Is it perhaps that we are "the same"? It is indeed the case that in practice we extend special protection to the category of beings called "human," and that other people are human in the same way that I am. It would seem that the idea that we are in some sense "the same" is being employed here.
However, when it comes to deciding on what criteria this similarity is to be based, it is not as though these criteria have already been established in principle. Therefore it is clearly not the case that claims dependant on us being "the same" will provide an answer to the question of how to establish the kind of lines of demarcation discussed above.
Apart from the question of whether it is "correct" or not, we clearly do feel greater "sympathy" and "compassion" for beings similar to ourselves, as well as a tendency not to feel that their affairs and interests have "nothing to do with me." This fact seems to indicate that "being the same" holds some kind of meaning for us. But let us consider this for a moment. Is what is found here really something at the level of magnitude of the other person being the same as the self? Or is it rather a certain proximity in terms of physical distance/personal connection? And do we really discover within these relationships that the other person is the same us? At very least, is it not the case that this is not all that occurs when we relate to other people, and that on the contrary we may come to feel more strongly that the people we interact with exist as beings that are distinct from ourselves? Is this intermediary idea of "because they are the same as me" really needed here? Can we not come to have feelings such as, for example, "I must not kill," when we think of the person in question as "other" or independent of ourselves, and is it not indeed through seeing the person in question in this light that we acquire such feelings? I cannot feel your pain, but I can know that you are in pain or assume that you must be in pain. In a sense this does indeed seem to be the result of our being "the same." The fact remains, however, that you are in pain and I am not. This feeling of "closeness" to another being and simultaneous sense that I am "not the same being" do not contradict each other - what I asserted in Chapter 4 was not that the other person in question is "different" from me as opposed to being "the same" as me, but rather that they are "not" me.
The problem is therefore not a conflict between what is the "same" on the one hand and what is "different" (in the sense of being the simple opposite of what is "the same") on the other. While mediated by something like being "the same," an awareness of the other exists. This awareness differs depending on the position of the thing/person in question. This state of being that differs depending on position is connected to the establishment of lines of demarcation.
Judgment differs depending upon the position and relationship of the people or things in question. What are we to make of such cases? There are many situations in which these differences in judgment are not problematic. For example, some people think of a pet as being a member of the family. This in itself is not a problem. Their claim will not encounter opposition and will be accepted as long as it does not interfere with other people's interests or values. But there are also other cases in which "lines of demarcation" must indeed be drawn. Disputes will arise surrounding the pros and cons of eliminating a given being, and the question then becomes whether or not this elimination is to be prohibited. How are we to resolve questions such as whether or not to kill or whether or not to interfere in situations in which we have no choice but to arrive at a decision as a society? As I have already stated, there are no "objective" criteria to be employed here. There will be differences in judgment. What are we to conclude in such cases?
While being a being that kills, at the same time a part of such a being may resist this inclination. A boundary demarcating what must not be killed does not exist beforehand, but if we know that a certain person has accepted a certain being as an other and we attempt to respect this, the criterion or standard that can be posited here is that when we do not know how a judgment should be made, or when different opinions are in conflict, we should listen to the people close or closest (although they may at the same time also be closest in terms of interests) to the being in question who (because of this proximity) hesitate to destroy it.
This approach will not always allow us to draw lines of distinction, and the results that follow from it will not always agree with each other. However, when there are people who live in a place and for this reason cannot bear to see it destroyed, for example, and who refuse to move even when offered a much more advantageous location, if we consider the suffering these people experience, can we not within it see evidence of the sense of value discussed above?◆2 And when there are people who make their living hunting whales, who, having to hunt whales, show respect to the whales (albeit in an anthropocentric sense, because ultimately the whales are something that is eaten) as they hunt them, if we find ourselves thinking we must perhaps respect their way of life, is this value not present here as well?◆3
Here, and in Sections 3 and 4 as well, my perspective may be similar to what is referred to in the field of ethics as the "principle of relatedness" ◆4. This perspective is potentially dangerous, of course, because it means giving the power over life and death to those closest to the person in question, and these people may in most cases benefit from killing them. What I am taking here is not simply the position that we should respect the feelings of the people closest to the person in question, but rather the point of view that, in cases in which decision making cannot be left up to the other itself (themselves), we should listen to the being or beings who (through their closeness to the other in question) express the greatest reticence in regard to the killing or elimination of this other.