Towards the end of Naess’ article, he discusses two conceptsintroduced by Immanuel Kant which he believes are worthy of extensive use “inthe effort to live harmoniously in, for and of nature” (1).
The two concepts are of two contrastingacts (1). The first concept isthat of moral acts, which are actsmotivated by the intention to follow moralslaws at whatever cost. Moral acts also include the idea offollowing through in our moral dutypurely out of respect for that duty (1). Naess explains that it seems that wehate to perform moral acts but dothem for our respect for moral laws(1).
Kant questioned that if we dosomething out of inclination and with pleasure then what is it, as it isn’t a moral act. This brings us to Kant’s second concept, which is the ideaof beautiful acts (1). Performing a beautiful act, according to Kant, is when we do what is rightbecause of position inclination (1). Naess argues that when it comes to environmental affairs, weshould try to influence people towards beautifulacts by working on their inclinations and not their morals (1).
An example of abeautiful act can be acknowledged inthe Rescue story of Britches – a newborn stumptail macaque monkey who was takenaway from his mother the night he was born and taken to a university lab wherehis eyelids were sown shut by experimenters who said the experiment was to seehow blind children function(2). The video, available on Animal Liberation Front’s Webpage ( Ihighly suggest watching it ) at http://www.animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/Actions-USA/Britches.htm,explains that unlike a blind child, Britches wasn’t born blind he was madeblind, and he was deprived of the love of his mother, lonely and locked up in acage and therefore would never be able to develop like a normal blind childwould(2). Diane of AnimalLiberation Front explains that when she heard about Britches, she knewsomething had to be done(2). “Earlyin the morning on April 20th, 1985, 16 members of The AnimalLiberation Front deactivated the security system at the University and rescuedhundreds of animals including housecats, rabbits, possums (2).” They rescuedcats whose eyes had been sown shut, rabbits that had been starved, and infantpossums who were not only enough to leave the security of their mother, who hadsevere eye mutilation(2).
And of course, the Animal Liberation front alsorescued Britches(2). In the video,Diane says “we wish we didn’t have to break into the lab, but something had tobe done to save the animals from the pain. There are not laws in this countryto protect animals in laboratories, not even laws the require painkillers. Wecouldn’t just sit by while we knew Britches and other animals were being cut upand tormented every single day (2).” Britches’ rescue was a beautifulact performed by the Animal Liberation Front. Even though it is against the law to break and enter, and to’steal’ the Animal Liberation Front didn’t hesitate to rescue the animals.
As Diane said, something had to be doneto save the save the animals from the pain, which suggests the AnimalLiberation Front broke in, saved the animals, and did what was right because oftheir positive inclination to do so. The video doesn’t follow that ‘it is WRONG to do this to animals andtherefore we HAVE to save the animals because it is the RIGHT thing to do”, butrather follows the idea that they couldn’t just sit by while they knew Britchesand other animals were being tormented which shows that they did it because oftheir positive inclination and not because it was their duty. Naess thinks that extensive moralizing within the ecological movement has given the public thefalse impression that they are asked to sacrifice and show more responsibility,concern and better morals, andtherefore, the ecological movement should encourage people towards beautiful acts instead (1).
I think the Naess has a valid point,and that when humans are targeted, lets say in a campaign, to perform beautiful acts they will feel as thoughthey have more choice and are doing it for reasons which they believe, and notfeel this ecological pressure that they HAVE to do it because it’s the RIGHTthing to do. I think when it comes to activism andgetting everyday people involved, it is important to encourage people byworking on their natural human instinct and tendencies, rather than on the ideaof pressuring them to do something because it is their duty to do. (1) Naess, Arne. 1988. Thinking Like A Mountain: Towards ACouncil of All Beings. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers. Pp 19-30.