Philospot

Singer: Re Michael Vick: if you eat factory farmed chicken, eggs, pork or veal you're in no position to be outraged by the Eagles signing him. Thanks to Rob for making me aware of this.

Singer's charge seems to be one of hypocrisy. So, let's assume - because he needs this in order for the argument to work - that people who eat factory farmed chicken, eggs, pork or veal are aware of they way their food is produced. If they are not aware then they are not hypocrites - although they may be culpably uninformed (or they may not, depending on the case in question). The assumption is, of course, false. But let's make it and see where it leads. Underlying the charge of hypocrisy seems to be the following line of argument.

1. Smith is (knowingly) engaged in morally outrageous activity A.
2. Jones is (knowingly) engaged in morally outrageous activity B.
3. Since Smith is engaged in morally outrageous activity A, he/she is ‘in no position' to be outraged at Jones engaging in B.

This is not a good argument because it does not establish what it is supposed to establish. In particular, it does not establish that Smith should not be (legitimately) outraged at Jones. Smith should be outraged at what Jones is doing if Jones' activity is, in fact, a morally outrageous one. That is what a morally outrageous activity is - one at which you can justifiably be morally outraged. The fact that Smith should also be outraged at him/herself in no way detracts from this. Any apparent plausibility the argument has turns on the ambiguity of the expression ‘in no position'. It might mean (a) one can't be outraged without being a hypocrite, or it might mean (b) one can't be legitimately outraged at Jones. The inference from (a) to (b) is unsound. A hypocrite has justification for his/her outrage if what he/she is outraged about is, in fact, outrageous.

So, Vick's actions were, I maintain, outrageous. I am outraged, and not simply because I don't eat factory farmed chicken, eggs, pork or veal. Even if I did, I could still be legitimately outraged - it's just that then I would also be a hypocrite. Being the latter does not undermine the possibility of the former.

I didn't get much sleep last night, so this argument may be pants. If so, I'd be grateful for some kind soul to point out why and I can get the post down!

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