The Philosophy Supermarket


         “Would you like some Kant with  your frozen peas?”

Some would say it was not a good idea agreeing to work 17 hours in a supermarket the week of your philosophy exam. Good for the hip-pocket but bad for the squishy brain. How ma’ dear will you ever pass your exam if you do not study?

By combining the two together, that is how. Yep, that’s right, when I’m scanning your weekly grocery goods I’m using the real-life situation for philosophical interrogation regarding Animal Ethics and Equality (should we eat meat?) and Designer Babies (genetic engineering ethics.) It’s a win for both the mind and the wallet.

Don’t believe me?

Scenario 1:  Swiping a person’s meat through the register. People buy a lot of meat. Grisly, red meat with bones sticking out in awkward positions it is impossible not to think about the animal that was slaughtered for a prime position on a black tray sealed in plastic. Philosopher Singer says that “all animals are equal” yet by eating them we are placing our species on a pedestal, show who’s boss by killing them and eating them. By believing we are superior to other animals we may be committing a type of specism, similar to racism when one puts their species above another.

Although perhaps this is looking at it from the wrong angle and we should be in fact eating them for their nutritional benefit. Although believing that it is just “common-sense” that we deserve a banger on our plate with three veg is what Cohen believes is not enough to be morally sound. A few hundred years ago Westerners believe that slavery was just “common-sense” but now that view is frowned upon. Will our views too change toward eating meat in the future?

But our views are already changing, the number of people who choose to buy organic, free-range chicken and other meat at a supermarket is on the increase. Customers are worried about where their meat is coming from, how it is being killed and what chemicals are injected into their food.  Australians DO care about animals, even if they do eat them, the huge outcry over the Indonesian exports of live cattle shows that Australians do not want animals to suffer. So perhaps it is not a question about taking meat from our diet completely but being morally aware of where it is coming from and how it is being slaughtered? The Utilitarian Principle says that all actions should be done to minimise suffering and maximise happiness. How much suffering an animal has when being killed may not equal the amount happiness a human has from eating a big,  juicy hamburger. Or maybe it does out-weigh? There are many problems with this theory.

(Just for the record – I eat meat, although recent studying on the subject has made me want to cut back on my meat intake).

Scenario 2:  Screaming babies and monkey-children hanging upside down off the metal rails.  The supermarket I work in is located in a low-income area, the neighbours are commission houses, the customers are a bit rough around the edges and yes, there are many teen mum’s pushing trolleys yelling and swearing at their children. Some of the kids are darlings, others are just plain feral. It does make me think about the impact of genetic engineering, the increasing trend towards designer babies.

If some of these children did get genetically enhanced perhaps they would get a better start in life, not be so feral? Perhaps their lives would be more enriched and worth-while, they would get out of the cycle of continuous poverty in their families. Although the price for genetic engineering is not cheap, it is only accessible for those who can afford it. The rich.

Currently, the genetic engineering available is sex selection, cloning of animals (Dolly the sheep) and some genetic therapy for genetic disorders and disabilities. Sex selection is not legalised in Australia for moral reasons but in the US you can pay for the treatment for around $10,000. The biggest moral dilema with allowing parents to choose their child’s gender is that many cultures place higher value on male children as they carry the families honour and name. Already millions of female babies have been murdered around the world due to their sex, would this treatment just make this problem was?

Could sex selection lead to a population imbalance between the gender? John Harris believes that having the freedom to choose your child’s gender is more important (the principle of procreative freedom) and that cultures should be educated to make good moral decisions regarding genders rather than not be given the right to have the choice. He also believes that if their was an imbalance that it would be self-correcting, the next generation would just have more babies of that particular gender. Would this happen though? Are attitudes towards the female gender something that can be changed with a population imbalance? And why should a society have to have an imbalance in the first place?

Certainly in countries with more males than females (and vice versa) suffer social problems and the economy suffers as well. Often they can not find wives and therefore can not have families etc. But moving on to what is believed to be the future of designer babies, that is being able to select a baby’s appearance, temperament, intelligence and having a flawless immune system. The perfect added accessory to match your Gucci sunglasses and Gap handbag.

Will one day the supermarket be full of perfectly beautiful, intelligent children? Julian Saveulou believes that if this technology is available that it is parent’s duty to use it, the principle of beneficence proficiency. If this technology could give your child a better start in life would you not use it? If everyone else was using the technology wouldn’t your child be inadequate and a lower socio-class than those of the genetic modifications?

The future is heading toward Huxley’s Brave New World and it’s all a little scary. Now excuse me, I need to get ready for work.


1 Comment

Filed under philosophy, thinking, writing

One response to “The Philosophy Supermarket

  1. Gem

    I too take my homework to work sometimes (shh!!)! I kept my Italian dialogue in my pocket so I could try and memorise it in my breaks or when it got quiet. It almost ever got quiet, and in the end, it wasn’t all that helpful!
    All things in moderation!
    I think meat should be eaten, organically, and the animals should be killed as humanely as possible.
    I think babies could be improved by first genetically improving the parents.

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