HUMANS AND NON-HUMANS. A Spectrum. “ Western ” paradigm emphasizes gulf between humans and animals. ■ Religious traditions: humans as “the crown of creation”, e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam. ■ Secular traditions: humans as unique autonomous, rational, moral. technological
“Western” paradigm emphasizes gulf between humans and animals
■ Religious traditions: humans as “the crown of
creation”, e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
■ Secular traditions: humans as unique
autonomous, rational, moral. technological
language users e.g. Aristotle, Kant.
■ “Evolutionary ethics”: humans as “the crown of
evolution”, e.g. Huxley (but not Darwin!)
Ecological perspective: fate of humans is bound up with fate of the rest of nature.
■ Midgley: natural human affinity towards other
■ Norton: scientific perspective implies harmony
■ Traditional societies e.g. Maaori: all living
things are related, as descendents of Tane.
■ Animal liberation: we have duties to all animals,
and their interests are (nearly) always equal to
those of Humans. (Singer)
■ Biocentric egalitarianism: we have duties to all
living things. (Taylor)
■ Nonanthropocentric environmental ethics: we
ought to pursue environmental justice because all
species are equal. (Sterba)
■ We have duties to at least some “environmental
■ We have (largely unspecified) duties to “the
land”. (Callicott, Leopold)
■ We have duties to inanimate objects e.g.
buildings, works of art.
All and only human beings have moral standing; or, the appropriate criterion of moral standing is membership in Homo sapiens.
■We have duties concerning animals (as we
do concerning works of art or cars) but not to
►We may treat animals as we wish, except where the interests of others are affected, eg dog owners, recreational hunters, bird watchers (Baxter)
► We ought not to mistreat animals because if we do we are likely to become the kind of person who mistreats humans (Aquinas, Kant).
■ “Weak anthropocentrism” - the human
interest requires a respect for natural
►Sustainability - obligations to future generations.
► Personal spiritual development - Buddhist monks, Jains, Ghandi.
Sentience Based Ethics
All and only sentient beings have
►Sentience: ability to have sensations, to experience pleasure and pain.
Key Philosophical Issues
■ What counts as having a sensation?
► How do we know that an animal is having a
► Is “sensation” talk just an inference from behaviour?
■ Can we talk about anything except behaviour?
►Is there anything except behaviour?
►Bentham, Singer: most animals are sentient, and it is wrong to cause them to suffer except where that would be the only way to create the best outcome.
►“Speciesism” - ignoring the interests of a being just because it belongs to another species - is wrong, just like racism and sexism.
■All sentient beings have an equal interest in
avoiding suffering, e.g. farming of animals
inflicts suffering – and also denies food to
►We do not need (e.g.) to eat animal products.
► So we ought (e.g.) to become vegetarians.
■ Similar argument against painful use of
► product testing
► sport and entertainment.
■ Is the analogy with racism and sexism valid?
■ Are the consequences the ONLY thing that
■ How do we know that animals suffer?
■ Isn't “sentientism” just as bad a form of discrimination as speciesism?
- or to starving people?
Sentience Based Ethics
All and only beings with specific properties have moral standing.
■ All beings with certain properties are PERSONS,
regardless of race, sex or species.
■ Many non-humans are persons e.g. gods, aliens
(ET?), some animals - and e.g. irreversibly
comatose humans are not.
■ All persons have inherent value and not mere
■All inherently valuable beings have rights:
► independently of consequences
► regardless of how many people recognize their rights.
■ Rights may not be violated in order to
bring about good consequences.
► (e.g.) Killing animals for food violates their rights.
■ So we ought (e.g.) to become vegetarians
SOME QUESTIONS FOR REGAN
■ Is the analogy with racism and sexism
■ Isn't “personism” just as bad a form of
discrimination as speciesism?
■ Why should we accept Regan's account of
■ How do we know that animals have the
properties of persons?
■ Is “moral atomism” adequate to deal with
Selected sentient beings?
All sentient beings?
All living beings?
Individual natural objects?
Works of art?
Cultures, peoples, nations?