Ethics Before Darwin Human Dignity The Idea of Human Dignity Human life is sacred. We must protect human life and respect the lives and interests of human beings. Nonhuman life is not sacred. We may use animals as we see fit. Aristotle (384-322 BC)
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To understand anything, ask four questions:
1. What is it?
2. What is it made of?
3. Where did it come from?
4. What is its purpose?
• approved infanticide
• approved suicide
• approved mercy-killing
• approved combat
• approved executions
The early Christians . . .
condemned all killing of human beings.
• capital punishment
• killing by soldiers
The Roman Emperor, Constantine, becomes a Christian.
soldiers in battle
The intentional killing of innocent humans is always wrong.
Augustine: Although the state may kill to defend itself, individuals may not.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Killing of necessity, in individual self-defense, is not the intentional killing of the innocent, and it is permitted.
If any passages of Holy Writ seem to forbid us to be cruel to dumb animals, for instance to kill a bird with its young: this is either to remove man’s thoughts from being cruel to other men, and lest through being cruel to animals one becomes cruel to human beings: or because injury to an animal leads to the temporal hurt of man, either the doer of the deed, or of another.
Animals cannot think; they have no conscious experiences; they do not even feel pain.
--Nicholas Fontaine (1738)