Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Post of Links

First up, Peter is right, and the Bennett discussion is moving here. If you write on Bennett during the week, make sure you drop me an email at I plan to be taking memorial day off, so I might not be able to get my opening posts on chapters 2 and 3 up until Tuesday, but I am aiming to have them done for Monday regardless.

Second, a really fascinating study on the brains of omnivores, ethical vegetarians, and ethical vegans (the terms are the study's, not mine). The study showed images of human and animal suffering to these three groups, and used fMRI to see how the brain lit up. As had been predicated based upon similar emotional quotient (EQ) studies, vegetarians and vegans display higher levels of empathy than omnivores. This is true for both images of human and animal suffering, but far more true for on the question of animal suffering. Also, there is part of the brain that lights up for if the empathy, but also a part that lights up if that empathy is also considered self-relevant. All three groups self-relevance centers lit up when showed images of human suffering. Whereas the vegetarians and vegans both had high degrees of empathy for animal suffering, the vegans were the group whose self-relevance also lit up. There is also other interesting stuff, too. Like, vegetarians and vegans frontal lobe (the part of the brain that controls abstract thought) comes on when shown images of animal suffering in order to calm the amygdala (the part of the brian associated with fear, and to a lesser degree disgust). This has broader implications for the field of neuropsychology, and helps support certain controversial theories. You can read more about this part in the discussion section. Anyway, I'm not a scientist, much less a neuropsychologist, so I could have made a mistake in my reading. And moreover, you should treat this for what it is, one scientific study with all the limitations that entails. Help with figuring out what this study does say, comes from my wonderful fiance, whose masters comes from MR research, and knows a bit of neuroanatomy from her current time in med school. Any mistakes, of course, remain my own but I am sure I can figure out a way to blame her.

Third, Levi has a smart post up on Cary Wolfe's What is Posthumanism?. My favorite line is,
In discussing “different perceptual modes” of humans and animals, Wolfe is simultaneously quite close and exceptionally far from object-oriented ontology.
That is exactly how I felt when I first started blogging and ran across all this discussion from people calling themselves speculative realists and object-oriented philosophers. Except what they were both close and far away from is critical animal studies (or at least what I understand by that term). And while I still think the two groups have more intellectual in-roads to be made together, at some point we might hit internal limits where such a dialogue has to come to an end. But both of us can only benefit from the downfall of anthropocentrism, and as long as anthropocentrism is the default position in philosophy I hope we continue to be allies and fellow travelers.

Forth, here is another in-depth and interesting article on the Humane Society and their political opposition (h/t A Thinking Reed). It is worth noting that the opposition doesn't seem to offer reasons to support the worse abuses of factory farming, but rather sticks with attacking the Humane Society. Another thing worth noting is that the attacks tend to be that the Humane Society doesn't plan to stick with eliminating these worse abuses, but is after a dismantling of the animal agricultural system, that they are vegan abolitionists. Anyway, worth a read.

I like adding music to my random posts of links, so I think I will keep up this new tradition. The new LCD Soundsystem album, This Is Happening, is one of those albums that start off alright, but gets better with each listening. "I Can Change"