Dignity and Animals. Does it Make Sense to Apply the Concept of Dignity to all Sentient Beings?

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (5):1117-1130 (2016)

Although the idea of dignity has always been applied to human beings and although its role is far from being uncontroversial, some recent works in animal ethics have tried to apply the idea of dignity to animals. The aim of this paper is to discuss critically whether these attempts are convincing and sensible. In order to assess these proposals, I put forward two formal conditions that any conception of dignity must meet and outline three main approaches which might justify the application of dignity to animals: the species-based approach, moral individualism and the relational approach. Discussing in particular works by Martha Nussbaum and Michael Meyer I argue that no approach can convincingly justify the extension of dignity to animals because all fail to meet the formal conditions and do not provide an appropriate basis for animal dignity. I conclude by arguing that the recognition of the moral importance of animals and their defense should appeal to other normative concepts which are more appropriate than dignity.
Keywords Animals  Dignity  Moral status  Respect  Speciesism
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-016-9695-8
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References found in this work BETA

The Case for Animal Rights.Tom Regan & Mary Midgley - 1986 - The Personalist Forum 2 (1):67-71.
Respect and the Basis of Equality.Ian Carter - 2011 - Ethics 121 (3):538-571.
Undignified Bioethics.Alasdair Cochrane - 2010 - Bioethics 24 (5):234-241.
Human Rights and Human Dignity.Doris Schroeder - 2012 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (3):323-335.

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Human Rights Without Human Supremacism.Will Kymlicka - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (6):763-792.
Should Cultured Meat Be Refused in the Name of Animal Dignity?David J. Chauvet - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (2):387-411.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

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