I was wondering about our treatment of non-human animals. There’s such a wide range of interactions with them, from keeping them as pets, using them as consumable commodity, to destroying their habitats. What would be the right thing to do? How to deal with pets and wild animals? I found it hard to answer those questions.
Then I was reminded of a really surprisingly effective method for resolving such tough issues: The principle based approach which was often successfully used to find solutions for pressing questions in a new movement for positive social change through technology: Zero State. The Zero State Principles do a good job at distinguishing the acceptable from the unacceptable. If something contradicts the Principles it is not acceptable. For example, the Principles are used to determine whether Zero State should associate with other organizations based on the compatibility of their policy with the Zero State Principles. Even though principles are highly abstract, they have a profound practical use.
Principles for Animal Rights and Animal Welfare
So, I thought my initial questions would be best answered with a principled approach. I began with looking for already established principles in the animal rights scene. The first principles I found were those by Gary L. Francione:
- The abolitionist approach to animal rights maintains that all sentient beings, humans or nonhumans, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.
- Our recognition of the one basic right means that we must abolish, and not merely regulate, institutionalized animal exploitation—because it assumes that animals are the property of humans.
- Just as we reject racism, sexism, ageism, and heterosexism, we reject speciesism. The species of a sentient being is no more reason to deny the protection of this basic right than race, sex, age, or sexual orientation is a reason to deny membership in the human moral community to other humans.
- We recognize that we will not abolish overnight the property status of nonhumans, but we will support only those campaigns and positions that explicitly promote the abolitionist agenda. We will not support positions that call for supposedly “improved” regulation of animal exploitation. We reject any campaign that promotes sexism, racism, heterosexism or other forms of discrimination against humans.
- We recognize that the most important step that any of us can take toward abolition is to adopt the vegan lifestyle and to educate others about veganism. Veganism is the principle of abolition applied to one’s personal life and the consumption of any meat, fowl, fish, or dairy product, or the wearing or use of animal products, is inconsistent with the abolitionist perspective.
- We recognize the principle of nonviolence as the guiding principle of the animal rights movement. Violence is the problem; it is not any part of the solution.
As far as I can see this boils down to anti-speciesism, the rejection of the property status of animals and the principle of non-violence. The problem I had with those principles was that they are too programmatic. They focus on animals which are treated as goods, but not on animals in general. Those principles don’t look like they would suffice to answer the question how to deal with pets and wild animals.
The next principles I found were the Five Freedoms, which are a compact of rights for animals under human control, defined by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in 1967, that was set up by the UK government:
The five freedoms as currently expressed are:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
- Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom to express normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
- Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
Basically, those are freedoms which are supposed to reduce animal suffering. You could argue that they are far from being actually implemented, but that doesn’t say anything about the value of these principles. In fact, they are basically sound principles. If they could protect all animals from the listed kinds of suffering, then the world would be a much better place. Nevertheless, that would require a staggeringly high level of control of nature – or the complete abolition of nature. Animals would be needed to be protected from other animals. A huge global animal welfare system would be required. Still, it’s conceivable that this will finally happen with a combination of future technologies, like artificial general intelligence, molecular nanotechnology, and similar far out stuff.
In spite of the benefits of such a vision, I still felt that it doesn’t answer my question, because those principles are negative in their nature: They say what shouldn’t happen to animals, but they don’t tell what should happen to them. Imagine a manual that only told you how not to operate a device. Wouldn’t be very useful, would it? I know, this is not a completely fair comparison, because we are not concerned with the “operation” of animals, but with principles that guide our interactions with them. Anyway, a guide that only tells you what not to do is better than nothing, but not good enough.
Also the following Universal Declaration of Animal Rights is basically sound, but not very comprehensive for determining actual positive behavior:
- Inasmuch as there is ample evidence that many animal species are capable of feeling, we condemn totally the infliction of suffering upon our fellow creatures and the curtailment of their behavioural and other needs save where this is necessary for their own individual benefit.
- We do not accept that a difference in species alone (any more than a difference in race) can justify wanton exploitation or oppression in the name of science or sport, or for use as food, for commercial profit or for other human ends.
- We believe in the evolutionary and moral kinship of all animals and declare our belief that all sentient creatures have rights to life, liberty and natural enjoyment.
- We therefore call for the protection of these rights.
Moral Foundations Theory
As an aside, during my research I also found the following dimensions of morality as expressed in Jonathan Haid‘s Moral Foundations Theory:
Haidt is best known for what he dubs “Moral Foundations Theory”, which has been reported in publications such as The Atlantic, Boston Globe, and The Huffington Post. It is the basis of his first TED talk.
Moral Foundations Theory considers the way morality varies between cultures and identifies five (later revised to six) “foundations” that underlie morality in all societies and individuals. He names them using pairs of opposites to indicate that they provide continua along which judgments can be measured. These are:
- Care/harm for others, protecting them from harm.
- Fairness/cheating, Justice, treating others in proportion to their actions, giving them their “just desserts”. (He has also referred to this dimension as Proportionality.)
- Liberty/oppression, characterizes judgments in terms of whether subjects are tyrannized.
- Loyalty/betrayal to your group, family, nation. (He has also referred to this dimension as Ingroup.)
- Authority/subversion for tradition and legitimate authority. (He has also connected this foundation to a notion of Respect.)
- Sanctity/degradation, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions. (He has also referred to this as Purity.)
Haidt found that the more politically liberal or left-wing people are, the more they tend to value care and fairness (proportionality), and the less they tend to value loyalty, respect for authority and purity. Conversely, the more conservative or right-wing people are, the more they tend to value the latter three. Similar results were found across the political spectrum in other countries.
Haidt has also described the liberal emphasis on care as “one foundation morality”, contrasting with the conservative moral balance.
Certainly, pointing out these different elements of morality is helpful for understanding the moral world of others who have different values. Nevertheless, I sure find it difficult to see the value of loyalty, authority, and sanctity when it comes to a regime which has no respect for care, fairness, and liberty. Probably most supporters of such a regime would argue that it does value care, fairness, and liberty in some way or another, thanks to propaganda and the Stockholm syndrome.
The Four Prismatic Principles
Anyway, what I actually wanted were very general principles for the interaction with animals which are so general that they clearly specialize to principles which are good for the interaction with human animals. At first, I wanted to find out which ethical frameworks are suited for producing such principles.
Clearly, anything which is deeply based in unprovable metaphysical assumptions doesn’t qualify for general principles, because the value of those principles would be conditional on the truth of such assumptions. I want unconditional principles!
The Frist Prismatic Principle
So, what about Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative?
Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.
Actually, this just states that our principles should be really universal. When it comes to the question what an individual is able to will, all bets are off anyway. Some people seem to be ready to accept great injustices if there is even a minimal chance that they come into a position in which they profit from such injustices. For the same reason even John Rawl’s thought experiment involving a veil of ignorance (“…no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like.”, quote from Wikipedia, respectively Rawls, A Theory of Justice) possibly wouldn’t work out very well.
Nevertheless, the second formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative goes into more detail:
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
Because we are dealing with animals in general we could simply replace “humanity” with “sentient beings”. There’s no harm in generalizing in this way. In fact, this has been the inspiration for my first Prismatic Principle:
Try not to exploit other sentient beings, but look for situations in which all win. (Universal Benefit Principle)
Another inspiration for that principles was Steven R. Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which emphasizes a principle based lifestyle and the win/win mentality in particular. The core idea is to come to solutions which really satisfy all involved parties, so that they can feel really good about an agreement. Solutions to which all involved parties finally agree on simply because a disagreement might hurt even more don’t count as win/win situation. In that context, exploitation would be a case of a win/lose or a lose/win situation. Also note that I have not written “look for situations in which all involved parties win”, because even better solutions have positive synergy effects which spread out to parties that weren’t even involved. An agreement to release software as open source would be an example for that, because such a decision also benefits third parties which can use and build on that software.
The Second Prismatic Principle
My second Prismatic Principle was less inspired by already established ethical principles, but by my observation that if we interact with others we are always in some kind of relationship with them. We must relate to them in some way, otherwise we wouldn’t interact and would have no effect on each other. Some possible relationships are:
- Guardian angel
Some relationships are symmetric which means that the role of both parties are trivially exchangeable. Other relationships are asymmetric, but that doesn’t mean that they would be necessarily bad. Having a guardian angel would be good, even if you don’t know that you have one. Nevertheless the least problematic generally possible relationship status seems to be that of ideal friendship. You hardly can be a companion of everyone, but you can at least try to act in the spirit of friendship whenever you deal with another person, even if that’s very hard to do all the time.
Friendship has already been seen as an ideal by ancient philosophers like Plato. Imagining someone else as friend is easier than actually loving them. Anyway, love and friendship are relatively similar concepts, so it’s worth to consider the different forms of love the ancient Greeks have known: Agape, eros, philia, and storge. Because this excursion is interesting in itself, I simply quote the Wikipedia article, as I can’t describe those concepts better in my own words:
- Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) means “love”, such as in the term s’agapo (Σ’αγαπώ), which means “I love you”. In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true love” rather than the attraction suggested by “eros”. Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as sacrificial love. Agape is also used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one’s children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. It can also be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. Agape was appropriated by Christians for use to express the unconditional love of God.
- Éros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love;” however, eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction.” In the Symposium, the most famous ancient work on the subject, Plato has the middle-aged Athenian philosopher, Socrates, argue to aristocratic intellectuals and a young male acolyte in sexual pursuit of him, that eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, the ideal “Form” of youthful beauty that leads us humans to feel erotic desire — thus suggesting that even that sensually-based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth through the means of eros.”
- Philia (φιλία philía) means friendship or affectionate love in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philos denoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
- Storge (στοργή storgē) means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant.
The word that most clearly links love with friendship is philia, which is often actually translated as “friendship”. In his Rhethorics, Aristotle defines philia as:
wanting for someone what one thinks good, for his sake and not for one’s own, and being inclined, so far as one can, to do such things for him
When trying to take the Aristotelian concept of philia as precise meaning of friendship certain problems arise when using that kind of friendship as ideal for general relations between sentient beings, namely that it requires equality and familiarity. The above quote hints to why a lack of familiarity could be a problem: If you don’t know someone well, what you think is good for him for his own sake, is not very likely to the that what is actually good for him for his own sake. So, generalized philia for each sentient being you interact with would imply trying to get to know that being better, in order to understand their real needs and desires. The requirement of equality however cannot be met in full generality other than as a very basic equality in the sense of having the attribute of sentience in common. For our purposes this kind of equality has to suffice if we want to interpret friendship as philia.
After these considerations it’s time to consider my second Prismatic Principle:
Try to adhere to the ideal of friendship with each sentient being you interact with. Ask yourself the Golden Question: “Would you do the same if you were friends?” (Friendship Principle)
The Golden Question is a useful addition to the “naked” principle of friendship. It may be thought of as an alternative to the Golden Rule:
The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code, or morality that essentially states either of the following:
(Positive form of Golden Rule): One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
(Negative form of Golden Rule): One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
An obvious and justified problem of the Golden Rule is that different persons have different preferences, so it would be inappropriate to threat everyone else exactly as you want to be treated. The Golden Question avoids this issue by encouraging you to imagine yourself as being a friend of the being you interact with, and friends should respect each others preferences. For that purpose it’s necessary to know or at least to try to find out those preferences. Being good at guessing such preferences is the second best thing, and it’s the only thing that will help you if you want to be friendly to a stranger. That is, until you can quickly find all of those preferences on a profile page of a social network. Currently that’s more of a practical possibility in science fiction stories, but it could become reality relatively soon.
The Third Prismatic Principle
So much for the second Prismatic Principle. My next step for finding a useful set of principles was to consider which further ethical frameworks might be useful for that purpose. As utilitarian I obviously considered utilitarianism, but there are also similar frameworks, namely the philosophy of Buddhism and the closely related moral philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer which is based on compassion. All of those philosophies agree in the basic premise that suffering is bad and should be reduced. As that is an idea that is hardly disagreeable, it is a part of my third Prismatic Principle:
Try to increase well-being and reduce suffering in your sphere of influence as sustainably as possible. (Utility Principle)
Why do I call this the “Utility principle”? It’s a version of the utilitarian principle that happiness, or a similar concept, in this case well-being, is the basic value that determines the morality of actions. Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism, which is basically a class of ethical systems which derive the moral value of actions or other entities from their consequences. In utilitarianism it is often assumed that values like happiness, well-being, or suffering can be quantified, so that different consequences can be compared numerically, at least in theory. For the third Prismatic Principle this assumption is not strictly necessary, as it suffices to say whether an action increases well-being or not, respectively whether it reduces suffering or not. The only thing that is required for that is the ability to decide which of two hypothetical consequences is better than another, or at least the theoretical ability to decide whether a single hypothetical consequence is better or worse than the alternative of doing nothing.
But what is this concept of well-being exactly? That is actually open to debate, as there isn’t a very clear consensus about what well-being comprises. In any case, it seems to include more than simply happiness. Basically, well-being is that what is required to live a good life, which of course depends on what you think a good life actually is. Perhaps the different ideas about what comprises a good life is the reason why the term well-being is not so clearly delineated. It seems that well-being depends on your own preferences, but on the other hand, well-being might be more than simply the fulfillment of your preferences. I see well-being as measure of how much you have what you want, pursue what you like, and live in a world that accommodates your genuine personal preferences.
Why have I chosen to use well-being instead of happiness, even though I’m pretty much a “classical” utilitarian? I do not think that well-being is a better theoretical foundation for utilitarianism than happiness, but I think people are better at increasing happiness when they pursue well-being rather than pursuing happiness directly. I suppose that’s due to the fact that well-being is a more balanced concept and requires you to consider more aspects from the beginning than when thinking about happiness alone. Considering more aspects usually leads to more balanced decisions which are less likely to be grave mistakes. And making grave mistakes usually weighs more than making decisions which are perfectly right.
Now, what do I mean with the “sphere of influence”? It’s the extent to which you can estimate the consequences of your actions. If you can’t estimate the consequences of your actions you may have some influence on others, but you are unable to tell whether that influence will cause more good than bad. So, for example the far future and places outside our solar system are highly unlikely to be within your sphere of influence. There’s a certain fuzzy horizon beyond you cannot reasonably guess which consequences your actions will have. This could be used as an argument for only considering consequences which are very close in space and time. But that usually leads to decisions with unsustainable consequences. That’s why the phrase “as sustainable as possible” appears in the third Prismatic Principle. It’s good to consider the long-term consequences of your actions, but only as far as you can actually overlook them.
The Fourth Prismatic Principle
It may be possible to see the restriction to your sphere of influence as incentive to remain ignorant or powerless, because that may easier to handle. The fourth Prismatic Principle prevents such cheap excuses:
Try to improve your ability to live up to these principles and enlarge your sphere of influence. (Self Improvement Principle)
There’s the implicit assumption behind this suggestion that your actions will be good if they are guided by the first three Prismatic Principles, so it’s not expected that you will do serious harm by enlarging your sphere of influence. The spirit of continuous self improvement is also necessary due to the wording of all Prismatic Principles. All of them start with “Try”. That’s a concession to our fallibility. But it would be bad if we always remained at the same level of fallibility and never learned to live better. Thus, self improvement is clearly something we should pursue. As we can fail at almost anything, we can also fail at improving ourselves. What actually matters for a guiding principle is that it encourages us to try to do better.
Another implication of the idea of trying is that no matter how good or how bad you are at following the Prismatic Principles, you can and should try to do better. There are no rigid minimal or maximal standards which the Prismatic Principles set up. In any case, as guiding principles they only have worth if you actually try to follow them. Actually the Prismatic Principles can be used to judge other people only insofar as that what is judged is simply their earnest willingness to adhere to those principles.
The List of all Prismatic Principles
- Try not to exploit other sentient beings, but look for situations in which all win. (Universal Benefit Principle)
- Try to adhere to the ideal of friendship with each sentient being you interact with. Ask yourself the Golden Question: “Would you do the same if you were friends?” (Friendship Principle)
- Try to increase well-being and reduce suffering in your sphere of influence as sustainably as possible. (Utility principle)
- Try to improve your ability to live up to these principles and enlarge your sphere of influence. (Self Improvement Principle)
General Comments on the Prismatic Principles
Some more or less important questions remain to be answered. First of all, why do I call these principles the Prismatic Principles? Honestly, I was looking for a name that sounded good and was memorable. The fact that the words “principles” and “prismatic” both start with “pri” makes it easier to remember how those principles are called. Nevertheless, there is a deeper reason for calling my principles “prismatic”. An optical prism is a device that can split a beam of light into its different components, which are basically beams of different wavelengths (and colors). Similarly, the Prismatic Principles can be used to split up a question about the interaction with sentient beings into different components, namely the questions of compatibility with each single principle. If an interaction is compatible with all Prismatic Principles, then it should be fine, otherwise it is at least questionable. Additionally, the word “prismatic” could be interpreted as “colorful”, and as the different Principles are motivated by very different ethical ideas they are in fact relatively “colorful” or diverse.
Unfortunately, without a good theory of consciousness we can’t be sure which beings are sentient and which aren’t. The current scientific consensus about animals (see Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness) is that at least all mammals and birds possess some form of basic consciousness, or to be more precise “primal affective qualia” (which is basically what I mean by sentience). The following quote is also quite notable:
Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus).
I think it is not unreasonable to expect that all vertebrates possess consciousness, and at least some other animals. Possibly even insects possess some consciousness. If that should be the case it would be extremely difficult to come close to the ideals of the Prismatic Principles, but at least some gradual improvements from complete indifference should be possible. For example by developing “humane” insecticides which kill faster and less painfully.
Another interesting and profoundly important question is when artifical general intelligences, for example computer simulations of human brains, become sentient. Perhaps the most prominent approach to this question is the Turing Test, in which a person is having a natural language conversation with another human and an AI, but can’t see directly who is who. The Turing Test states that if the person can’t distinguish the human from the AI, then that the AI should be seen as generally intelligent or conscious. Nevertheless, this test can’t give us a definite answer to the question whether an AI is conscious. If you replace the AI with another human you would have to conclude that the human in question is in fact conscious. But we can’t even be sure about that, as it is possible to think that other humans are philosophical zombies without subjective experiences. A really solid and good test for consciousness should be able to answer the question “simply” by deeply inspecting the source code or neural wiring of a being and coming to a definite conclusion that the being in question has the ability to produce consciousness or not. And for such a test we would need a good theory of consciousness which do not have yet. I have the hope that we can find such a theory eventually, but of course that doesn’t need to mean anything.
Prismatic Principles as Guideline
As guidelines the Prismatic Principles don’t tell you exactly what to do. You are still free to decide that on your own. Sometimes it is not clear whether an action is compatible with all Prismatic Principles. It may be beneficial to discuss such actions and their compatibility issues with each individual Principle. If you don’t have enough time for discussions, just do what you think is the best – you can’t expect to do better anyway.
Naturally, the Prismatic Principles are guidelines for interactions with sentient beings. They aren’t really intended for telling you how to deal with inanimate objects, other than by judging the indirect consequences of actions with inanimate objects on sentient beings. For example theft would still be in violation of the friendship principle, even though theft is a relatively indirect interaction with a person.
So, if you really want to, you can see the Prismatic Principles as complete framework that can guide moral behavior. There are only a few problem with this approach: First of all the theoretical foundations for the Prismatic Principles aren’t really coherent as they are derived from different partially conflicting ethical theories. Secondly, they don’t give a definite answer for the question whether a specific action is good or not. If it doesn’t contradict any Principle, it is at least admissible, but if it contradicts one or more Principles, then how do you interpret that? If you interpret the Prismatic Principles as complete ethical framework, then the most straightforward solution is to say that any action which contradicts any single Principle is bad. But then you would have to conclude that any time someone fails to try treating any other proximate sentient being as friend then this person is doing something bad. That’s a rather high standard. Therefore, the Prismatic Principles as normative ethical framework are prone to the demandingness objection which is also used against utilitarianism.
A less problematic interpretation of the Prismatic Principles is that they are simply a set of ideals that are worth striving for. I’ve designed them so that they shouldn’t be very disagreeable, no matter which moral system you subscribe to. Perhaps you think I haven’t done a good job at that. If so, please tell me why you think that.
Why follow the Prismatic Principles at all?
You can hardly avoid interacting with other sentient beings (unless you think that all of them are philosophical zombies, which is a very problematic assumption). Of course, you are free to think that you only want your own benefit and don’t care about higher ideals. One problem with that is that you would discard a guideline that directs you towards positive feelings of empathy, accomplishment, self-worth, pride, courage, interest, and meaning. By avoiding compassion whenever you deem it necessary for your own benefit, you are suppressing a part of you. That may even make you less intelligent and able to pursue your own personal goals effectively. Ultimately, you would limit yourself by the failure to follow the Prismatic Principles.
What does the application of the Prismatic Principles tell us about how to deal with other sentient beings exactly? In the following I mean “should” as “it would be better if” and “wrong” as “it would be better if not”.
- The Universal Benefit Principle states that it is wrong to exploit other sentient beings. Especially, it is wrong to use sentient animals as food sources if that makes them feel uncomfortable or kills them (eating accidental roadkill still might be acceptable).
- Also, it is wrong to use sentient AIs or robots as non consensual slaves. Programming them initially to love what you want them to do should be acceptable though.
- The Friendship Principle tells us that we should help other sentient beings in need, if we know about their problems and we can fix them easily. The more powerful we are the easier we can help others, and the higher is our responsibility to do so. Especially due to the Utility Principle, we should ameliorate the suffering of animals in the wild, once we have the necessary knowledge and means to do so effectively. And due to the Self Improvement Principle we should research that necessary knowledge and develop those necessary means.
- Keeping an animal as pet is acceptable if that animal would find it unduly hard to thrive in the wild or within our civilization on its own. Nevertheless, this comes with the responsibility give that animal the best care you can. Selling a pet is only acceptable if the person you sell the animal to pledges to provide it with a level of support that is actually better than the best of yours – anything less isn’t worth the disruption of an emotional bond. This could be regulated with care licenses. Pets should not be seen as property. Breeding pets for profit and not just for their own sake is wrong. Therefore commercial trade with animals is not acceptable.
- Natural habitat destruction is wrong, unless you enable all affected animals to live better lives than they had in their natural habitat.
- It is always acceptable to protect a sentient being (especially you) from other sentient beings, unless there is a clear solution that benefits both parties (due to the Universal Benefit Principle).
- It’s a good idea to augment yourself with any kind of helpful technology so that you are better able or more willing to adhere to the Prismatic Principles in a sustainable way.
- When programming sentient AIs it is advisable to equip them with the ability and willingness to adhere to the Prismatic Principles. That is, unless the adherence to the Principles causes severe suffering, because that would be a case of exploitation.
- It’s a good idea to learn more about psychology, because that helps you to understand people better and to find better ways of dealing with them.
- Non-violence should be generally preferred to violence. Violence is at most acceptable for self-defense / defense of others, or if you are convinced that all affected will eventually profit from it more than from any non-violent approach (which is always a questionable assumption). However, you should research non-violent methods in order to minimize the need for violence.
- Augmenting other sentient beings without their consent is at most acceptable if they don’t have the ability to understand the consequences of that augmentation, you are convinced that the augmentation is to their own advantage, and the augmentation is reversible (for the case that they decide in their augmented state that their original state is preferable).
- Be as nice as possible to others, even if you don’t really like them.