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PHILOSOPHY 102 (STOLZE) Notes on Dale Jamieson, Ethics and the Environment, chapter 5
Moral Standing Anyone who is a member of the moral community is regarded as being morally considerable or having moral standing. In other words, their interests must be included whenever moral decisions are made. Question: are non-human animals members of the moral community?
Moral Agents and Patients A moral agent is someone who has moral obligations. A moral patient is someone to whom obligations are owed. Question: Do any non-human animals fit into either (or both) of these categories?
Speciesism, Sexism, and Racism The term “speciesism” was coined in 1970 by a British psychologist Richard Ryder and later used by an Australian philosopher Peter Singer in his famous book Animal Liberation (1975). Singer defined speciesism as “a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species” (p. 106). Bentham quote (p. 105)
Forms of Speciesism Homo sapiens-centric = all and only members of the species, Homo sapiens, are members of the moral community. Indexical = members of each species should hold that all and only members of their species are members of the moral community. Absolute = in virtue of being human, all and only humans are members of the moral community. Moderate = in virtue of being human, humans are morally more important than non-humans.
Principles of Equality Equal consideration of interests (Peter Singer) Equal rights (Tom Regan)
Peter Singer’s Utilitarian Argument 1.All sentient beings have interests. 2.All beings with interests deserve equal moral consideration. 3.At least some nonhuman animals are sentient beings. 4.Therefore, at least some nonhuman animals deserve equal moral consideration.
Tom Regan’s Kantian Argument 1.All subjects-of-a-life have inherent moral value. 2.Human beings have direct duties to all beings with inherent moral value. 3.At least some nonhuman animals are subjects-of-a-life. 4.Therefore, human beings have direct duties to at least some nonhuman animals.
What is a “Subject-of-a-Life”? “We bring to our lives the mystery of consciousness. Never satisfactorily explained by philosophers or scientists, this fact remains: we are not only in the world, we are aware of it, and aware, too, of what transpires ‘on the inside,’ so to speak, in the realm of our feelings, beliefs, and desires. In these respects, we are something more than animate matter, something different from plants; we are the experiencing subjects-of-a-life, beings with a biography, not merely a biology. We are somebodies, not somethings. These experiential lives we live (and this is also part of the mystery) are unified, not chaotic. In our case, for example, it is not as if the desires we have belong to someone, the beliefs to someone else, and the feelings to someone totally different; instead, our beliefs, desires, and feelings have a psychological unity; all belong to the distinct individual each o us is; all help define how the story of our individual lives, our biography, unfolds over time; and all help illuminate how the story of any one individual’s life differs from the stories of others.” (Excerpted from Tom Regan, Animal Rights, Human Wrongs [New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003], pp ).
Regan on Three Types of Moral Motivation DaVincians = innate compassion and concern for others’ interests Damascans = sudden conversion or personal transformation leading to concern for others’ interests Muddlers = ordinary experience, evidence, and moral reasoning about concern for others’ interests
A Speciesist Objection 1.All sentient beings have interests. 2.At least some nonhuman animals are sentient beings. 3.Therefore, at least some nonhuman animals have interests. 4.But the interests of human beings count for more than the interests of other beings. 5.Therefore, the interests of human beings count for more than the interests of nonhuman animals.
Tibor Machan’s Objection 1.Only moral agents have rights. 2.Nonhuman animals are not moral agents. 3.Therefore, nonhuman animals do not have rights.
Michael Pollan’s “Convenience” Objection “I find making a satisfying vegetarian dinner takes a lot more thought and work (chopping work in particular); eating meat is simply more convenient.” (Excerpted from Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma [New York: Penguin, 2006], p. 314.
Michael Pollan’s “Puritanism” Objection “A deep current of Puritanism runs through the writings of the animal philosophers, an abiding discomfort not just with our animality, but with the animals’ animality too. They would like nothing better than to airlift us from nature’s ‘intrinsic evil’—and then take the animals with us. You begin to wonder if their quarrel isn’t really with nature itself.” (Excerpted from Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma [Penguin, 2006], pp )
The “Opportunity of Life” Argument 1.Many non-human animals would not even exist if human beings had not raised them, cared for them, and protected them from various dangers (e.g., disease, food scarcity, and predators). 2.There exists an unwritten contract between all benefactors and beneficiaries: the latter are indebted to the former. 3.Therefore, non-human animals should pay their debt by allowing humans to use them for food and other products or activities.
The Immortal Soul Objection 1.Only beings with immortal souls have interests or rights. 2.Nonhuman animals do not have immortal souls. 3.Therefore, nonhuman animals do not have interests or rights.
Descartes on Nonhuman Animal Minds “…[T]he principle reason that convinces us that animals lack thought is, in my view, that some animals are more perfect than others of the same species, as we find among human beings. This can be seen in horses and dogs, some of which learn what they are taught much better than others. And although they all signify to us their natural impulses, such as anger, fear, hunger and the like, by using their voice or other bodily movements, no brute animal has so far ever been observed that reached a level of perfection at which it used genuine speech, that is, by indicating something by its voice or signs that could be referred exclusively to thought and not to some natural impulse. Such speech is the only certain sign that thought is hidden in a body. All human beings use it—even those who are most stupid and mentally defective or who are deprived of a tongue and vocal organs—but no animal does. Therefore, this can be taken as a genuine specific difference between human beings and brute animals. For the sake of brevity I omit the other reasons for denying thought to animals. However, I would like to point out that I am speaking of thought, not about life or sensation. For I do not deny that any animal has life—which, I claim, consists only in the heat of the heart. Nor do I even deny sensation to animals, insofar as it derives from a bodily organ. Thus my view is not so much cruel to beasts but respectful to human beings (as long as they are not committed to the superstition of the Pythagoreans), whom it absolves from any suspicion of crime whenever they kill or eat animals.” (Excerpted from a 1649 letter from Descartes to the English philosopher Henry More, in René Descartes, Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings, translated by Desmond Clarke [New York: Penguin, 2003], pp )
Descartes’ Argument 1.Only beings capable of thought have interests or rights. 2.Nonhuman animals are not capable of speech. 3.Beings incapable of speech are incapable of thought. 4.Nonhuman animals are not capable of speech. 5.Therefore, nonhuman animals are incapable of thought. 6.Therefore, nonhuman animals do not have interests or rights.