Friday, June 03, 2005

Evil bird attack

As I was walking back from dinner, sipping water and wondering how consequentialist ordinary moral intuition is, I felt something hit me hard in the back of the head. There was a high-pitched hooting and fluttering, and I realized that I'd been hit by a bird. This is the second time such a thing has happened to me, and as soon as I regained my composure I kept walking. Then the bird hit me in the head again. It fluttered away to a tree above me, and I yelled at it, "What the fuck is this?" It might have been an owl, though darkness prevented me from getting a good look at it. It sat there for a moment and then came down for a third time. I ducked, but spilled my water all over myself. Then I ran into a building.

Do any of you have insight on why owls would attack humans? There were no mice on my head. I can understand birds accidentally flying into my black hair on a dark night, but repeated attacks are an inexplicable new feature of avian-Neil relations.

[Update]: Sahotra Sarkar thinks the bird may have been freaked out by a big nocturnal animal (me) getting too close to its nest.


Julian Elson said...

Your story was quite entertaining to me, and other readers I suspect. It sounds like it was unpleasant to you, but I'm not sure we can rule that the utility you lost from the bird attack was greater than that gained by your readers. Your moral intuition seems to be that this bird was evil: if moral intuitions are consequentialist, isn't whether this bird was really evil an open question?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Julian, I think that being a good or evil agent is a matter of desiring to cause pleasure or pain. So a person or animal who desires to cause pain, but ends up causing pleasure, is an evil creature who caused something good to happen. Likewise, I think Theresa LePore of butterfly ballot fame is a good person who caused something evil to happen. Many modern consequentialists separate evaluations of agents from evaluations of states of affairs in this way.

I am happy that the story was entertaining. It's nice how blogging can generate utility when there was only disutility before.

Anonymous said...

I too was attacked by a South Florida bird for the past two days in the same location. After a bit of reserach it appears they do this in the spring and summer to protect their territories, nests and young.