Peter Carruthers and brute experience: Descartes revisited

Essays in Philosophy 5 (2):1-13 (2004)
Peter Carruthers argues in favour of the position that the pains of non-human animals are nonconscious ones, and from this that non-human animals are due no moral consideration.1 I outline Carruthers’ argument in Section II, and call attention to significant overlap between Carruthers’ standpoint regarding non-human animals and Rene Descartes’ position. In Section III I specify various ways Carruthers’ premises are undefended. I argue that we are either forced to take seriously an absurd notion of pain experience that fails to be adequately defended, or we are forced to accept an underlying problematic ideology Carruthers shares with Descartes that begs the question of non-human animal consciousness. In Section IV I conclude by arguing from both a common sense and moral perspective that Carruthers’ analysis is fundamentally flawed
Keywords Animal  Ethics  Pain  Carruthers, P  Descartes
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