Aesthetics as a Moral Justification
Should aesthetics dominate ethical consideration? Those that exploit animals would have us believe so. They argue for hedonism all the time. Eating is about the taste. Pet ownership is about love. Rodeos are about entertainment. These are all aesthetic justifications. In their terms, the acts are justified on the basis that they–the consumer–derives some sort of pleasure. Would this form of justification stand up in a court of law, in a case concerning humans?
The man raped the women in order to derive sexual pleasure. The women murdered her friend as she yearned for the rush. These sound like very unjustified acts, don’t they? What of the victims in these instances? What about their interests?
I think in a utilitarian world aesthetics can be used to justify some things, provided all actors are party to the exchange. Preference utilitarianism after all is about weighing up interests. We hear stories–they strangely all seem to come from Eastern Europe–of people giving their bodies to cannibalism. Perhaps this can be justified.
However, this is about lopsided bargains. Where one party doesn’t necessarily consent to being the subject of somebody else’s hedonism. Where that party’s interests are not properly considered.
Usually in debates my argument fails at the point where I draw a human comparison. This isn’t a failure point at all. The failure point is how aesthetic justifications are permissible in situations concerning non-humans only.