is intriguing. But if some HOT neo-Cartesian hypothesis turned out to be true, I have one worry about the implications you claim it has with respect to infants and particular people that are mentally handicapped: animals, under nomological possibilities at least, do not have the capacity to achieve second-order access to their first-order states of pain. But it is the very nature of human beings to be able to have these higher order mental states, ceteris paribus. And, given the more plausible versions of Christian theism, humans that have not completely annihilated their sensitivity to the good will have further opportunities, post mortem, to conform their character towards the good. That is, the end of this life doesn’t entail annihilation for them. Hence, such humans (infants and the mentally handicapped) will eventually have HOTs. So, this can be at least one reason why all types of humans have more intrinsic value than animals, despite the current similarity of their mental states.

    November 15, 2009 — 17:22
  • jordan.nwc

    Mike:
    Those were some intense reductio’s! I’m glad my dog can’t read. Now, I want to clarify that “shpain” for me could be something like Murray’s second level within the pain hierarchy or something closely below or above it. Of course, being fairly agnostic about the whole issue, I would prefer to remain non-committal on the existence of either pain or shpain in many of the animals under examination in these discussions.
    I think that both arguments would be on the right track if I was not already assuming that there are different implications for the following two contexts: (i) decisions about animal cruelty as an action given my epistemic status and (ii) decisions about the plausibility of the existence of God given, with regard to ‘animal suffering,’ my epistemic status.
    For both of your reductio’s, I can’t see why I still don’t have perfect justification for condemning Smith, Jones, and MA (you) for whipping my dog. And I say that because I believe everyone should not perform actions that may or may not inflict pain on animals; since, being agnostic itself should be reason enough to be morally cautious (whatever that means) and so not perform actions that might possibly inflict pain. The possibility that gives me reason to be morally cautious is not the possibility that a certain number of whippings inflict pain. Instead, it’s the possibility that animals have the requisite mental make-up for whippings to cause them pain in general. So, for any number of the SAME possibly pain inflicting actions (whipping) I’m justified in being morally cautious. And so, I’m justified in condemning Smith, Jones, and MA for not being morally cautious.
    The implication for (i) is that I should remain morally cautious, but this implication doesn’t follow over to (ii). At least, I don’t see good reason for it following over to (ii). That is, I don’t see a reason for being cautious with regard to beleif formation about ‘animal suffering’ being either a problem or not for the existence of God. Why should the mere possibility, or my agnosticism, of animals experiencing pain give me reason to make a judgement about ‘animal suffering’ being a problem or not for the existence of God? If no reason presents itself, I’ll remain non-committal regarding (ii), while remaining morally cautious for (i).
    Clayton:
    I glanced at the thread above this one… Juggling chainsaws was quite funny.

    November 15, 2009 — 17:28
  • jordan.nwc

    In the above post I should have said (in the first paragraph) that I remain non-committal on what pain or shpain might actually look like in the animals under discussion, given the existence of one or the other in said animals.

    November 15, 2009 — 17:30
  • “I believe the recent literature on animal pain says otherwise. It actually says animals can be experimentally shown to have pain states that are comprised of multiple components (involving different regions of the brain). You can retain shpain but get rid of pain, and vice versa.”
    Without looking at the literature yet, let me express a doubt that we are at the point in neurology where we can identify exactly the structure responsible for pain. We can observe an area and say that something within that area is involved in pain. But what’s in that area is presumably a whole bunch of detail, detail involved in activities other than just pain. I doubt that all the detail has been mapped out, and unless it is mapped out, we do not know whether the particular aspect of the detail is responsible for the pain is also present in animals.
    That said, let me have a quick look at the Shriver piece (more later, I suppose).
    Shriver says: “One of the most common ways of measuring affective pain in nonhumans is the conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm. On such a paradigm, animals are exposed to noxious stimuli in various conditions, and their location preferences before the exposure are compared to their preferences after exposure.”
    But here we are clearly measuring motivational aspects. Surely a major part of the point of shpain is to train animals to avoid the shpainful stimuli. Shpain, by my definition, would result in the same changes to location preferences as pain does. Therefore, Shriver’s affective/sensory distinction does not map neatly onto the distinction I am making.

    November 15, 2009 — 18:05
  • Mike Almeida

    Mark, you say (much more than this but at least),
    It seems that, if the probability that the dog feels pain when whipped is .7, then the probability that my chastising you was appropriate should be .7.
    Can I switch to tossing fair coins? Suppose you believe I have a fair coin that I can inflict pain on your dog by tossing it (this is no different from believing that the dog has a .5 chance of actually feeling pain when I toss heads). There’s a momentary 120 volt electric shock that goes to your dog when I cause pain this way.
    I toss it once and the dog winces. You believe that there’s a .5 chance that I pained your dog. Sure, punish me appropriately. That would be, respecting proportions, about .5 of what I would have been due had you believed that I certainly hurt your dog. Let T be the total pain I inflict if I in fact I inflicted pain on your dog. Your correct estimate of the pain I inflicted is .5(T).
    I toss it twice and your dog winces both times. You believe that, on each occasion, the chances that I hurt your dog are .5. The chances that I hurt your dog on both occasions is then .25 (it just sums). Now the total pain I inflicted, if I inflicted it on both occasions, let’s say, is 2T (twice as much, to keep it simple, as I would have inficted had I flipped heads once = T). But skeptics are justified in believing that I inflicted .25(2T). And that’s what you should estimate, given your skeptical views about animal pain. But of course .25(2T) is just .5(T) is less than .125(3T), and so on upward. So, if I’m causing pain to your dog every time I toss the coin, as we non-skeptics believe I keep getting away with the infliction of much more pain than I’m being held responsible for. Those who are not pain skeptics conclude (rightly in my view) that I continue to get punished for a smaller and smaller fraction of the pain I’m actually inflicting. After 3 tosses of heads, you are justified in believing that your dog suffered about 13% of the total pain he would have endured (and did endure, I say) from inflicting pain three times.

    November 15, 2009 — 19:36
  • Mark Murphy

    I toss it twice and your dog winces both times. You believe that, on each occasion, the chances that I hurt your dog are .5. The chances that I hurt your dog on both occasions is then .25 (it just sums).
    I guess this is what I don’t understand. Given that my dog feels pain rather than schpain, its really hurting when you whip him the first time entails its really hurting when you whip him the second time. (Or toss the coin, or whatever.) Given that my dog feels schpain rather than pain, its not really hurting when you whip him first time entails its not really hurting when you whip him the second time. The chances you hurt the dog on both occasions is .5; the chances that you hurt the dog on neither occasion is .5.

    November 15, 2009 — 20:26
  • Alex, I think in a skeptical mood you can doubt the science in the article, but the scientists themselves do believe they have identified separate sensory and affective components of animal pain, ways to distinguish them behaviorally, and ways to manipulate them independently of each other. Sensory pain involves sensation with a certain intensity, but isn’t unpleasant, so isn’t bad and doesn’t create any problem for theism. Affective pain does hurt, and does create a problem for theism. A skeptic might wonder whether there’s really any consciousness at all in the case of sensory pain, and really any hurting at all in the case of affective pain, but (I’m just saying) if one wants a solution to the problem of evil that’s compatible with the latest science, that’s what seems to be emerging. Anyhow–it’s an interesting article with equally interesting footnotes!

    November 15, 2009 — 20:49
  • Mike Almeida

    Given that my dog feels pain rather than schpain, its really hurting when you whip him the first time entails its really hurting when you whip him the second time. (Or toss the coin, or whatever.)
    It’s true Mark that your dog is either a pain feeling thing P or a shpain feeling thing, S. True too that if he feels pain on the first occasion, he feels it on the second. All of that is fine with me. The trouble is that, on each occasion that he is whipped, you don’t know whether he’s a P or an S. You can’t tell by any observable behavior. You know only that the probability that he is a P is .5, similarly for S. Suppose that, if he did feel pain, it would be 10 decrements. He’s whipped on occasion (1). What do you know about the pain he endured? Only this,
    1. I know that there’s a .5 probability of 10 pain decrements.
    He’s whipped the second time. What do you know?
    2. I know that there’s a .5 probability of 10 pain decrements.
    What is the probability that he felt pain both times? How could it be other than .5 x .5 = .25?

    November 16, 2009 — 7:18
  • John Edge

    A related question, perhaps, to this fascinating issue: Could God Himself know whether, or even that, His creatures suffered shpain as opposed to (or as well as) pain? Indeed, could He know at all what it is like to suffer either, and hence what, if anything, the distinction might be? If these sensations are knowable only experientially, and if God lacks the physical constitution necessary to ‘enjoy’ sensory experiences, then perhaps He willingly allows His creatures to endure pain/shpain simply because He lacks knowledge of their abhorrent nature.

    November 16, 2009 — 8:17
  • Jean:
    Let’s recap the dialectic as I understand it:
    1. Hypothetical Atheist: God should have made animals with shpain, rather than pain, where shpain has exactly the same motivational consequences as pain.
    2. Me: For aught that we know, God did just that.
    3. Jean: The distinction between pain and shpain maps nicely onto the distinction between affective+sensory pain and sensory-only pain. There is good scientific evidence that animals have affective+sensory pain.
    4. Me: Because the scientists take affective pain to have motivational consequences–say, to discourage animals from visiting a location in the future–it is not the case that shpain = sensory-only pain. For sensory-only pain does not have the same motivational consequences as full pain, while shpain does.
    5. Jean: Affective pain, according to the science, does hurt. Hence animals have something that hurts, and hence have pain, not shpain.
    Now, it seems to me that in light of my comments at (4), there is still a question that the scientists have not answered. Consider two hypotheses about humans:
    Hypothesis A: The unpleasant hurtingness of pain is an intermediate cause between the stimulus and the motivational effects (such as avoiding a location).
    Hypothesis B: The unpleasant hurtingness of pain and the motivational effects are independent effects of the stimulus.
    The data presented in these comments does not show that neuroscience has sufficient resolution to distinguish between these two hypotheses as yet.
    If Hypothesis A were known to be correct about humans, there would be good reason to infer that in animals the unpleasant hurtingness of pain is present, given that the motivational effects are present. If Hypothesis B were known to be correct about humans, the evidence would be much, much weaker.

    November 16, 2009 — 8:43
  • Mark Murphy

    What is the probability that he felt pain both times? How could it be other than .5 x .5 = .25?
    We’re going over the same ground, so I’ll just give one more analogy, and be done with it. I may well just be ineducable or have some sort of blind spot myself.
    Suppose that I give you a red or a green card; I don’t know which. You are then handed a red card by A, and then a red card by B, and I know this. What should I judge to be the chances that you end up with both a match with A and a match with B?
    Well, it’s a 50% chance that you’ll match with A. And it’s a 50% chance that you’ll match with B. What are the chances that you match with both A and B? 50%.
    How could it be other than 25%? Because though it’s only a 50% chance that you’ll match with A, it’s a 100% chance that if you match with A, then you match with B. The outcome of the first matching attempt fixes the outcome of the rest.
    I took it to be the same with the dog pain. Though it’s only a 70% chance that your whipping the dog the first time causes the dog pain, there’s a 100% chance that if the dog felt the pain the first time whipped, then the dog felt the pain the second time whipped. The outcome of the first whipping — causing pain or only causing schpain — fixes the outcome of the rest. So the chances that the dog felt pain both times, three times, four times whipped, whatever, will remain 70%.

    November 16, 2009 — 10:32
  • jordan.nwc

    I agree with Mark, but perhaps I’m not seeing something. It just seems clear to me that if a dog has the requisite mental properties to constitute an experience of pain for certain actions, then the probabilities will be fixed for any amount of one of those type of actions(even with the ‘independence’).

    November 16, 2009 — 11:21
  • RTS

    Mark’s claim seems to be that the dog’s feeling pain on the first toss (A) and its feeling pain on the second toss (B) aren’t independent events. P(A&B)=P(A) x P(B) only for independent events. Seems like we should calculate it like this: P(A&B)=P(A) x P(B|A). The probability that the dog feels pain on the second toss GIVEN that it feels pain on the first is greater than 0.5. No?

    November 16, 2009 — 13:00
  • Jean Kazez

    Alex, Now that you’ve laid out the dialectic so clearly, I can see I have made my point in a not-so-clear way. The pain-shpain distinction isn’t exactly the affective-sensory distinction. So let me just restate the point.
    From a few phrases in your post, I got the impression you were trying to find sanction for doubt about animal pain from within the science of animal pain or at least from what neuroscience doesn’t know. You were making it sound (to me anyway) as if pain scientists are at a loss to distinguish pain from (functionally equivalent but hurt-free) shpain.
    In a sense, that’s not so. Pain scientists use inference to the best explanation to interpret different brain/behavior patterns. So–there’s a specific pattern that those rat researchers read as demonstrating “mere” sensory pain. There’s another pattern that demonstrates affective pain–pain that really hurts. Another pattern demonstrates merely reflexive pain–no sensory element, no hurting.
    So from within the pain science covered in Shriver’s article, you don’t really get much sanction for skepticism about animal pain. But….what if you approach that literature with a skeptical stance, or with worries about the metaphysics of pain, or worries about mental causation? I grant that then you can generate doubt despite all the evidence of animal pain that the scientists offer.
    I just think it’s important to be clear whether science itself is on your side, or not on your side, when it comes to responding to the problem of evil by doubting the existence of animal pain. I’d say: not on your side.
    As to pain/shpain. I don’t think it comes from within pain science to suppose that an animal showing every possible sign of pain might really just be in shpain. You may as well worry that an animal acting like he’s enjoying eating is really hating eating. How’s the shpain hypothesis any less remote and preposterous?
    Re: hypotheses A and B. Again, from within pain science it’s not hard to tease out cases where pain is causally efficacious from cases where it’s causally superfluous. There’s a functional difference between reflexive reactions to hot objects and reactions where the suffering is efficacious. For example, reactions in the reflex case are much faster.
    That’s not to say you can’t get yourself in a mood where you worry about the causal efficacy of pain across the board, but that worry would not be coming from science.
    Bottom line–I think you need fancy philosophical footwork to make animal pain go away as a difficult problem for theism, and science all by itself is not going to make it go away.

    November 16, 2009 — 14:32
  • Mike Almeida

    Right, Mark is denying independence. I was assuming independence. Denying independence makes the probability zero that God did anything but make the dog feel all schpain or all pain over time. I don’t know that the other outcomes have probability zero for God; there is no chance that some feel justifiable pain? Is it reasonable to believe the same holds across species? If schpain in one species than schpain in all? If not, if there is some chance of mixed outcomes, then run the same argument across species, and you get the same problem.

    November 16, 2009 — 17:36
  • DL

    Like Mark Murphy, I was considering only the dependent case. Certainly God could make creatures switch back and forth between pain and shpain, but that doesn’t help with the theodicean question. (Unless every animal always feels only shpain, there’s an injustice.) And I find the scientific distinction between sensory vs. affective pain fascinating, but also probably not relevant. (If we interpret that as saying animals already have pain+shpain, then the hypothesis can be slightly refined to posit that instead they have shpain + “sh-shpain”, or sensory-shpain + affective+shpain.)
    What I’m really interested in is whether some shpain-like theory is a possible explanation of the real world under Judeo-Christian principles. Not whether it’s the only possible explanation, or whether other shpain-ish worlds have other problems, but basically whether shpain is compatible with the Bible and with observation — but not necessarily with common sense.
    For simplicity (at least to start with), I would like to divide pain into P-pain (physical pain) and Q-pain (the qualia of pain): Q-pain is of course the thing that really hurts, while P-pain is a physical manifestation that may or may not accompany Q-pain. (Angels might have Q-pain, but never P-pain; robots could exhibit P-pain, but never have Q-pain; given a Biblical view, I think we can take it for granted that humans have both, but if we want to conjecture that some people don’t, or some people don’t sometimes, or some people are really angels in disguise, etc., etc. I don’t think that matters for this problem.)
    It’s obvious that animals have P-pain (presumably sensory P-pain and affective P-pain: neither is Q-pain because anything we can discover from scientific study of brains and physiology is physical); according to the common-sense view, animals have Q-pain as well (inherently linked the way P-pain and Q-pain are connected in myself). The hypothesis is that animals in fact do not have Q-pain, but P-pain only (or shpain, since I think this is basically Alex’s original Suggestion #1).
    We cannot tell by observation whether animals have Q-pain or not (observation gets us only as far as P-pain). In some ways, animals are analogous to humans, so it’s plausible that they do; but in other ways, animals are quite different from humans, so it’s also plausible that they might not. The obvious objection is that if animals didn’t have Q-pain, it would be all right to abuse them, but that doesn’t necessarily follow. It can be OK to hurt an animal (e.g. if you’re a vet), and it’s wrong to kick a puppy around like a football even if the puppy is unconscious/Q-pain-free somehow. So the immorality of abusing animals is not a direct relationship to Q-pain anyway, and I maintain that our ordinary intuitions about animal welfare can apply just as well (more or less) in a world where animals suffer only P-pain.
    So what I’m proposing is that it’s possible to have two worlds that are apparently the same, except that in one animals suffer gratuitous pain (making God a big meanie), while in the other, they don’t. Animals’ behaviour, our behaviour — even whether our particular actions concerning animals are virtuous or wicked — all work out the same in both worlds.

    November 16, 2009 — 23:39
  • Mike Almeida

    DL,
    I just can’t read c. 500 word comment posts: it’s way too long. Maybe others do. So I might have missed something you said. In any case, the dependence/independence disagreement is a red herring. We get an equally bad reductio under the assumption of dependence. Simply suppose that Smith whips your dog 3 times and the chances that your dog feels pain is .5, i.e. you’re agnostic about it. Let each decrement of pain, were it actually felt, be equal to -10. Over time you are justified in the belief that Smith inflicted half as much pain as we non-skeptics know he inflicted. After whipping the dog 3 times, he inflicts -30 decrements, but you’re justified in believing that he has inflicted only half as much, -15. In absolute terms, Smith gets away with inflicting more and more pain over time. After whipping the dog four times, he gets away with inflicting -20, after five, -25, and so on. And that’s after simply conceding the dependence question.

    November 17, 2009 — 8:01
  • DL

    Well, I insist that it’s wrong to kick puppies regardless of whether they feel pain or shpain, so in that sense, yes, the dependence thing is irrelevant, and the reductio doesn’t apply to me anyway.
    But even if it did, I still have no idea why you think I believe Smith has inflicted only -15 units of pain. There are two possible worlds: one in which Smith has inflicted -30 units, and one in which he has inflicted 0. There’s no world in which he has inflicted -15, and no world in which I believe that.

    November 17, 2009 — 14:09
  • I do think the pain issue does affect action. For instance, if to save the life of one’s child, one had to kick a puppy, that would be the right thing to do. On the other hand, if to save one’s child from a minor discomfort, one had to kick a puppy, that would not be right, even if the puppy doesn’t feel pain. Somewhere between the child’s discomfort and death there is a boundary line where it becomes permissible to kick the puppy. But where that line lies will depend on how likely it is that the puppy feels pain.

    November 17, 2009 — 15:14
  • RTS

    Mike, are you saying that because P(3 whippings inflict -30 decrements)=0.5 that the agent with such a probability assignment is justified in believing three whippings inflict -15 decrements?
    Above, you say:
    “It’s true Mark that your dog is either a pain feeling thing P or a shpain feeling thing, S. True too that if he feels pain on the first occasion, he feels it on the second. All of that is fine with me.”
    That means P(3 whippings inflict -30 decrements) and P(3 whippings inflict 0 decrements) are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. I’m having trouble seeing where the justification for believing 3 whippings inflict -15 decrements comes from.

    November 17, 2009 — 15:51
  • DL

    Clayton Littlejohn: Whatever provides the justification either isn’t sufficient for outright belief that other human-looking entities that walk, talk, and act or is sufficient for reasonably accepting the hypothesis that infants and non-human animals feel pain.

    We can’t know that other humans experience pain, but it’s possible they experience the same thing I do because other humans exhibit their supposed souls (consciousnesses/whatever) in the same ways I do. If they had intellects like mine, they would demonstrate intellectual behaviour like I do; if they had free wills like mine, they would demonstrate moral behaviours like I do. In other words, other people exhibit all the same symptoms I do. Animals, on the other hand, exhibit some of the same symptoms I do, and therefore I can conclude they are somewhat like me; but they also fail to exhibit many other behavious that I and other humans do, so I also conclude that animals are in many other ways very different from me (or you).

    So, if God can do that for the animals, why doesn’t God do that for the babes?

    Maybe He does. But there are other ways God could compensate babies for temporal pain, such as an eternity of bliss. Even if there is a sense in which animals can go to heaven, I don’t see how they could have enough awareness or understanding that what happens to them then is “making up” for what happened to them on earth. And if animals are different enough from humans that the same solution won’t work for both of them, then they must be different enough that the same problem doesn’t apply to them in the first place.

    November 17, 2009 — 16:05
  • DL

    Alexander Pruss: But where that line lies will depend on how likely it is that the puppy feels pain.

    I agree that it will affect the precise position of the line, but the closer the shpain-line is to the pain-line, the less force the objection carries. I think the shpain-line is (or can be) close enough to the typical pain-line that we wouldn’t notice in most circumstances. (And of course, everyone draws such lines in slightly different places anyway.)
    Anyway, it’s not merely a question of drawing a (sh)pain-line; we also need to draw the line past which God becomes arguably sadistic. God could always save the child without having any puppies get kicked, after all. If shpain can be ruled out for not being on or very close to the pain-line, then that doesn’t leave any wiggle-room for God.
    I guess you could simply argue that without the Fall, there would be no animal pain, so it’s all our fault, not God’s. But that won’t make the animals feel any better.

    November 17, 2009 — 16:20
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    “We can’t know that other humans experience pain”
    Why not? Don’t you know that you’re not surrounded by zombies?
    “Other people exhibit all the same symptoms I do.”
    Not babies or French speakers.
    “Animals, on the other hand, exhibit some of the same symptoms I do, and therefore I can conclude they are somewhat like me; but they also fail to exhibit many other behavious that I and other humans do, so I also conclude that animals are in many other ways very different from me (or you).”
    Yes, that’s why I rarely play chess with my dog. I don’t think you mean to suggest that it follows or likely follows that my dog can’t feel pain. Surely you think that the dog can sense its surroundings. Surely you think these sensations can be so intense as to be unpleasant. Or, do you think it’s more likely than not that all dogs are zombies?
    “So, if God can do that for the animals, why doesn’t God do that for the babes? Maybe He does.”
    I don’t think “maybe” means what you think it does.
    “But there are other ways God could compensate babies for temporal pain, such as an eternity of bliss.”
    You can say that, but what’s better, bliss w/no infant suffering or bliss w/infant suffering? I’d say you make the infant worse off if you poke it with a fork. So, I’d say that the bliss w/no suffering option is preferable. Since it’s clearly within God’s power to make that happen, I think you should believe that all infants are zombies. But, as that’s crazy, I think you should rethink the commitments that led you to that position.
    “Even if there is a sense in which animals can go to heaven, I don’t see how they could have enough awareness or understanding that what happens to them then is “making up” for what happened to them on earth.”
    But that’s not true for infants. That’s not true for infants? So, there’s a kind of awareness and understanding that an infant capable of feeling pain exhibits that no non-human animal exhibits. Monkeys. Dolphins. The nearest non-human ancestor in our evolutionary history. Check and mate.
    Sorry, I’m with another member of these threads who thinks that this is bordering on the immoral. If you think that it’s no worse that a fawn is trapped in a forest fire than it escapes or it’s no worse when a puppy is left in a hot car than when it’s not, I think you just might be borderline evil. Weird philosophical/theological views may well be a cause, but hardly a justification. I suspect that no one really believes the stuff that you’re floating and that this is just devil’s advocacy in action. Please, please let that be the case.

    November 17, 2009 — 23:38
  • RTS

    oops. mutually exclusive and exhaustive events, not probabilities.

    November 18, 2009 — 0:40
  • DL

    Clayton Littlejohn: “Other people exhibit all the same symptoms I do.”
    Not babies or French speakers.

    Of course French people exhibit the same symptoms, they just do it in French. All right, perhaps I should say other people exhibit the same class of symptoms that I do. No two people act identically, but human beings in general act a lot different from any other animal in general.

    Yes, that’s why I rarely play chess with my dog. I don’t think you mean to suggest that it follows or likely follows that my dog can’t feel pain.

    Of course not: after all, you can play chess with your computer, and it definitely does not feel pain.

    Surely you think that the dog can sense its surroundings. Surely you think these sensations can be so intense as to be unpleasant.

    Well, that’s the whole question. Machines can “sense” their surroundings, and yes, all machines are “zombies”. We can already create robots that remind us of lower life-forms, like insects, in the way they act. Do you think we will hit a limit in how complex our robots can be? or do you think that once they are complex enough they will automatically gain the ability to “experience” qualia? I do not, so I expect some day to see robots that function enough like animals for our instincts to attribute pain to them as well, but I do not believe that the robots really will feel pain. Now I also suspect that animals can perceive qualia, in some way, but it is far from obvious whether animals’ souls/consciousness lie on pain side of the line or the shpain side.

    So, I’d say that the bliss w/no suffering option is preferable. Since it’s clearly within God’s power to make that happen, I think you should believe that all infants are zombies. But, as that’s crazy, I think you should rethink the commitments that led you to that position.

    You first: if the bliss w/o suffering option really is preferable, and God could do it (as we agree He could), then there are only two possibilities: God does make it happen (by having babies be zombies, or by some miracle, or whatever else it takes); or God doesn’t make it happen, and creates a less preferable universe, i.e. God is (to some degree) malevolent. If baby-shpain is crazy, then you must be denying that God is good, right? I don’t see how it can be a problem for me but not for you.
    On the other hand, if you accept as I do that God has a legitimate excuse for letting babies suffer, then we’re OK. But those excuses (free will, going to heaven, etc.) can apply to babies (baby humans still have free will even if they can’t exercise it; they are capable of ending up in heaven regardless of how young they die, etc.); they don’t apply to animals. If you do have an justification for animal suffering that does apply, I really want to know what it is, because so far I haven’t come across one.

    [re awareness] So, there’s a kind of awareness and understanding that an infant capable of feeling pain exhibits that no non-human animal exhibits. Monkeys. Dolphins. The nearest non-human ancestor in our evolutionary history. Check and mate.

    Alas, I’m not much better at chess than your dog! Yes, infants have awareness that differs even from dolphins’. Infants have human souls, dolphins and monkeys do not. Even if you claim that there is a functional equivalence for very young humans — something I do not find obvious in the least — the fact remains that infants grow up to become adult human beings; dolphins do not. An infant in heaven will have adult human faculties; a monkey in heaven will not. Again, a philosopher can be skeptical of anything, but it really is no stretch to think that infants are the same sort of creature that I am and that animals are not.

    If you think that it’s no worse that a fawn is trapped in a forest fire than it escapes or it’s no worse when a puppy is left in a hot car than when it’s not, I think you just might be borderline evil.

    Sure, y’all think I’m evil and sadistic; and I think that everyone on the other side of the fence — you know, the ones who think God tortures animals for fun — are blasphemous and wicked. Now that we’ve got that out of our systems, what’s the answer? (Oh, and you don’t have to ask “if” I think that way. I’ve explicitly said above, more than once, that I don’t, and even in a short, non-500 word comment, so you must be getting me mixed up with someone else. For the record, let me state it again: cruelty towards animals is NOT justifiable on a shpain view of the world. Please note that nobody suggesting the shpain theory has indicated that cruelty is acceptable.)

    November 18, 2009 — 12:38
  • Mike Almeida

    There are two possible worlds: one in which Smith has inflicted -30 units, and one in which he has inflicted 0. There’s no world in which he has inflicted -15, and no world in which I believe that.
    The reason is pretty clear. Let W be the pain world and W’ the shpain world. My chances for those worlds are .5(W) + .5(W’) = .5(.30) + .5(0) = -15. This is how expected utility is calculated. Consider any event E that has already happened or failed to happen (again, your in the event world or your not). Let E = someone put $10 in the envelope I’m holding. Suppose the chances of that are .5. The chances of there not being anything in the envelope are .5. How much are you willing to pay to see? If you are willing to pay more than $5, you should keep away from gambling games. What you can expect to win from taking the envelope is $5, despite the fact that “there are two worlds”, one in which you get $10 and one in which you get 0.

    November 18, 2009 — 16:57
  • RTS

    (A) 3 whippings inflict -30 decrements on the dog, (B) 3 whippings inflict 0 decrements on the dog
    Mike, you admit that these are mutually exclusive and exhaustive events, right? That means your probabilities in these two events should sum to 1. What, then, is the probability that (C) the dog suffers -15 decrements from three whippings? Well, if that means -15 and no more (that is, we’re not talking about (A) which entails 3 whippings inflict -15 because they inflict -30, so (C) and (A) are distinct outcomes), your probability, P(C), should be 0. Otherwise, there’s a Dutch Book around the corner for you.
    Maybe you could connect the dots for me from this to your last post in response to DL on expected utility.

    November 18, 2009 — 17:39
  • Mike Almeida

    Maybe you could connect the dots for me from this to your last post in response to DL on expected utility.
    We are assuming dependence, right? So, if there is a .5 chance of pain in one whipping, there is a .5 chance in two or three whippings. The cases that are always left out are the mixed cases; the only cases that take some probability are (PPP) and (NNN), for pain and no pain. So, either he experiences pain on every occasion or none. These have equal chances of occurring, .5 each. If there is a .5 chance of (PPP), then there is a .5 chance of (-30) = -15. Otherwise there is a .5 chance of (NNN). Sume those ME and CE outcomes and we have a total of -15. How are we doing?

    November 18, 2009 — 18:56
  • RTS

    Thanks for responding, Mike. I’m still not quite there though.
    Above, you write, “.5(W) + .5(W’) = .5(-.30) + .5(0) = -15.”
    Something looks wrong here. My personal probabilities are coherent and sum to 1 on the left, and somehow, I end with a negative number and I’m incoherent (I have a negative credence (?), and mutually exclusive and exhaustive events no longer sum to 1). What is the unit on -15, what does it measure? Why am I multiplying my probabilities with the decrements that the dog experiences?

    November 18, 2009 — 19:25
  • Mike Almeida

    RTS,
    Suppose I’m trying to calculate the expected (dis)value of some action A. It might be whipping a dog, it might be opening an envelope, etc. What I do is take the partition of possible outcomes and their values, multiply through and take the sum. So, I’m wondering whether to go the party, P. Imagine, for simplicity, that there are just two salient outcomes, I meet Jane at the party, I don’t meet Jane at the party. Let the former have some positive desriability for me, or positive value (+10). Suppose there is a .5 chance that she’ll be at the party. Let the latter have some negative value (-6). How do I determine the expected value of P? EV(P) = [.5(Jane is at the party) + .5(Jane isn’t there)] = [.5(10) + .5(-6)] = 2. The expected value of going to the party is 2.
    In the case of whipping the dogs, I’m calculating the expected disvalue of doing so. If we assume the sort dependence in play (i.e. either you feel pain everytime or never), then the probability of the causing pain by whipping one time is equal to the probability of causing pain twice by whipping or three times. Let P1 = the dog feels pain. We are assuming that .5(P1) iff. .5(P1,P2,P3) (i.e. the dog has a .5 chance of feeling pain on the first whipping iff. it has a .5 chance of feeling pain on all three whippings). What is the expected disvalue of whipping the dog three times, W3? EV(W3) = [.5(P1,P2,P3) + .5(N1,N2,N3)] = [.5(-30) + .5(0)] = -15. So if you whip the dog three times it is rational to believe that you inflicted -15 decrements of disvalue/pain.

    November 19, 2009 — 9:01
  • DL

    The problem with the calculation is not that there’s anything wrong with the arithmetic; it’s that I’m not expecting any utility to begin with. This isn’t a question of gambling, it’s a question of which description of the world is most accurate: the one with shpain, or the one with pain and a cruel God? (Note that in both cases, everything else is pretty much the same, i.e. according to both descriptions it is wrong to abuse animals. If you want to propose a third candidate which has shpain + acceptable abuse, then that’s easily ruled out because everyone already agrees that that does not describe the real world.)

    So if you whip the dog three times it is rational to believe that you inflicted -15 decrements of disvalue/pain.

    It would be rational to pay for -15 decrements of pain, assuming that I get charged to kick the puppy (in cash or any other form of cost to me), and assuming that my goal is to cause it pain and if I cause it only shpain I’ll consider myself gypped, and assuming that that cost is the only relevant factor (e.g. kicking puppies is just a game with no moral or other consequences). But those are pretty wild assumptions. And it still won’t be rational to believe that I inflicted -15 units of pain. At most I believe the pupy-kicking to be worth only -15 units. Just as if the odds are equal that Jane will or won’t attend the party, I am not justified in believing she will half be there, or half of her will attend. Either she’s there or she’s not; the value of trying to meet her there may be half, but it would be indisputably irrational for me to believe that half of her body is walking around (er, hopping around?) at any location.

    November 19, 2009 — 10:50
  • Mike Almeida

    It would be rational to pay for -15 decrements of pain, assuming that I get charged to kick the puppy (in cash or any other form of cost to me)…
    I’ve given you the textbook procedure for calculating expected utility (please check it out for yourself, see Jeffrey’s _Logic of Decision_, for instance). That’s simply how it’s done. If you want to make decision in contexts involving known chance and value, that’s the way to do it. The expected value of opening the envelope is $5, since there’s a .5 chance of there being $10 inside. The very most a rational person should pay to open it is $5. He then rightly expects to break even. The most you can be expected to pay for the cost imposed on my dog is -15 decrements. I get to impose -15 decrements on you and I rightly expect to break even (on behalf of my dog). Here are the exchanges.
    1. It costs you $5 to receive a .5 chance at $10.
    2. It costs you -15 decrements to impose a .5 chance at -30 decrements on my dog.

    November 19, 2009 — 13:08
  • RTS

    OK, so I think we actually agree that (assuming dependence) P(-30 outcome)=0.5 and P(0 outcome)=0.5. Those are my credences. The envelope case is clear. In the envelope case, my credence is .5 in the $10 outcome. Assume credences match betting prices (as all Dutch Book arguments do) and that we have a bet that pays $10 or nothing. Because your credence is .5 in $10, you are willing to pay up to $5 to play. That’s fine, but your credences remain the same: P($10)=0.5, P(0)=0.5. $5 is what you’re willing to pay to play, but it does not represent a new credence in a new outcome.
    However, the dog case is much less clear. In the dog case, it doesn’t cost me -15 decrements at all – it costs the dog. Similarly, I shouldn’t change my credences in either of the two possible outcomes (-30 or 0) or in an outcome that by my own lights isn’t possible (-15).
    The probabilities, my beliefs, are unaltered by any wager (though it’s tough to see the wager connection with the dog example).

    November 19, 2009 — 14:05
  • Mike Almeida

    However, the dog case is much less clear. In the dog case, it doesn’t cost me -15 decrements at all – it costs the dog.
    Right, but -15 decrements is what I could reasonably charge you. I’ve been putting the costs in the dog case this way: I could reasonably punish you (the punishment is the cost of choosing to impose a .5 chance at -30 decrements on my dog) -15 decrements or the equivalent of -15 decrements in, say, dollars (whatever that might come to).
    You say,
    Similarly, I shouldn’t change my credences in either of the two possible outcomes (-30 or 0) or in an outcome that by my own lights isn’t possible (-15).
    Strange. You have no problem with the envelope case (as you attest to above) and yet it is true there that the outcome of you recieving $5 isn’t possible either. The envelope contains $10 or nothing.

    November 19, 2009 — 14:25
  • RTS

    Right, a $5 outcome isn’t possible. But the question isn’t “What is your credence in getting $5 dollars?” (that case is parasitic on the $10 outcome; that is, you believe you get $5 iff you get $10). Instead, it’s “What are you willing to pay to play?” Your credences are what they are. If your credences were different, then your betting prices would be different.
    I’m sorry, Mike. I’m still not getting the dog scenario. You might decide it’s not worth your time.

    November 19, 2009 — 14:32
  • Mike Almeida

    This doesn’t help you?
    1. It costs you $5 to receive a .5 chance at $10.
    2. It costs you -15 decrements to impose a .5 chance at -30 decrements on my dog.

    November 19, 2009 — 14:34
  • RTS

    Not particularly. I suspect this may be the source of my misunderstanding: are you really talking about belief? Answering the following question might clear things up for me: Does my probability distribution in the dog scenario remain P(-30)=0.5 and P(0)=0.5 throughout?
    I really do appreciate your help here.

    November 19, 2009 — 15:11
  • A point worth making is that the correlation between pain behavior and pain experience notoriously differs from person to person. The same level of pain behavior that in a wimp like me signals a minor pain, if it occurred in my wife would signal something really severe. Similarly, it appears likely that the correlation between stimulus intensity and pain experience also differs from person to person. A significant portion of the differences may be due to cognitive factors, cultural influences, etc.
    Even within a single person, the experience and expression of pain depends widely on social context, other activities being engaged in, etc. (People on disability whose back makes it impossible for them to work can sometimes be seen playing golf. Sometimes they just are plain cheats, perhaps. But it is also not implausible that when they are doing something fun, the pain bothers them less.)
    These differences within our species, and even within a single individual, make it plausible that even if (as seems likely) animals experience pain, we have very little knowledge of the intensity of their pain. Maybe it is much more intense than ours, or maybe it is much less so. The theist is within her epistemic rights to believe that either there is a theodicy for animals experiencing intense pain or else animals’ pain is not intense.

    November 19, 2009 — 16:14
  • Mike Almeida

    Not particularly. I suspect this may be the source of my misunderstanding: are you really talking about belief? Answering the following question might clear things up for me: Does my probability distribution in the dog scenario remain P(-30)=0.5 and P(0)=0.5 throughout? I really do appreciate your help here.
    I honestly can’t understand how you manage to find (1) intelligible and (2) unintelligible. Let’s talk about chance, first and directly, and credence insofar as it ought (via some version of the principal principle) to match chance. That might help. Maybe (3) and (4) will make sense; the analogy is almost perfect here.
    Principle of Justice:
    PJ. if you cost me X, then, other things equal, it is perfectly just for me to cost you X in return.
    Do we agree that this is an initially reasonable principle? If not, we should stop and move to another discussion. If so, move on to step (2).
    Suppose you impose on me a cost of $5 (maybe you steal something from me, or the like). I can then impose a $5 cost on you. I thereby recoup my losses. Now suppose you want to impose on me a .5 chance of losing $10. I can rationally charge you $5 to do it. In that case I expect to break even.
    2. It costs you $5 to impose a .5 chance of a $10 cost on me.
    Now suppose you want to impose a cost of -15 decrements on my dog. I can charge you -15 decrements to do it. You can hurt my dog, I say, but it’ll cost you the same amount to do it. That’s just, according to our principle PJ.
    Now suppose you want to impose a .5 chance of -30 decrements on my dog. Ok, I say, but again it will cost you an equal amount to do it.
    3. It costs you -15 decrements to impose a .5 chance at -30 decrements on my dog.
    If that still doesn’t help I’m prepared to cry uncle. 🙂

    November 19, 2009 — 16:45
  • Mike Almeida

    make that (2) and (3) rather than (3) and (4). .

    November 19, 2009 — 16:47
  • DL

    I’ve given you the textbook procedure for calculating expected utility

    Yes, but I don’t want it! Again, your arithmetic is faultless. I have absolutely no complaint about the answer you keep giving — I just wish I knew what the question was.

    November 19, 2009 — 21:01
  • DL

    The theist is within her epistemic rights to believe that either there is a theodicy for animals experiencing intense pain or else animals’ pain is not intense.

    Good points about the intensity. Interestingly your examples tend to be things that only apply to creatures with high levels of intelligence and awareness (e.g. having fun). Of course, when a human can’t understand what’s happening, that can intensify pain or discomfort — though I suppose that’s a further point in favour of less intensity for non-rational animals?
    But I’m not sure less intense pain helps. It would seem to us that a teeny-tiny amount of pain isn’t worth bothering about, but surely that’s only in the context of greater pain that we’ve experienced? To an animal, it’s still the worst pain it’s ever experienced. Or, to look at it the other way around, assume that there’s no limit to how much pain an animal could feel (or that the limit is very high, even if it could only be caused miraculously): whatever the intensity is, it will be negligible compared to the theoretical limit. If animals are innocent, then surely even the slightest shred of pain is infinitely unfair of God?

    November 19, 2009 — 21:52
  • Actually, less intense pain may not be bad at all, at least when the pain is veridical, i.e., correctly informative of damage to the body. Veridical pain is a perception of something that is so. That is a good thing, for the same reasons that it is a good thing to hear or see what is so, etc. It is when the pain is too intense to let us function, or something like that, that it becomes an evil.

    November 20, 2009 — 7:43
  • DL: This old post of mine is also somewhat relevant.

    November 20, 2009 — 7:46
  • Mike Almeida

    The theist is within her epistemic rights to believe that either there is a theodicy for animals experiencing intense pain or else animals’ pain is not intense.
    Alex,
    I’ve heard the declaration of deontic permission on lots of occasions. I’m not sure what it comes to. I agree, of course, that if one comes to this problem with very high priors for theism, then the problem of animal pain is more manageable. It is an odd feature of conditionalizing that counterevidence E diminshes the probability of theism T less for those who are more convinced of theism than for those less convinced (once again, from those who have less, more is taken!). Maybe the former can stay within their epistemic rights in this way, but not the latter (or not all of the latter). There’s an additional temptation in light of problems like animal suffering to augment theism with hypotheses H in ways that help theism accomodate E. Maybe this is how theists are supposed to remain within their epistemic rights. What’s commonly overlooked in this move is that P(T & H) is often lower than P(T/E). The evidence of animal suffering might diminish the probability of theism less than the addition of H, which is designed to screen off the problems E presents. You’re better off just taking your unscreened medicine from E. So, that’s not a good way to stay within your epistemic rights. The most reasonable theistic approach to this problem is via an animal pain defense that just admits the suffering. This at least does justice to the difficulty of the problem–it is hard to find a defense for this–and it has all the virtue of honest toil over theft.

    November 20, 2009 — 10:10
  • DL

    Actually, less intense pain may not be bad at all, at least when the pain is veridical

    I think something can be good and evil at the same time (though in different senses or contexts, of course). However, I was thinking that any of the useful or veridical aspects of pain are covered by shpain… at least until reading your older post, which led me to what I think is a critical distinction: you can feel something without its feeling painful, that is, the quale of “being pinched” is not the same as the quale of pain. (In platonic terms, you could participate in the form of “being-pinched-ness” without participating in the form of “painfulness”, or vice versa. There may a form of “pinchy-pain” different from a form of mental-anguish-pain, and so on, but that doesn’t matter for now.)
    In other words, I was thinking of the qualia involved in getting pinched [hard] as being the same qualia that make up the painfulness, but there’s no need for them to be the same. If you’re distracted or having fun or whatever, you might feel the same touch-quale (e.g. the quale of “something hard and sharp pressing on me with a certain force”) as you feel when experiencing that sensation as a pain. The difference is that there’s a separate quale of “painfulness” that may or may not accompany that sensation. So I can posit that animals, unlike robots, can sense qualia, but they still might never sense pain. Robots can detect physical stimuli and react accordingly (e.g. fleeing danger), animals detect stimuli and feel accompanying qualia (but not pain itself), and humans sense stimuli, the accompanying qualia, and the qualia of pain.
    This also lessens the problems of our instincts: if animals feel no qualia but we intuit that they do, our instincts are quite badly off the mark. However, if animals feel most of the qualia we do, though not all, and we assume that they share all the qualia we do, that’s a much smaller mistake, and easier to accept.

    November 20, 2009 — 13:25