Benjamin Lennertz, assistant professor in the philosophy department at Colgate University, was the featured speaker for the annual Albert the Great lecture on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, at Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum. Lennertz discussed vegetarianism and veganism, using several arguments in philosophical teaching to explore the question, “Are vegetarians (like me) irrational?”

Starting out with the premise that “a person should not perform actions that lead to harm without there being some benefit of comparable or greater significance,” and arguing that eating and consuming animals or animal products are harmful actions, Lennertz presented facts about the meat and animal industry to advocate for vegetarianism.

Lennertz also used different moral frameworks to consider vegetarianism, including consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Through these frameworks, Lennertz argued that vegetarians are “irrational,” and explained how “irrational vegetarians,” such as himself, are victims of something called “consistency trolling”-- assuming that vegetarians shouldn’t eat products such as eggs, milk, and cheese since they already don’t eat meat.

“It’s a very common condition for myself and fellow vegetarians,” said Lennertz.

At the end of his presentation, he stated that his whole argument trails back to moral commitment.

“It is a challenge to live up to our moral commitments,” said Lennertz. He said that when we fall short of our moral commitments, we recognize our irrationality. However, falling short of moral commitments is not necessarily a bad thing, he said. If anything, it’s better to be trying or already doing something partially than doing nothing. He said that building failures into practice enables you to become stronger, and encouraged the audience to not let the challenge of meeting all their personal moral commitments lead them to drop them or give up. 

“I think it’s better to be irrational in this way, but still do some good and a lot less bad,” said Lennertz. 

The Albert the Great Lecture is presented by the Niagara University philosophy department and named for Albertus Magnus, who is most famous for the influence he had as the instructor of St. Thomas Aquinas, the cornerstone of the Catholic intellectual tradition.


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