David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 77:189-203 (2003)
Do animals possess rights? The argument works from marginal cases: we attribute value to humans because of some minimal set of characteristics thathumans possess. Animals possess these characteristics; therefore they deserve moral consideration. Such arguments depend on a functionalist attribution of value. Any turn to functionalism will necessarily be detrimental to human dignity, since some humans will not qualify. I will show how the methods used to establish animal rights are generally some form of functionalism, with particular emphasis on Peter Singer and Tom Regan. Functionalism will always be arbitrary, since it assigns value on the basis of facts that do not necessitate such values. A better alternative is Aquinas’s theory of human dignity, that humans are valuable because of their supernatural destiny. This theory cannot be proven, but neither can the functionalist argument. Further, the human dignity argument is more rational, since it avoids many of the problems of the functionalist animal rights position
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