Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Can Vegans Make Broth from Dead Vagrants?

For the last half-year or so I've been thinking about the ethics of eating animal byproducts. Here's what I mean: Let's suppose that you believe that it's unethical to eat factory farmed meat and dairy (or any meat or dairy--nothing important to my argument hangs on this).  As someone who lives according to your considered ethical judgments, is it permissible for you to eat by-products from the meat and dairy industry that would otherwise be thrown out?

Before continuing I should make one thing clear: These arguments only work so long as the byproducts would (a) otherwise be thrown out and (b) do not contribute to the demand for the primary product. Also I'll need to assume that current conditions persist, that is, the majority of the population isn't vegetarian and there is significant demand for the primary products.

Case 1: Whey
Let me give you some examples of by-products. Whey is a waste by-product of cheese-making and greek yogurt production. Its disposal is actually a significant environmental problem since millions of tons are produced every day (in the US alone) [seecheese, greek yogurt]. In a whey (sorry, couldn't help myself)  eating the waste product is a net environmental good. If left unconsumed it would otherwise have to be treated in an industrial digester which is an energy intensive process. Also, simply dumping it into nearby water sources contaminates the water and kills all the flora and fauna and so it cannot be done. 

There are two basic arguments for why it might be morally permissible for a vegetarian or vegan to eat whey products.  First of all, there's so much excess whey from primary dairy processes that your actions don't perpetuate or generate additional demand on primary products (i.e., milk/cheese). That is, consuming whey doesn't cause milk producers to produce more milk or cheese. Second, consuming whey actually minimizes the environmental impact of the dairy industry. Instead of excess whey contaminating the environment, we eat it.

There is a possible counter-argument. By consuming whey we create a market for it which makes it cheaper for the dairy industry to get rid of it. Currently they have to pay people to take it (e.g., farmers who use it fields or to feed animals, and whey product producers).  If the cost of disposal is reduced, the price of primary products also comes down (because total production cost is lower since disposal cost went down). If the cost of primary products comes down then standard economic theory predicts demand for primary products increases.

I'm not quite sure if this argument works. I'd need to consult with an economist to know for sure but here's one possible way to reply. Suppose we agree with the counter argument that the cost of production for cheese and milk will come down thereby increasing demand. Baaaaat! If demand for milk/cheese increases so will the quantity of byproduct (whey) produced and since the vegetarians are already eating as much as they can, the cost of disposing of this extra waste (from producing even more milk and cheese) will also rise perhaps causing the price of primary products to settle back around where they started. I'm no economist but anywhey, lets look at another case...

Another thing to consider is that we might already be at peak whey consumption. Also, the amount of whey that vegetarians and vegans might consume (that don't already consume it) could be negligible in terms of how much excess there is. Recall that there are several million tons produced err' day.

Case 2: Animal Carcasses 
I came up with this next case as a result of motivated reasoning. It's freakin' cold in Ohio and I've been making a lot of legume soups and stews. What I'd really like is to use a chicken broth but being a committed (albeit imperfect) vegetarian, I don't buy chicken or chicken bouillon. 

But I was thinking... Suppose an omnivore friend had roast chicken for dinner and was about to throw away the carcass. Would it violate vegetarian or vegan ethics to use the carcass for a broth? I guess what I'm really asking is if there is something intrinsically bad about consuming animal products or is it only bad because of how they got on our plate? 

I think the reasonable answer is that eating meat isn't intrinsically bad, it's only bad if certain ethical conditions were violated in raising and/or killing the animal. I doubt there's anything morally wrong with eating roadkill or eating an animal that died of natural causes. It might not be a very appetizing thought, but it's hard to see why a vegetarian or vegan would say it's wrong.

The only possible argument I could think of is if (a) you think it's just as wrong to eat an animal as it is to eat a human and (b) you think it's intrinsically morally wrong to eat humans. Suppose we agree with (a). Is (b) likely?  I don't think so. We can all probably agree that it's wrong to kill someone to eat them but if someone died of natural causes and you were starving, would it be wrong to use them for soup? Probably not. You might have an aversion to it but it's hard to see why it would be morally wrong. 

Of course, the case of my friend's chicken carcass is a bit more complicated than eating roadkill.  The vegetarian/vegan will be ethically opposed to how the chicken got to the plate (especially) if the chicken was conventionally raised and killed. That said, the vegetarian/vegan's actions don't generate demand for the primary product (i.e., don't support or perpetuate the meat industry) and the byproduct is going to be thrown away anywhey.  In such a case, is there any harm or is there a wrong?

I'm curious what my vegetarian/vegan friends think.  By the way, I'm headed down to the morgue to get some bones to make both. Let me know if you'd like me to get some for you while I'm there.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Do Fetuses Have Rights?: A Review of "Choices, Interests, and Potentiality"

This post is a summary and evaluation of some of the arguments in "Choices, Interests, and Potentiality: What Distinguishes Bearers of Rights?" by Anna-Karin Margareta Andersson.

This paper presents itself as an investigation of the topic of rights and argues that (human) fetuses have rights yet never mentions abortion. And so this paper, under the guise of a philosophical discussion of what creatures have rights, is a thinly-veiled ideological attempt to discuss the abortion issue. This kind of ground my gears cuz if you want to write about the abortion issue just be open about it. There's no need to cloak it in something else.

More things that grind my gears: First, it is as clear a case of motivated reasoning as you'll find in academic literature. Second, the tone is one of thinly veiled smugness. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can be smug as bug in a rug next to a pug but I try not to bring that into my professional writing. I try not to. Ok, enough with the ad hominems, lets check aus the actual arguments.

There's only one semi-technical term you need to know: A rights bearer is a creature that has rights. Some people say that only humans have rights, some people say animals have rights, some people say both. Some people say that you have rights in relation to your capacities others say it's in relation to your interests.  There are lots of views. Andersson suggests you have rights in virtue of an empirically verifiable property--although she defines this quite broadly. The main issue in this article is what types of creatures have rights and why.

This article really has two main parts. The first part is an argoomint for why we should restrict the scope of rights bearers. In short, we should be careful about extending rights too widely to all or most sentient beings because it will cause conflicts between rights bearers. Part two of the paper is an argoomint for why fetuses should have rights. We all agree that adult humans are paradigmatic cases of rights bearers. If adult humans in a temporary coma have rights then similar rights should be extended to fetuses because both are temporary not-fully-functioning adult humans.

Part 1: Allowing Too Many (Types of) Rights Bearers Will Cause Problematic Conflicts Between Different Groups of Rights Bearers
Andersson argues that if rights are granted to too many kinds of creatures then problematic conflicts between rights and rights bearers will occur and the end result will dilute the value of having rights and the rights themselves.

Argument 1
Part A: Some sets of rights will inevitably conflict. The more rights people have, the more likely the rights are to conflict. More importantly, the more creatures there are that have rights, the greater the chances of right conflicting. Anytime rights conflict, in order for the situation to be resolved someone or something's rights will have to be over-ridden.  If rights are constantly being over-ridden then the "practical relevance" of being a rights bearer is diminished (p. 177).  It's like, what's the point of being accorded rights if they're going to be frequently over-ridden anyway--even if you are compensated? The wider the scope of creatures that get rights, the greater the likelihood that rights will get over-ridden, and therefore the value of having rights declines. And that's baaaaaaaaaaaaad!

Part A: For those of you keeping track of the critical thinking concepts, this argument commits the fallacy of argument from final consequences.  That is, you argue that something is false because you don't like the consequences of it being true.  Because it's an informal fallacy it only means that the argument is invalid and therefore inductive.  Inductive arguments can be strong or weak but their conclusions don't necessarily follow and so they must be evaluated on a case by case basis.  Let's not commit the fallacy fallacy.  We need to evaluate the argument...

The argument says that moral rights are limited only to a narrow class of creatures because extending rights to too many creatures causes excessive rights conflicts.  The problem here is that it very well might be true that many creatures do have rights and there will be many rights conflicts. Too bad, so sad. The conclusion would have some plausibility if the claim were normative, that is, that we ought to restrict rights to only a few types of creatures. But this isn't the conclusion she argues for. Her thesis concerns "what subjects actually do have moral rights" (p. 175; my italics).  You can't argue for what is the case from what you don't like about the consequences of alternative possibilities. That's like saying, "I don't owe rent this month because if I pay rent I won't be able to pop bottles in VIP". Conclusion, I don't own rent. QED.

Argoomint 1
Part B: We should also limit the scope of rights bearers because highly diverse creatures will have highly diverse rights. When the diverse rights come into conflict it will be difficult to figure out how to weigh one against the other. We'll have to come up with some rules to adjudicate between disparate conflicting rights meaning some types of creatures will have systematically weaker rights than others.
Why should we label a large group of subjects "rights bearers" and systematically prioritize some types of rights bearers over others in case of rights conflicts, instead of reserving the term "rights bearers" for the prioritized subjects and entitle the other subjects to certain treatment when doing so does not compromise any rights? (p. 178)

In other words, what's the point of using rights language if the rights of one group will always be trumped by those of another? Why not use a clearer terminology that actually reflects that one group's rights will systematically trump another's?

Part B: Man, I really really want to use some post-modernist critical theory goobly gook to make this next point. Something about institutional patriarchal power structures and penises betray Andersson's post-colonial speciesism.  Setting that aside, Andersson makes an unwarranted assumptions causing her to beg the question.  Aside: When philosophers use the phrase "to beg the question" (which is the right way) it means that someone is assuming the very thing they are trying to prove. I.e., it's a form of circular reasoning. Anyway, Andersson's argument for restricting what creatures have rights only works if she assumes that the rights humans have systematically trump any and all rights that non-humans have--which is the exact conclusion she's trying to argue for. As she says, there's no point in extending rights to animals because every right that they have will be systematically trumped by any rights humans have. This is clearly false.

Suppose someone derives pleasure from torturing fluffy white kittens with really cute meows. His right to live according to his own conception of the good life doesn't trump a fluffy white kitten's right to live a life free from unnecessary cruelty.  The rights humans have don't systematically trump the rights of all creatures. Sometimes the rights of other creatures trump ours. To show that they don't would require an argoomint...

Part 2: Who Gotz Rights? 
What do hungry twins say when they're still in the womb? Feed us! Feed us! (Thank you, I'll be here all week).  Lets get down to bidniz.

In the first part of the paper we saw that Anderson wants to constrain what types of creatures are rights bearers. So who's going to get rights? Dogs? Kittens? Bears? Apes? Give up? You'll never guess: Adult humans and fetuses are rights bearers and non-human animals aren't.  Lets see how she gets to this conclusion:

Argoomint 1
The plan is to identify a paradigmatic case of a rights bearer, figure out what it is about them that makes them a rights bearer, then see what other things have that special rights-bearer sauce.

VocaboolaryAgency is fancy-talk for being able to make reflective choices between alternative courses of action and to reflect on one's preferences.

Let me put the argument into standard form then I'll explain it in English:

(P1) Adults (humans) capable of exercising agency are paradigmatic examples of rights bearers.
(P2) Adults must be rights bearers because of some property that non-paradigmatic rights bearers don't have.
(P3) All adults capable of exercising agency possess the physical constitution that is necessary for exercising agency. Call this physical property X.
(P4) Agents who are prevented by certain obstacles from exercising agency are still carriers of property X.  Call these obstacles to exercising agency Y.
(P5) If we can show that facing obstacle Y does not affect the adult's status as a rights bearer because Y is a certain type of obstacle, we should accept that adults who face Y remain rights bearers in virtue of being carriers of X.
(C) By (P4) and (P5), adults who face Y remain rights bearers in virtue of being carriers of X.

Property X
Here are the important things to keep in mind: An adult is a rights bearer because an adult can exercise agency.  In order to have agency one must have a particular physical constitution (property X). That is, to have agency you need a brain that is organized such that you can make deliberative decisions.  So far so good.

Notice that being a rights bearer isn't tied to actual behaviors but a capacity for behaviors (deliberative action).  Why? Because if we said that you're only a rights bearer when you are making deliberative decisions then all the moments in between, like when you're sleeping or staring at your phone, you are no longer a rights bearer. Losing your rights anytime you sleep or look at your phone isn't a good result for a theory of rights.

With Andersson's argument, agency is grounded in having a physical structure (property X) and so, when you're sleeping you don't lose your agency (since your brain structure doesn't change in respect to being able to you being able act as an agent).  Obstacles to agency (condition Y) are times where the brain structures responsible for agency remain intact yet you temporarily can't or don't exhibit agency. For example sleeping, being in a temporary coma, or watching reality TV.  Under these and other similar conditions, you don't lose your status as a rights bearer since you have property X (the brain structure required for agency) at all times.

So far we've said that rights bearers are creatures that have the physical structures necessary for agency. Creatures without these structures and who don't have agency--even with nourishment, protection from disease and trauma won't develop these structures. Did you notice the sneaky move yet? If not, I'll explain it in a moment.

Condition Y:
Lets look at (P4) and (P5) because they're (obviously) important.  (P5) is pretty uncontroversial so we'll grant it. (P4)  says that when you temporarily cease to exercise agency you are still an agent so long as you actually possess the physical brain structure required for agency (I'm italicizing here for a reason).  To quote
The defining aspects are the physical properties that are necessary in order to be able to exercise agency.  There is no essential change in her defining aspects in the sense that the entire physical constitution of the subject that is necessary in order to exercise agency remains unaltered while she is in such a condition: [. . .] she remains a rights bearer while in such a condition [. . .]. (p. 180)
Has the quote caused condition Y in you yet? (Has it put you to sleep?). A few more things about condition Y: it must be a temporary condition that the subject will spontaneously relapse from.  In other words, if you suffer major brain trauma that permanently alters the structure of your brain such that you will no longer be able to exercise agency, you can lose your rights bearer status.

Here comes the tricky part! Who needs the Quickee Mart! So far we've said that condition Y (e.g., sleeping) is a temporary obscuring of your agency and you don't lose your rights-bearer card under condition Y (e.g., sleeping). That's because you still have the underlying physical structures for agency (property X).  Here's the big move:
By saying that the subject is in a temporary state, I merely mean that the subject at some point will get out of the state: I do not require that she has been capable of agency at some previous occasion. (p. 181; my italics)
Now the sneaky move is more explicit.  Essentially, Andersson is going to draw an analogy between an adult who temporarily loses their agency and a fetus that temporarily doesn't have agency. She's going to say that both of these temporary states are condition Y because they're both temporary.

Analysis: Disanalogy
There's an important disanalogy: The adult actually has property X (the physical structure required for agency) but is temporarily impeded (by condition Y) from using it. Once the adult wakes up (i..e, once condition Y ends) he can exercise the agency that is undergirded by the relevant brain structure (property X) that he had all along. In the case of the fetus, the fetus doesn't have the brain structure for agency. That is, the fetus doesn't have property X--the property which Andersson claims is necessary for agency.

Notice that in the adult case we say that adults under condition Y maintain their right bearer status because they actually have property X. The fetus, however, doesn't actually have property X. But Andersson's whole argument for what makes a rights bearer a rights bearer relies on the assertion that one must actually have property X. The case of the adult under condition Y and the fetus under condition Y differ in this important respect. What confers rights-bearer status? Is it having property X or not? Whatever you think about the rights status of fetuses, this particular argument doesn't support the conclusion it's intended to support because it's inconsistent in respect to what physical property confers rights-bearer status.

The problem for Andersson is that there's an asymmetry between continuing to be an agent when one's agency is temporarily blocked via condition Y and being treated as a full agent even though one has never in fact been one. The issue is: Should you be accorded some particular moral status (a) because of some property you will have at some point in the future or (b) because of properties you actually have. In previous sections Andersson argued for the latter and if it's the latter then fetuses aren't rights bearers but animals could be depending on what the magic right-bearing property is. If it's the former, then fetuses are rights bearers. But Anderson didn't argue for this "potential" claim-- she argued for the latter. You are a right bearer in virtue of actual properties.

Andersson's solution to this asymmetry is to argue that “there is no morally relevant difference between possessing the physical constitution necessary in order to exercise agency, and developing such constitution” (p. 182). That is, we ought to give equal moral consideration to (a) actually having a morally salient property and (b) being able to develop that property under normal conditions. Call this the equivalency principle. The burden of proof lies with Andersson to give us an argument for why what is merely potential ought to be given the same moral consideration as what is actual. Putting the two on par could lead to counter-intuitive results—especially if we generalize this principle to other areas of moral reasoning.

Suppose in the not too distant future biological markers are identified for paedophilic behavior. The marker is a necessary condition for paedophilic behavior. At 4 years old Bob is diagnosed with the known precursor to the biological marker for paedophilic behavior. Adult pathological murderers possess the physical constitution necessary in order to be a paedophile. Baby Bob will develop the physical constitution in order to become a paedophile. It follows from the equivalency principle that there is no morally relevant difference between adult paedophiles possessing the physical constitution necessary to act as a paedophile and Baby Bob developing such a constitution. We should treat both the same.

Doin' The Two Step
There's a way for Anderson to respond. She can say that to determine whether a creature is a rights bearer and how many rights it has is a two-step process. Step one is to determine whether something is or isn't a rights bearer. If something has the potential to develop agency then it's a rights bearer. If it doesn't have the potential for agency (via having the potential to have property X) then it isn't an agent. Once you've decided whether it's a rights bearer you decide which rights that creature has relative to how close it is to developing full agency (i.e., having property X). For example, as a child comes closer to developing full agency, it gets more and more rights. This line of reasoning seems to conform with Andersson's thoughts: “The content of the rights [fetuses] are owed vary depending on their developmental level” (p. 184).

Suppose we accept this account. There are still problems. If fetuses gain rights depending on their developmental level then it appears that the content of particular rights is grounded in particular capacities (which are themselves grounded in physical structures). We might say that a child has a right to be free from unnecessary suffering because it has the capacity to suffer (because it has a central nervous system). But if a child gets this particular right in virtue of a particular capacity and structure, it seems inconsistent not to extend this particular right to every other creature that has this capacity/structure. To avoid this problem Andersson can argue that fetuses come into the world with all their rights but not only is this implausible but she denies it herself.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

From Experience to Metaphysics: A Summary

This post is a summary of "From Experience to Metaphysics" by Jiri Benovsky.

Check it. We'z about to go to da deps of filosofy: metaphysics. Metaphysics be about da fundamental nature of reality. It's not that new-age crap about pyramids with eyes you see in book stores. It's even deeper!!!!1!!!!11!1!!(I know, what could possibly be more profound than "everything happens for a reason"?)

The Argument in a Nutshell
(A) Our metaphysical theories about the world are grounded in intuitions that we get from the particular way we happen to perceive the world.  But the way we perceive the world is contingent on our brains' perceptual architecture. The architecture could have been otherwise and thus could have caused us to perceive the world differently and in ways that favor different metaphysical theories. 
(B) Also, the way we perceive the world is compatible with mutually exclusive metaphysical theories. 
(C) Given (A) and (B), we should avoid appealing to intuitions based in perception to support metaphysical theories.

I'll illustrate the main argument instead of explaining it. It'll make it easier to understand.

Case 1
You perceive an apple on a table.  You say "look, there's an apple and a table over there." Bob looks where you are looking and says "Oh, I see them, and I also see a tapple." "What's a tapple?" you ask. Bob be like, "a tapple is an object made up of the top of an apple and the left-side of a table." Then you be like, "dafuk you talking 'bout? There ain't no tapples, just apples and tables." Bob be like "no, dude! It's right there! You're looking right at it!"  

You walk over and touch the table and apple and you be like, "dawg, this is a table and this is an apple. I can touch them, see them, taste them, and smell them. Ain't no tapples up in herr." Bob walks over and touches to top of the apple and the left side of the table and he be like "dawg, this is a tapple. I can touch it, see it, smell it, taste it. It's real, dawg."

Why do we say tables and chairs exist but tapples don't? The problem is that our perceptions support both claims about what exists. Our perceptions are consistent with both the existence of only apples and tables and with the existence of tapples too. You could argue against Bob that, "no, we perceive tables and chairs in a way that's different from the way we perceive tapples.  But Bob could--to quote Missy Elliot--flip it and reverse it and give you the exact argument for the existence of tapples. That is, he could say "yes, you're right. We do perceive tapples differently from tables and chairs, that's why tapples exist and tables and chairs don't." Ah, snap! 

To summarize, if only tapples existed our perceptual experience would be the same as if only apples and tables existed. It would also be the same if all three objects existed. Our visual experience of the world can't tell us the "right way" to chop it up into objects.  Our perception of the world will always be consistent with an infinite number of ways of dividing phenomenal experience into entities and parts.  Because of this fact, Benovsky argues that when we do metaphysics we shouldn't appeal to intuitions grounded in how we perceive the world.

Case 2
Lets look at one more example. Perceiving a table and an apple, you be like "check out that table and apple." Bob be like, "I don't see no table or apple, alz I see is fundamental particles arranged tablewise and applewise."  You be like "Dawg, I can freaking sit on the table and eat the apple. Tables and chairs exist. There's a freakin' table and an apple over there." Bob be like "Dude, you ain't sittin' on no 'table'. You be sittin' on a collection of fundamental particles arranged in a table shape. Tables don't exist, only fundamental particles do. They can vary their arrangements into table shapes or apple shapes." (Bob started talking fancy-talk) 

Again, we see that two competing metaphysical theories about the fundamental units of existence (macro objects vs fundamental particles) are compatible with the same perception. Both theories will yield exactly the same observations. If only fundamental particles exist and can be arranged tablewise and applewise, our experience of the world will be exactly the same as though tables and apples are real objects too. For this reason, Benovsky argues that metaphysical arguments shouldn't rest on intuitions derived from how we perceive the world.

Case 3
Let's do one last example because this is the most interesting case.

As you and Bob argue, over the course of the next few months, the apple slowly changes from a crunchy, red, shiny object to a brown rotten object. On day 67 you be like "Dawg, that rotten apple tho." Bob be like "oh, you mean the apple that used to be crunchy, red, and shiny?" You be like, "No, that ain't the same apple. The apple from 67 days ago was crunchy, red, and shiny. This one be brown and rotten. It ain't the same apple."  Bob be like, "Dawg, that's what happens when apples get old. They turn brown and rot. It's the same apple." You be like "Dude, no it ain't the same apple. How can two things be the same if they don't have the same properties? Same means no differences. There are differences between the apple from 67 days ago and this one. In fact, there's nothing the same about them. They ain't the same apple."  Bob be like, "Dawg, why you tripping? You saw it change gradually er' day. It's the same apple." You be like, "Dude, no. I saw lots of different apples, each one very similar to the one I saw before it. They were all different apples."

Again, we notice that both metaphysical theories equally conform with our observations. There could be some entity whose properties change over time or sequences of similar objects that disappear and are replaced at a rate too fast for us to notice. It's true that the common sense view is that objects persist over time but if a string of object replacements happened at a fast enough rate, we'd perceive exactly the same thing as the latter.  After all, that's how movies work: strings of new images passing before us at a rate of 24 frames per second create the illusion of a single object's continuity over time. That single apple you see "rotting" on the screen is in fact a series of distinct images of apples, all of which are slightly different from the previous one.  

Our bias towards endurantism (the theory that objects persist over time) results from how we (contingently) experience the world. Just because we favor one way of interpreting our perceptions doesn't mean this is actually how the world is. Our perceptual system could have worked differently giving us different experiences of the world...

Let's look at the cognitive science to see why we shouldn't put too much stock in metaphysical intuitions grounded in our perception of the world. Benovsky says we should be skeptical of perception-based reasons for endurantism because the way we experience the world is (i) contingent (our brain could have been configured differently resulting in different types of perceptions) (ii) fully compatible with the world being perdurantist (movement/change results from the successive emergence and disappearance of similar objects). If this sounds loco, welcome to philosophy.

Cog. Sci Data: Humans Attribute Spacio-Temporal Continuity Even When It Isn't There
Click on the link: http://ruccs.rutgers.edu/val/images/demos/motoccocclusionextended.mov
When the experiment starts 4 dots will blink. You have to track them for the duration of the (short) experiment. Do not read further until you do the experiment.
Notice that when the dots go behind the bars you track them as though the object coming out is the same one that went in. But the dot that goes behind the occlusion isn't the same as the one coming out. Each moving dot is not one dot but a series of dots appearing and disappearing in succession across the screen which give the illusion of a single dot moving across your screen that persists over time. Our brain attributes spacio-temporal continuity to the series of distinct dots. 

Again, this is how movies work. Imagine watching a movie of a ball crossing the screen. There ain't no one ball that persists over time. There are a series of distinct ball images being projected at 24 frames/second which gives the illusion of a single ball traveling across the screen. Ain't no ball.  Nope.  Your mind created it.  

And here's the crazy part. You can even know that your brain is creating the illusion of a single persisting ball going across the screen but you still won't be able to shake the illusion. You aren't able to see the 24 distinct ball images/second.  Our brain constructs an image then we perceive what our brain constructs. We don't perceive "raw" reality.  Our brain has a bias towards attributing spacio-temporal unity to series of like objects coming in and out of existence.  We can't make the distinction even if we wanted to.

But wait! There's more! If a series of objects are coming in and out of existence across a screen at the right speeds, when they temporarily go behind a bar and come out in the same trajectory, we'll attribute spacio-temporal unity even if their shape and color get changed on the exit.  For example, a series of squares rapidly come in and out of existence across the screen giving the illusion of a single square moving across the screen. When that square goes behind a bar and comes out with a different shape and color, we still think of it as the same object so long as it follows the trajectory of the previous sequence of squares. Our brain causes spacio-temporal continuity to trump property change! But how is the new object the same object as the square if it isn't a square anymore? Saying the red crunchy apple and the brown rotten apple are two different objects isn't sounding so crazy after all...

The Bottom Line
Our perceptions are consistent with competing metaphysical theories. We can be biased toward one theory based on the contingent way human brains happen to work.  Our brains force one interpretation on the raw data that is sometimes inconsistent with the way we know it to actually be.  However, even when we know that something isn't as we perceive it, we still can't help but perceive it a certain way. Even if you wanted to perceive a movie as a series of still frames, you couldn't do it because of your brain architecture. Your brain processes the data and constructs an image that you perceive. What you perceive isn't "raw" reality but an interpretation that your brain constructs. 

Some cool TED talks on how our brain constructs reality: http://www.ted.com/talks/beau_lotto_optical_illusions_show_how_we_see