Wednesday Philosophical Query: Cannibalism Edition
The cannibal almost always plays the role of radical other in popular imagination: he or she is a super-creepy sociopath, a monster such as a witch or a wendigo, or a savage not fit for civilized company. One could argue that the non-humanness of formally-human, people-eating monsters such as vampires, werewolves, and zombies continues this theme. Only in the most dire and desperate situations can a normal person acceptably partake of human flesh.
Normal people just don’t dine on other people, the living or the dead. News of murders that involve cannibalism elicit more than the typical degree of disgust, horror, and fascination. I hear the practice is also unhealthy and can cause an incurable degenerative neurological disorder called Kuru, a disease of the brain. And pity the poor cannibal who tries to eat a diet of fully organic meat; you’ll find that stuff’s on very short supply.
Cannibalism is obviously taboo in most cultures, a fact which makes the practice an interesting test case for moral reflection. So, without further icky ado, the question for today’s philosophical query is this: given its gruesomeness, otherness, status of taboo, and negative health risks, is cannibalism objectively immoral? Asked another way: does the abnormality of cannibalism have morally normative consequence? Or yet another way: is cannibalism merely morally atypical or morally abnormal?
I’m, uh, asking for a friend.