This book offers a powerful response to what Varner calls the "two dogmas of environmental ethics"--the assumptions that animal rights philosophies and anthropocentric views are each antithetical to sound environmental policy. Allowing that every living organism has interests which ought, other things being equal, to be protected, Varner contends that some interests take priority over others. He defends both a sentientist principle giving priority to the lives of organisms with conscious desires and an anthropocentric principle giving priority to certain very (...) inclusive interests which only humans have. He then shows that these principles not only comport with but provide significant support for environmental goals. (shrink)
As arti® cial intelligence moves ever closer to the goal of producing fully autonomous agents, the question of how to design and implement an arti® cial moral agent (AMA) becomes increasingly pressing. Robots possessing autonomous capacities to do things that are useful to humans will also have the capacity to do things that are harmful to humans and other sentient beings. Theoretical challenges to developing arti® cial moral agents result both from controversies among ethicists about moral theory itself, and from (...) computational limits to the implementation of such theories. In this paper the ethical disputes are surveyed, the possibility of a `moral Turing Test ’ is considered and the computational di culties accompanying the diŒerent types of approach are assessed. Human-like performance, which is prone to include immoral actions, may not be acceptable in machines, but moral perfection may be computationally unattainable. The risks posed by autonomous machines ignorantly or deliberately harming people and other sentient beings are great. The development of machines with enough intelligence to assess the eŒects of their actions on sentient beings and act accordingly may ultimately be the most important task faced by the designers of arti® cially intelligent automata. (shrink)
Drawing heavily on recent empirical research to update R.M. Hare's two-level utilitarianism and expand Hare's treatment of "intuitive level rules," Gary Varner considers in detail the theory's application to animals while arguing that Hare should have recognized a hierarchy of persons, near-persons, & the merely sentient.
Much of the scientific literature on vegetarian nutrition leaves one with the impression that vegan diets are significantly more risky than omnivorous ones, especially for individuals with high metabolic demands (such as pregnant or lactating women and children). But nutrition researchers have tended to skew their study populations toward new vegetarians, members of religious sects with especially restrictive diets and tendencies to eschew fortified foods and medical care, and these are arguably the last people we would expect to thrive on (...) vegan diets. Researchers also have some tendency to play up weakly confirmed risks of vegan dietsvis-à-vis equally weakly confirmed benefits. And, in spite of these methodological and rhetorical biases, for every nutrient which vegans are warned to be cognizant of, there is reason to believe that they are not at significantly greater risk of nutritional deficiency than omnivores. (shrink)
In this essay, we provide an overview of how production systems can be re-engineered to improve the welfare of the animals involved. At least three potential options exist: engineering their environments to better fit the animals, engineering the animals themselves to better fit their environments, and eliminating the animals from the system by growing meat in vitro rather than on farms. The morality of consuming animal products and the conditions under which agricultural animals are maintained remain highly contentious, and when (...) concerns about animal welfare are coupled with concerns about sustainability and global food security, the problem of welfare in animal agriculture constitutes “a wicked problem,” because it is unlikely that any proposed solution will simultaneously address all the issues of concern. In the final section of this essay, we offer some observations on how debate over reforms in animal agriculture could proceed going forward. (shrink)
Why should governments or individuals invest time and resources in conserving biodiversity? A popular answer is that biodiversity has both instrumental value for humans and intrinsic value in its own right. Defending Biodiversity critically evaluates familiar arguments for these claims and finds that, at best, they provide good reasons for conserving particular species or regions. However, they fail to provide a strong justification for conserving biodiversity per se. Hence, either environmentalists must develop more compelling arguments for conserving biodiversity or else (...) they should modify their agenda. This short precis is an overview of the central findings of our book. (shrink)
In his recent essay on moral pluralism in environmental ethics, J. Baird Callicott exaggerates the advantages of monism, ignoring the environmentally unsound implications of Leopold’s holism. In addition, he fails to see that Leopold’s view requires the same kind of intellectual schitzophrenia for which he criticizes the version of moral pluralism advocated by Christopher D. Stone in Earth and Other Ethics. If itis plausible to say that holistic entities like ecosystems are directly morally considerable-and that is a very big if-it (...) must be for a very different reason than is usually given for saying that individual human beings are directly morally considerable. (shrink)
R.M. Hare’s two-level utilitarianism provides a useful framework for understanding the evolution of codes of professional ethics. From a Harean perspective, the codes reflect both the fact that members of various professions face special kinds of ethically charged situations in the normal course of their work, and the need for people in special roles to acquire various habits of thought and action. This highlights the role of virtue in professional ethics and provides guidance to professional societies when considering modifications to (...) their codes. From a Harean perspective, a professional society should ask both “Are there kinds of situations that members of this profession will normally encounter which members of other professions and/or the general public will not?” and “What habits of thought and action would it be good for individuals encountering such situations to have?”. (shrink)
Those who conduct research on animals and those who advocate on behalf of animals have more in common than is generally supposed. A more nuanced understanding of the arguments defending animals' interests can help replace the current politics of confrontation with a genuine conversation.
Without looking beyond the conditions under which laying hens typically live in the contemporary U.S. egg industry, we can understand why the production and consumption of factory farmed eggs could be judged immoral. However, the question, What (if anything) is wrong with animal by-products? cannot always be adequately answered by looking at the conditions under which animals live out their productive lives. For the dairy industry looks benign in those terms, but if we look beyond the conditions under which milk (...) cows live, we can better understand some animal rights activists' reasons for objecting to dairy products. The contemporary U.S. dairy industry requires a slaughter industry between one-seventh and one-third the size of the contemporary beef industry. Today, beef slaughter is vastly more humane than poultry slaughter, but if today's beef slaughter industry is judged emmoral, the contemporary dairy industry should be judged similarly immoral, because the two are wedded. This is the deep reason for moral suspicion of the dairy industry. (shrink)
In Use and Abuse Revisited: Response to Pluhar and Varner, Kathryn Paxton George misunderstands the point of my essay, In Defense of the Vegan Ideal: Rhetoric and Bias in the Nutrition Literature. I did not claim that the nutrition literature unambiguously confirms that vegans are not at significantly greater risk of deficiencies than omnivores. Rather than settling any empirical controversy, my aim was to show how the literature can give the casual reader a skewed impression of what is known about (...) the risks of a vegan diet. In this brief rejoinder, I illustrate how two essays by nutritionists in the same volume as George's and my essays, and a referee's report on my manuscript which was authored by a nutritionist, confirm the soundness of this basic insight. (shrink)
This thesis elaborates and defends the patiency conception of moral considerability, according to which moral agents have direct, prima facie duties of beneficence and non-maleficence toward any entity which has interests. ;Interests are divided into two kinds. An argument by analogy is used to show that preference interests, which are analyzed on the model of desires, probably are present in all animals with a functional prefrontal cortex and probably are not present in any non-mammalian creature. The claim that some non-human (...) animals have desires is defended against two popular objections based on the claim that no non-human animal possesses a true language. That claim either is false or, when interpreted so as to be true, provides no ground for criticising the above argument. ;It is then argued that all and only individual living organisms have welfare interests, which are analyzed on the model of needs. Various arguments which have been offered in the literature for the claim that the needs of plants, but not those of simple artefacts, define morally significant interests are critically assessed. By filling in two lacunas in these arguments, it is argued that every living organism has a welfare interest in the fulfillment of each of its biological functions, where the biological functions of an organism are defined in terms of consequence selection of component subsystems. ;The charge that this view is utterly impracticable is answered by showing how practicable principles of adjudication can be defended without appealing to alternative accounts of moral considerability. It is argued that desires ought to be given precedence over biologically defined needs, and that the 'ground projects' of human beings ought to be given precedence over all interests of non-human beings, because in each case the former member of the pair is more inclusive than the latter. The charge is then answered that in thus rendering it practicable, the patiency conception of moral considerability has been rendered trivial. It is argued that the patiency conception can be an instrument of morally significant change, because the same considerations give every moral agent a reason for changing her desires so as to accommodate the interests of all non-human creatures. (shrink)
Environmentalists are sometimes criticized for implausibly separating human beings from nature. However, in the debate between the "wise-use" and environmental movements, it is the proponents of "wise-use," and not the environmentalists, who implausibly divide human beings from nature. The "wise-use" movement calls for landowners to be compensated whenever environmental regulations reduce the economic value of their land. However, a well-established principle of constitutional law is that compensation is not required if the regulations prevent harm to others. Insofar as they can (...) plausibly be construed as preventing harm to others, then, environmental regulations can be enforced without running afoul of the just compensation clause of the Fifth Amendment. I argue that while the public trust doctrine of U.S. common law can be extended to cover ecological processes on which the long-term wellbeing of the nation and its people depend, environmentalists must do a better job of articulating how this is so. In doing so, however, they will show that the wise use movement's position depends on an implausible separation of humans from the eco-systems on which we depend. (shrink)
Animal well-being must be a primary normative consideration in a conception of humane sustainability. The two-level utilitarianism of R.M. Hare embodies aspects of both animal welfare and animal rights views, and in this paper I illustrate its application to questions about what counts as humane sustainability. Hare’s theory is highly controversial, and a thorough defense of it is beyond the scope of this paper, but the insightful way it provides of assessing various visions of humane sustainability testifies to the explanatory (...) and analytic power of the theory. In particular, on a Harean analysis, it makes sense to distinguish among “prelapsarian,” “contemporary,” and “utopian” visions of humane sustainability. (shrink)
In his recent article Should Trees Have Standing? Revisited" Christopher D. Stone has effectively withdrawn his proposal that natural objects be granted legal rights, in response to criticism from the Feinberg/McCloskey camp. Stone now favors a weaker proposal that natural objects be granted what he calls legal "considerateness". I argue that Stone's retreat is both unnecessary and undesirable. I develop the notion of a "de facto" legal right and argue that species already have de facto legal rights as statutory beneficiaries (...) of the "Endangered Species Act of 1973." I conclude that granting certain nonhuman natural entities legal rights is both more important and less costly that Stone and his critics have realized, and that it is not Stone's original proposal which needs rethinking, but the concept of interests at work in the Feinberg/McCloskey position. (shrink)