Beings of a life-span are equal: Rebutting Singer's sentience and Naess' deep ecology criteria for moral standing
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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This article critically explores the assumptions of anthropocentricism, as well as the sentience and deep ecology arguments. While Peter Singer argues for the extension of moral standing to some non-human beings because they are sentient, Arne Naess believes that all living beings should be accorded moral standing because they have inherent value. I argue that both arguments present some difficulties. Sentience, for instance, may not be limited to a mere feeling of pain and pleasure because it also encapsulates aims, values and wants. Only rational creatures probably have these capacities. Naess does not seem to give us a clear argument as for why he believes all living beings have inherent value, infact one of his eight platform principles says human beings can only reduce richness and diversity if this will enable them to satisfy vital needs. I consider this to be a contradiction of his overall argument that living things have inherent value. I argue that human beings and non-human beings are only equal on the basis of their temporary natures, that is, they both have a definite life-span as defined by their creator and this is enough to dismiss men's domineering attitude towards non-human beings in nature.
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