TIERethik - Zeitschrift zur Mensch-Tier-Beziehung


Vegetarianism without conviction? A pragmatic proposal in order to settle the conflict over meat
Mara-Daria Cojocaru


Whether to eat or not to eat meat is often considered a private question, even a question of taste, if taste is where there is no dispute. At the same time, there is a growing trend in ethics to condemn the current mainstream practice of eating meat. The question arises how such theoretical moral judgments can be transformed into dispositions to act. This is a question for moral pragmatics, and I suggest an answer, or at least part of it, in the tradition of philosophical pragmatism. It hinges on the idea of “the vegetarian without conviction” (by “conviction” I mean “full belief”). In developing this idea, both the communal practice of eating and the plurality in ethics are taken seriously. Instead of working towards conversion in light of one unified system of moral belief, I suggest to use the manifold doubts that arise in different ethical paradigms. I conclude that there is enough reason to doubt that eating meat is unproblematic in the most influential, extant ethical paradigms. From a pragmatic perspective, this convergence ought to be taken seriously. Hence, even if people lack the full belief that eating meat is wrong, they have every reason to doubt that it isn’t and should err on the side of caution. Finally, the figure of “the vegetarian without conviction” will have to meet the objection that she nevertheless underestimates the importance of taste.


Keywords: animal ethics, vegetarianism, pragmatism, moral pragmatics, moral uncertainty