Category Archives: Torbjörn Tännsjö

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Is there anything we can do about animal suffering in wildlife? There was a time when many said that nothing should be done to obviate human suffering, since attempts to establish a welfare state would either be in vain, jeopardise what kind of welfare there happens to exist, or produce perverse (even worse) results. We rarely meet with that reaction any more. However, many seem to be ready to argue that wildlife constitutes such a complex system of ecological balances that any attempt to interfere must produce no good results, put into jeopardy whatever ecological ‘balances’ there happen to exist, or perversely make the situation even worse. This is not the place to settle whether they are right or not, but, certainly, there must exist some measures we could take, if we bothered to do so, rendering wildlife at least slightly less terrible. If this were so, we should do so, according to utilitarianism.

Torbjörn Tännsjö, Taking Life: Three Theories on the Ethics of Killing, Oxford, 2015, pp. 260-261

Torbjörn Tännsjö

The day starts when my alarm clock goes off. I leave a state of dreamless sleep and, for a moment, my situation is worse than it would have been, had the alarm bell remained silent. When I brush my teeth I begin to see some meaning in my life, however, and as soon as I taste my morning coffee the situation looks quite pleasant. However, once I start to read the morning newspaper things become worse. I am reminded of the miserable state of the world (in many respects). In particular, when I read about a famine in the aftermath of a war in Sudan, I feel despair. But when I catch the tube and embark on my journey to work, once again I feel fine. However, when I leave the tube station near my office, I see a child being knocked over by a car. I rush to her rescue and for a short while I stand there, holding the unconscious child in my arms, feeling the weight of her head on my shoulder. I feel miserable. An ambulance arrives and the child is taken care of. I continue my walk to my office. I start preparing a lecture. I call the hospital and learn that the child has not been injured seriously. I give my lecture and get a stimulating response from my audience. I go home by tube and prepare the dinner. My wife, who is a nurse at the hospital, returns home in the evening. We have dinner together, I tell her about the accident, and we go to bed early. The last thing I feel, as wakefulness merges into unconsciousness, is intense well-being.

Torbjörn Tännsjö, ‘Narrow Hedonism’, Journal of Happiness Studies, vol. 8, no. 1 (March, 2007), pp. 81-82