The Pursuit

Essay by elizabeththordsenCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2014

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Beth Thordsen

Professor Cole Williams

Intro to Ethics

23 March 2014

Trees, Deer, and the Little Voice in Your Head

Why isn't a lumber jack considered an axe murderer? If those trees were humans, lumber jacks would be seen as a hostile gang, like the Bloods. I suppose that trees just don't mean as much to us humans as we do to each other. Maybe it's because humans posses a quality that trees do not: a conscience. We have the ability to be aware of our ethical surroundings and because of this, we believe that aspect separates us from trees. What makes having a conscience so special, then? I believe that whether or not an object has a conscience ultimately decides it's value in comparison to human life. If conscience is such a deciding factor of value, it would be best to understand what it is.

In Thomas Aquina's work Summa Theolgiae, he defines 'conscience' as the "application of knowledge to activity" ("Langston").

When a deer grazes in a farmer's corn field, they don't feel any form of guilt for it. They don't know anything about how the corn that is grown in that field is the main source of income for that farmer and, in turn, feels no regret or remorse from basically stealing. This is because, without a conscience, deer are unaware that what they are doing is wrong. They feel no sense of morality and act upon alternative characteristics such as fear, hunger, and instinct. Although there is activity, there is no application of knowledge performed by the deer and I can therefore conclude that deer to not posses a conscience. Without this conscience, many hunters find the life of a deer to be of lesser value than to that of a human's and have no...