The Moral Responsibility of Children and Animals

Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children 19 (1):20-30 (2008)
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Abstract

The term “childhood animality” has been used to refer to those associations between children and animals that are based on their affinities toward one another, their seeming psychological similarities, and also on the “cultural stories” of likeness between children and animals that find their way into our philosophical, psychological, and political history. Here I examine how the concept of childhood animality underlies some philosophical accounts of moral responsibility. In order to capture what we ought to say about the morally relevant differences between children and animals I argue that we should accept an account of “diminished” moral responsibility—a kind of responsibility ascription that has the consequence that some children are responsible for particular actions but not others, and animals are not morally responsible for any actions.

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