[HPMOR] "the Headmaster set fire to a chicken!"

post by bipolo · 2019-04-03T09:12:22.707Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW · 1 comment

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  Answers
    11 Lanrian
    2 ChristianKl
    2 Dagon
    2 TheWakalix
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1 comment

In harray potter and the method of rationality, cp17, Dumbledore set fire to a chicken. Harray, of curse, got shocked, but after a while he was told that it probably wasn't "real" chicken but a chicken which created by transformation.

I have 2 question about it:

  1. Is that ethic to create animals(or humans) by transformation? Beacause, you know, its will faded after a while. (I know you can say it about creating children but the time is much shorter here).

  2. Damn it, why its better to burn alive "fake"(but alive!) chicken then "real" chicken?!

Answers

answer by Lanrian · 2019-04-03T19:27:51.577Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think Eliezer believes that chickens aren't sentient, and at the time of writing HPMOR, he probably thought this was the most common position among people in general (which was later contradicted by a poll he ran, see https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10152862367144228 ). If Dumbledore believed that chickens weren't sentient, he might not think there's anything wrong with setting fire to one.

For lots of discussion about Eliezer's and others' philosophy of mind, see https://rationalconspiracy.com/2015/12/16/a-debate-on-animal-consciousness/

answer by ChristianKl · 2019-04-03T18:18:34.610Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The animal that appears to be a chicken to Harry isn't a chicken. It's also not simply another creature transfigured into a chicken. It's a mystical creature called a phoenix and part of the inherent nature of what it means to be a phoenix is to burn and then rise from the ashes.

Yudkowsky plays with a reference to the tastes like chicken meme.

answer by Dagon · 2019-04-03T18:11:09.064Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll have to go back and re-read - was it clear that the chicken that burned wasn't actually Fawkes? I took that scene as Harry's interpretation of "normal" phoenix renewal.

As to your questions, I believe the standard non-magical answers apply pretty well:

1. Almost nobody opposes the creation of animals (or people) by any possible means (today that's breeding or cloning), even though they're expected to fade. Why oppose it here?

2. Why is it wrong to burn a real chicken alive? If I thought there was an important lesson to teach a human, I'd do that in a heartbeat. It's a chicken, it has very low moral weight to most people. In fact, I burn chicken often, then eat it (granted, I have someone else kill it and dissect it first, but that's not an important moral distinction IMO).

comment by Lanrian · 2019-04-03T19:31:42.226Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
I'll have to go back and re-read - was it clear that the chicken that burned wasn't actually Fawkes? I took that scene as Harry's interpretation of "normal" phoenix renewal.

Even after encountering Fawkes, Harry keeps insisting that the first encounter was with a chicken. A lot of chapters later, Flitwick suggests that it was probably a transfigured chicken.

In fact, I burn chicken often, then eat it (granted, I have someone else kill it and dissect it first, but that's not an important moral distinction IMO).

I think most people see an important moral distinction between killing a chicken painlessly and setting fire to it. Although the vast majority of meat isn't produced painlessly, a lot of people believe that their meat is. This implies that they might not be so casual about setting fire to a chicken, themselves.

answer by TheWakalix · 2019-04-03T14:22:39.687Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure how magically plausible this is, but Dumbledore could have simplified the chicken brain dramatically. (See the recent SSC posts for how the number of neurons of an animal correlates with our sense of its moral worth.) Given that the chicken doesn't need to eat, reproduce, or anything else besides stand and squawk, this seems physically possible. It would be ridiculously difficult without magic, but wizards regularly shrink their brains down to animal size, so apparently magic is an expert neuroscientist. If this was done, the chicken would have almost no moral worth, so it would be permissible to create and torture it.

comment by bipolo · 2019-04-03T17:02:10.579Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's maybe possible, but:

  1. I don't think that Dumbledore is someone who think that set fire to "stupid chicken" is ethic (I might disagree with him, but I think that its not the style of Dumbledore).
  2. Harry probably think thats its not how Dumbledore think/how magic works, so when he was told that its was "fake chicken" he was should saying something like: "But was it a normal chicken?" or "Does magic allow it?".
comment by Dagon · 2019-04-03T18:26:16.802Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think Dumbledore is (portrayed as) someone who _does_ strongly believe in roles, tropes, and categories, and who thinks death is a tragic, but necessary and inevitable part of life. He would think it absolutely permissible to set fire to a chicken (magical or normal) if there were some reason (including a reason as vague as "necessary to impress Harry that I'm mysterious").

comment by bipolo · 2019-04-04T04:44:03.031Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But Harry don't believe in that, so he still was should ask if the chicken was completely normal except it was magical, not?

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comment by Pattern · 2019-04-04T22:31:36.745Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
why its better to burn alive "fake"(but alive!) chicken then "real" chicken?!

Because burning it doesn't produce carcinogens - by authorial fiat. (I don't think Dumbledore transfigured a chicken because burning it was more moral than burning a "real" chicken - just more convenient. It also might make for an interesting transfiguration experiment - if you turn paper into a chicken and burn the chicken, does the the burnt chicken turn back into paper? A whole sheet, or shredded? Burnt? What happens was never made clear, and Dumbledore used to experiment with Transfiguration, but doesn't have as much time for that anymore.)