ARETE, RORTY, AND HARTSHORNE
PHILOSOPHERS tend to discriminate four types of moral action, although these discriminations are sometimes implicit: (1) Some actions are morally neutral, hence morally permissible. (2) Some actions are morally wrong, hence we ought not to perform them. (3) Some actions are duties we ought to perform. And (4) some actions are above and beyond the call of duty, thus are morally permissible, but are not morally neutral; these praiseworthy actions are called supererogatory.1 What sort of action is vegetarianism?
All will agree that vegetarianism is not morally wrong, so we are left with alternatives (1), (3), and (4). To say that choosing a vegetarian diet over a meat-eating diet is a morally neutral decision, like choosing to eat with a fork or a spoon, is to beg the question as to whether animals deserve our respect. In fact, those who try to justify or allow meat-eating often do so on moral grounds, either implicitly or explicitly (e.g., Hermarchus or Claudius the Neopolitan). The enormous attention recently paid to philosophical vegetarianism indicates that not even most antivegetarians perceive it as morally neutral. To do so is to trivialize it.