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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.




Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

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04 March, 2010

The Philosophical Cow

Alex Tabarrok writes:

Suppose that you are a cow philosopher contemplating the welfare of cows.  In the world today there are about 1.3 billion of your compatriots.  It would be a fine thing for cows if all cows were well treated and if none were slaughtered for food.  Nevertheless, being a clever cow, you understand that it’s the demand for beef that brings cows to life.  How do you regard such a trade off?

I predict that any philosophical cow will consider its self-interest first. It might be in the interest of the species for cows to continue to be slaughtered, but it would certainly not be in the interest of this particular cow—so it would be against killing cows. Unless, of course, our philosophical cow is guaranteed immunity from slaughter, which its human overlords might well consider given how few cows tend to be philosophers. In that case our bovine thinker, freed from concerns about its own welfare, might well take the broader view.

Doesn’t this happen with humans as well? I know ‘intellectuals’ who rail against urbanisation and romanticise village life, while themselves living comfortably in cities. I know women who condone the way other women are treated in some cultures by resorting to moral relativism, while themselves enjoying their full human rights. (For instance...) It’s easy to pontificate about matters that don’t immediately concern us—and most pontification is exactly like that. Such it goes.

*

I can imagine a philosophical cow deep in thought near an unsuspecting farmer. Suddenly, the cow starts jumping up and down, shouting ‘Eureka, Eureka!’

‘What happened?’ says the farmer. ‘Why’re you so excited?’

‘I just formulated the Cowtegorical Imperative,’ says our philosophical cow.

‘That’s impossible,’ says the farmer. ‘You’re just a cow. You can’t do something like that. You can’t!’

‘That’s right,’ says the philosophical cow. ‘I Kant. But you can call me Immanuel.’

*

(Link via email from Prachi Parekh. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112.)

Posted by Amit Varma in Old memes | Cows | Small thoughts

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