Are mere things morally considerable?

Environmental Ethics 2 (1):59-65 (1980)
Kenneth Goodpaster has criticized ethicists like Feinberg and Frankena for too narrowly circumscribing the range of moral considerability, urging instead that “nothing short of the condition of being alive” is a satisfactory criterion. Goodpaster overlooks at least one crucial objection: that his own “condition of being alive” may aIso be too narrow a criterion of moral considerability, since “being in existence” is at least as plausible and nonarbitrary a criterion as is Goodpaster’s. I show that each of the arguments that Goodpaster musters in support of his criterion can be used equally weIl to bolster “being in existence” as a test of moral considerability. Moreover, I argue that “being in existence” appears to be a stronger criterion overall, since it is broader. Until or unless a fuller justification is forthcoming of “being alive” as a satisfactory criterion of moral considerability-a justification which must demonstrate that “mere things,” included under the condition of “being in existence,” do not deserve moral consideration--Goodpaster’sthesis is confronted with a serious problem
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DOI 10.5840/enviroethics19802111
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