A Reconsideration of Indirect Duties Regarding Non-Human Organisms

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (2):311-323 (2014)
According to indirect duty views, human beings lack direct moral duties to non-human organisms, but our direct duties to ourselves and other humans give rise to indirect duties regarding non-humans. On the orthodox interpretation of Kant’s account of indirect duties, one should abstain from treating organisms in ways that render one more likely to violate direct duties to humans. This indirect duty view is subject to several damaging objections, such as that it misidentifies the moral reasons we have to treat non-humans in certain ways and that it sanctions only weak obligations vis-à-vis organisms. I develop an alternative indirect duty view: given a direct duty to oneself to cultivate virtuous dispositions, one has an indirect duty to abstain from treating organisms in ways that erode one’s virtues or develop vices. I argue that this indirect duty view strictly proscribes knowingly causing unnecessary harm to organisms, and I show that it is not subject to the damaging objections directed against the indirect duty view attributed to Kant by the orthodox interpretation. This suggests that indirect duty views are more worthy of consideration than is often supposed.
Keywords Animal ethics  Environmental ethics  Indirect duties  Kant  Virtue
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-013-9438-z
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The Case for Animal Rights.Tom Regan - 2009 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Noûs. Oxford University Press. pp. 425-434.
Animal Liberation.Peter Singer (ed.) - 1990 - Avon Books.
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