Conflict and Comparison between Species

Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (2):163 - 166 (2011)
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Abstract

Paul Taylor has argued that all living organisms have equal inherent worth. David Schmidtz objects, insisting that there is little to be gained by talk of “equality” in interspecific contexts. On Schmidtz’s view, ethicists should be satisfied simply to say that all organisms deserve respect, while leaving unspecified how such claims to respect measure up to one another. Yet in this paper, I contend that Schmidtz’s position cannot be sustained in the face of predictable and ongoing conflict between species. When sacrifices of some organisms’ interests and lives are inevitable, it is facile to demand simply that all living things deserve respect. Ethicists must be able to say how such conflicts are to be resolved, which means that they must have something to say about how organisms and their interests compare to one another in their moral significance. Paul Taylor may be wrong to think that such questions should be answered by appeal to the moral equality of all living things, but his mistake lies in thinking that all beings’ natures as “teleological centers of life” captures all that is relevant from a moral point of view.

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Dan C. Shahar
Tulane University

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Respect for Everything.David Schmidtz - 2011 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (2):127 - 138.
A Place for Cost-Benefit Analysis.David Schmidtz - 2001 - Philosophical Issues 11 (1):148-171.

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