Reductio argument: humans not infinitely valuable

What’s wrong with the following argument?

  1. A human is infinitely more valuable than an animal. (premise assumed for reductio purposes)
  2. Therefore, the interests of a human are infinitely more weighty than the interests of an animal. (from 1)
  3. If a human desired to torture a puppy for fun, then the human’s interest in torturing the puppy is infinitely more weighty than the latter’s interest in not being tortured. (from 2).
  4. Therefore, a human’s interest in torturing a puppy for fun outweighs the latter’s interest in not being tortured. (from 3)
  5. Therefore, all things being equal, a human does not act wrongly in torturing a puppy for fun. [absurd conclusion]

And see here:

This belongs in the philosophy section.


2 does not follow 1.

Just because a human being has infinite value does not mean that his subjective desires do. In fact, your entire argument here assumes a moral order, which would necessitate that moral obligations would necessarily outweigh personal desires, so this never even makes it past the starting line.

From Catechism:

2418 It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.
This article starting in the 6th paragraph on down.

Desires are necessarily subjective, so the phrase “subjective desires” is redundant. What does it mean to say that a human being has infinitely more value than an animal if not that his or her interests are infinitely more important than those of an animal?

The redundancy was meant to reinforce the idea that those interests were subjective as opposed to the person’s value, which is objective.

Anyway, I think you are conflating two different ideas of the word “interests.” The “interests” that would be considered in moral terms would pertain to the well-being of the person or animal, not what he likes to do for fun. If a person wants to torture a puppy, and we assume a moral order and the psychological/spiritual ramifications of said order, I think we can safely say that that person is acting against his own interests, as well as the puppy’s.
Let me explain:

A person’s value has nothing to do with his desires. It is an inherently spiritual concept which assumes that man has a special kind of soul. This also assumes that certain kinds of actions (like torturing animals) corrupt that soul. So we see that a person’s desires do not necessarily align with his interests.

But the whole idea of any creature having “value” is incoherent in the absence of a spiritual worldview, anyway, which is why your attempts to divorce it from such a basis result in such a muddied conception.

I don’t exactly accept the premise since it suggests an animal has virtually no value whatsoever. An animal does have value although not necessarily equal to that of a human. The premise might instead be that the value of a human outweighs that of an animal. Thus, in certain cases, an animal’s interests based on its value may be regarded in favor of the interests of a human, such as in the example given in which an animal is tortured for the sake of fun on the part of a human. However, comparing a situation in which the life of an animal and that of a human must be decided, the interests of the human would take precedence due to the superior value of the human.

Having fun is relevant to one’s well-being – well-being includes fun and pleasure-states. When you say that torturing an animal corrupts the soul, what does that mean? What does it mean to corrupt the soul?

My argument doesn’t apply to the view that a human is only finitely superior to an animal.

I know it doesn’t and I think that’s the problem with your argument.

The answer is that its against human dignity to treat an animal like that. In other words it goes against human interest to treat an animal like that. Someone who tortures a puppy for fun is not respecting their own dignity and interests.

Since my argument is only directed at the infinite-value view, your complaint is not a problem.

Not his argument. Presenting the argument behind “The Superior Human” for debate/discrediting.

Why would it go against human dignity? After all, we’re only talking about the treatment of an animal, not a human.

Did you read the article? We as humans have the ability to reason and thus are expected to exercise our stewardship of animals in a way that conforms to reason. When we fail to do so (in this case torturing a puppy) we do harm to ourselves because we fail to live up to our own human dignity. Thus torturing puppies is wrong because based on your first statement. Puppies are protected because humans are infinitely valuable :slight_smile:

Why does torturing a puppy, from a Catholic’s pov, not conform to reason, and what’s the harm to the torturer?

From a Catholic perspective:

  1. The *life *of a human is infinitely more valuable than the life an animal.

  2. Therefore, the welfare of a human is more valuable than the welfare of an animal. (NB: I removed the word “infinitely” because unlike life or death, welfare has many shades of gradation.

  3. A human has no need for torturing a puppy, for fun or for other reasons. The Catholic Church teaches that animal suffering should be minimized. There is no compelling reason for torturing any animal, even if a particular human desires to do so for kicks.

4, No human has a right to torture others, whether human or animals.

5, As you stated, the conclusion is absurd. The reason it is absurd is because the original premise is flawed. The deductions fail as a consequence.

A human’s worth stems from his being made in the image and likeness of God. Torturing a puppy is not consistent with a person’s inherent dignity, therefore it is disordered.

BTW have you figured out if you are pro-abortion yet?

Hmm I think the best way to answer this is to ask you questions and work our way through it. The article does a decent job of answering this though. Can you explain how you believe it could be reasonable for a human to torture a puppy for the purpose of pleasure alone?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit