In this brief, we argue that there is a diversity of ways in which humans (Homo sapiens) are ‘persons’ and there are no non-arbitrary conceptions of ‘personhood’ that can include all humans and exclude all nonhuman animals. To do so we describe and assess the four most prominent conceptions of ‘personhood’ that can be found in the rulings concerning Kiko and Tommy, with particular focus on the most recent decision, Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc v Lavery.
Many historically-influential philosophers had profoundly wrong moral views or behaved very badly. Aristotle thought women were “deformed men” and that some people were slaves “by nature.” Descartes had disturbing views about non-human animals. Hume and Kant were racists. Hegel disparaged Africans. Nietzsche despised sick people. Mill condoned colonialism. Fanon was homophobic. Frege was anti-Semitic; Heidegger was a Nazi. Schopenhauer was sexist. Rousseau abandoned his children. Wittgenstein beat his young students. Unfortunately, these examples are just a start. -/- These philosophers are (...) famous for their intellectual accomplishments, yet they display serious moral or intellectual flaws in their beliefs or actions. At least, some of their views were false, ultimately unjustified and, perhaps, harmful. -/- How should we respond to brilliant-but-flawed philosophers from the past? Here we explore the issues, asking questions and offering few answers. Any insights gained here might be applicable to contemporary imperfect philosophers, scholars in other fields, and people in general. (shrink)
Most abortions occur early in pregnancy. I argue that these abortions, and so most abortions, are not morally wrong and that the best arguments given to think that these abortions are wrong are weak. I also argue that these abortions, and probably all abortions, should be legal. -/- I begin by observing that people sometimes respond to the issue by describing the circumstances of abortion, not offering reasons for their views about those circumstances; I then dismiss “question-begging” arguments about abortion (...) that merely assume the conclusions they are given to support; most importantly, I evaluate many arguments: both common, often-heard arguments and arguments developed by philosophers. -/- My defense of abortion is based on facts about early fetuses’ not yet possessing consciousness or any mental life, awareness or feeling, as well as concerns about rights to one’s own body. (shrink)
We sometimes seek expert guidance when we don’t know what to think or do about a problem. In challenging cases concerning medical ethics, we may seek a clinical ethics consultation for guidance. The assumption is that the bioethicist, as an expert on ethical issues, has knowledge and skills that can help us better think about the problem and improve our understanding of what to do regarding the issue. The widespread practice of ethics consultations raises these questions and more: -/- • (...) What would it take to be a moral expert? • Is anyone a moral expert, and if so, how could a non-expert identify one? • Is it in any way problematic to accept and follow the advice of a moral expert as opposed to coming to moral conclusions on your own? • What should we think and do when moral experts disagree about a practical ethical issue? -/- In what follows, we address these theoretical and practical questions about moral expertise. (shrink)
Tom Regan argues that human beings and some non-human animals have moral rights because they are “subjects of lives,” that is, roughly, conscious, sentient beings with an experiential welfare. A prominent critic, Carl Cohen, objects: he argues that only moral agents have rights and so animals, since they are not moral agents, lack rights. An objection to Cohen’s argument is that his theory of rights seems to imply that human beings who are not moral agents have no moral rights, but (...) since these human beings have rights, his theory of rights is false, and so he fails to show that animals lack rights. Cohen responds that this objection fails because human beings who are not moral agents nevertheless are the “kind” of beings who are moral agents and so have rights, but animals are not that “kind” of being and so lack rights. Regan argues that Cohen’s “kind” arguments fail: they fail to explain why human beings who are not moral agents have rights and they fail to show that animals lack rights. Since Cohen’s “kind” arguments are influential, I review and critique Regan’s objections . I offer suggestions for stronger responses to arguments like Cohen’s. (shrink)
Carl Cohen's arguments against animal rights are shown to be unsound. His strategy entails that animals have rights, that humans do not, the negations of those conclusions, and other false and inconsistent implications. His main premise seems to imply that one can fail all tests and assignments in a class and yet easily pass if one's peers are passing and that one can become a convicted criminal merely by setting foot in a prison. However, since his moral principles imply that (...) nearly all exploitive uses of animals are wrong anyway, foes of animal rights are advised to seek philosophical consolations elsewhere. I note that some other philosopher's arguments are subject to similar objections. (shrink)
"Nobis argues that Singer's consequentialist approach is inadequate for defending the moral obligation to become a vegetarian or vegan. The consequentialist case rests on the idea that being a vegetarian or vegan maximizes utility -- the fewer animals that are raised and killed for food, the less suffering. Nobis argues that this argument does not work on an individual level -- my becoming a vegetarian makes no difference to the overall utility of reducing animal suffering in a context of a (...) huge industry and market unaffected by my actions. Nobis merges the insights of virtue ethics with consequentialism to argue that individuals can bring about more goodness if they have the virtues of compassion, care, and sensitivity to unnecessary cruelty and suffering. If one ought to be compassionate, sensitive to cruelty, resist injustice, and be morally integrated, then, Nobis argues, one ought to be a vegetarian or vegan.". (shrink)
Grades on assignments and tests are reliable, yet imperfect, indicators of students’ knowledge and understanding of a subject matter. Overall course grades are also often influenced by students’ complying with class procedures: e.g., if attendance and participation are required, then students who rarely attend class may get poor grades, even if they understand the course content and have done well on the assignments and tests. A variety of extra credit opportunities are often given as a way to raise grades on (...) assignments and tests and overall course grades. But there are reasons why instructors should not offer extra credit, that doing so is unjustified and unfair. Extra credit is common but is surprisingly controversial. (shrink)
In this book, law professors Sherry F. Colb and Michael C. Dorf argue that: -/- many non-human animals, at least vertebrates, are morally considerable and prima facie wrong to harm because they are sentient, i.e., conscious and capable of experiencing pains and pleasures; most aborted human fetuses are not sentient -- their brains and nervous systems are not yet developed enough for sentience -- and so the motivating moral concern for animals doesn't apply to most abortions; later abortions affecting sentient (...) fetuses, while rare, raise serious moral concerns, but these abortions -- like all abortions -- invariably involve the interests and rights of the pregnant woman, which can make these abortions morally permissible. For a book claiming to explore the "connections" between debates about the two issues, just the summary from the book flap -- basically, what's above -- makes it appear that there really isn't much connection between the topics, at least at the core ethical level. Animals are sentient, early fetuses are not, and so the moral arguments about the two issues don't overlap or share premises. While the authors hope to use insights from one issue to shed light on the other, I find that differences in the issues limit these insights. (shrink)
In Putting Humans First: Why We Are Natures Favorite, Tibor Machan argues against moral perspectives that require taking animals' interests seriously. He attempts to defend the status quo regarding routine, harmful uses of animals for food, fashion and experimentation. Graham and Nobis argue that Machan's work fails to resist pro-animal moral conclusions that are supported by a wide range of contemporary ethical arguments.
What is the moral status of animals? What’s the moral status of fetuses? What’s the moral status of the permanently comatose? While questions like these are sometimes asked (also about ‘moral standing’), I have written a few paragraphs where I argue that the term “moral status” shouldn’t be used.
Modern-day zoos and aquariums market themselves as places of education and conservation. A recent study conducted by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association is being widely heralded as the first direct evidence that visits to zoos and aquariums produce long-term positive effects on people’s attitudes toward other animals. In this paper, we address whether this conclusion is warranted by analyzing the study’s methodological soundness. We conclude that Falk et al. contains at least six major threats to methodological validity that undermine (...) the authors’ conclusions. There remains no compelling evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, or interest in conservation in visitors, although further investigation of this possibility using methodologically sophisticated designs is warranted. (shrink)
This paper is designed to help people rationally engage moral issues regarding the treatment of animals, specifically uses of animals in medical and psychological experimentation, basic research, drug development, education and training, consumer product testing and other areas.
Is banning trans fat a bad policy? Resnik (2010) offers two general reasons for thinking so. First, because trans fat bans could lead to the government’s placing other objectionable restrictions upon food choices. Second, that, because we can adequately reduce trans fat consumption through education and mandatory labeling, bans are unnecessary. There are good reasons to reject both claims. First, since any slippery slope towards further restrictions on food choices is easily avoided, trans fat bans do not give the cause (...) for worry that Resnik suggests they do; second, trans fat bans are necessary, in the sense of “necessary” that is relevant to public health policy debates. (shrink)
Should people who believe in animal rights think that abortion is wrong? Should pro-lifers accept animal rights? If you think it’s wrong to kill fetuses to end pregnancies, should you also think it’s wrong to kill animals to, say, eat them? If you, say, oppose animal research, should you also oppose abortion? -/- Some argue ‘yes’ and others argue ‘no’ to either or both sets of questions. The correct answer, however, seems to be, ‘it depends’: it depends on why someone (...) accepts animal rights, and why someone thinks abortion is wrong: it depends on their reasons. (shrink)
Frey sets the challenge for the other authors: to explain why, morally, no humans can be subject to the kinds of experiments that animals are subject to and to explain how researchers can reliablyuse animal models to understand and cure human disease. He thinks that the first challenge has not been met; the second challenge is, unfortunately, not directly addressed in this book. Adrian Morrison states that he “abhors” positions like Frey’s, Peter Singer’s and Tom Regan’s. He asserts that all (...) “human beings stand apart in a moral sense from all other species” and that all are worthy of “special consideration”. Regrettably he fails to defend his view by identifying the morally-relevant characteristics that all humans possess and all animals lack that might make his claim true. That omission prevents him from rationally criticizing opposing views. (shrink)
Elizabeth Harman has presented a novel view on the moral status of early fetuses that she calls the “ Actual Future Principle” : An early fetus that will become a person has some moral status. An early fetus that will die while it is still an early fetus has no moral status. This view is said to justify a "very liberal" position on abortion, that "early abortion requires no moral justification whatsoever," and show this position to be "more attractive than (...) has previously been thought." Harman concedes that the AFP "may appear to be incoherent or be plainly wrong on its face." I argue that she does not defeat this appearance: strong arguments are not given in its favor. I will undercut Harman's main argument for the AFP by showing that no defender of abortion needs to accept the AFP to reasonably retain her views. Since the AFP is not adequately defended, Harman does not provide a strong argument for her view on abortion. I will note, however, that Harman's liberal view on abortion may, in fact, imply very little about the morality of most actual abortions. (shrink)
|Scope: | |1. The first sentence should include the subject’s name, life span in | |parenthesis, and place and date of birth (day and month) if known (followed by | |mentioning early work on civil disobedience, perhaps) | |2. Outline key contributions to animal ethics, focusing on Animal Liberation | |and Practical Ethics | |3. Outline contributions to debates on poverty, relating this to environmental | |ethics | |4. Outline more recent work on globalization and climate change eg in One (...) World|. (shrink)
Ayer and Stevenson advocated ethical emotivisms, non-cognitivist understandings of the meanings of moral terms and functions of moral judgments. I argue that their reasons for ethical emotivisms suggestanalogous epistemological emotivisms. Epistemological emotivism importantly undercuts any epistemic support Ayer and Stevenson offered for ethical emotivism. This is because if epistemic emotivism is true, all epistemic judgments are neither true nor false so it is neither true nor false that anyone should accept ethical emotivism or is justified in believing it. Thus, their (...) perspectives are epistemologically self-undermining and, truthfully, should be rejected. Unlike Ayer and Stevenson, Gibbard explicitly endorses ethical and epistemological emotivism, or expressivism; I criticize his views in detail elsewhere. (shrink)
right. Unlike incoherent positive rights , such as the “right” to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone . It does not call for government to tax us in order to provide animals with food, shelter, and veterinary care. It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer. I can think of no other issue where the libertarian is arguing for a positive right—his right to make animals submit (...) to any use he sees—and the other side is arguing for a negative right! (shrink)
In a recent article published in this journal, Andrew Chignell proposes some candidates for greater or ‘balancing out’ goods that could explain why God allows some infants to be tortured to death. I argue that each of Chignell's proposals is either incoherent, metaphysically dubious, and/or morally objectionable. Thus, his proposals do not explain what might justify God in allowing infants to be tortured, and the existence of infant suffering remains a serious problem for traditional theism.
Many people involved in the life sciences and related fields and industries routinely cause mice, rats, dogs, cats, primates and other non-human animals to experience pain, suffering, and an early death, harming these animals greatly and not for their own benefit. Harms, however, require moral justification, reasons that pass critical scrutiny. Animal experimenters and dissectors might suspect that strong moral justification has been given for this kind of treatment of animals. I survey some recent attempts to provide such a justification (...) and show that they do not succeed: they provide no rational defense of animal experimentation and related activities. Thus, the need for a rational defense of animal experimentation remains. (shrink)
There are at least two models of what it is to be a feminist ethicist or moral philosopher. One model requires that one accept a distinctively feminist ethical theory. I will argue against this model by arguing that since the concept of a feminist ethical theory is highly unclear, any claim that ethicists who are feminist need one is also unclear and inadequately defended. I will advocate what I call a "minimal model" of feminist ethics, arguing that it is philosophically (...) and practically sufficient to meet feminist goals. (shrink)
The problem of infant suffering and death has remained one of the most intractable problems for theists. Andrew Chignell has attempted to develop a theodicy for this problem that is based on Marilyn Adam’s paradigm for theodicy. However, his discussion repeatedly avoids the argument that, traditionally, most have thought to be the basis of this problem of evil. Thus, his theodicy provides the traditional theist with no adequate response to the problem. I argue that since infant suffering is a serious (...) (and inadequately addressed) problem for any theodicy, animal torture and death is a serious problem as well. I note that few theodicies have addressed animal suffering in a manner that takes their pain seriously. (shrink)
BackgroundTo determine whether the public and scientists consider common arguments in support of animal research convincing.MethodsAfter validation, the survey was sent to samples of public, Amazon Mechanical Turk, a Canadian city festival and children’s hospital), medical students, and scientists. We presented questions about common arguments to justify the moral permissibility of AR. Responses were compared using Chi-square with Bonferonni correction.ResultsThere were 1220 public [SSI, n = 586; AMT, n = 439; Festival, n = 195; Hospital n = 107], 194/331 medical (...) student, and 19/319 scientist [too few to report] responses. Most public respondents were <45 years, had some College/University education, and had never done AR. Most public and medical student respondents considered ‘benefits arguments’ sufficient to justify AR; however, most acknowledged that counterarguments suggesting alternative research methods may be available, or that it is unclear why the same ‘benefits arguments’ do not apply to using humans in research, significantly weakened ‘benefits arguments’. Almost all were not convinced of the moral permissibility of AR by ‘characteristics of non-human-animals arguments’, including that non-human-animals are not sentient, or are property. Most were not convinced of the moral permissibility of AR by ‘human exceptionalism’ arguments, including that humans have more advanced mental abilities, are of a special ‘kind’, can enter social contracts, or face a ‘lifeboat situation’. Counterarguments explained much of this, including that not all humans have these more advanced abilities [‘argument from species overlap’], and that the notion of ‘kind’ is arbitrary [e.g., why are we not of the ‘kind’ ‘sentient-animal’ or ‘subject-of-a-life’?]. Medical students were more supportive of AR at the end of the survey.ConclusionsResponses suggest that support for AR may not be based on cogent philosophical rationales, and more open debate is warranted. (shrink)
Health care workers often perform, promote, and advocate use of public funds for animal research ; therefore, an awareness of the empirical costs and benefits of animal research is an important issue for HCW. We aim to determine what health-care-workers consider should be acceptable standards of AR methodology and translation rate to humans.
Zagzebski’s paper ends with a passage from Iris Murdoch. While the character in the passage is Kant, who recognizes the sounds of the moral law as coming from “the voice of his own reason,” (p. 22) Murdoch’s message seems to be directed to anyone who accepts a “secular” ethic. We can understand her message as a warning: DO NOT reject theistic or Christian ethics; DO NOT fail to view Christ as the source of the moral law, for this rejection is (...) (if I understand Murdoch correctly) one of the first steps down the road to Hell. I will argue that Christians should take these first steps down this road (and, if fact, ride the slippery slope all the way down), but that this road is not the road to Hell. It’s the moral road that Christians should want to be on. (shrink)
In Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (Doubleday, 2008), Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen argue that human embryo-destructive experimentation is morally wrong and should not be supported with state funds. I argue that their arguments fail.
“The fact is that animals that don't seem to have a purpose really do have a purpose. The Bosses have to eat. It's probably the most noble purpose of all, when you come to think about it.” – Cat, “Babe”.
In Putting Humans First: Why We Are Nature’s Favorite, Tibor Machan argues against moral perspectives that require taking animals’ interests seriously. He attempts to defend the status quo regarding routine, harmful uses of animals for food, fashion and experimentation. Graham and Nobis show that his arguments fail: they arguments provide no good reason to resist pro-animal moral conclusions that are supported by a wide range of contemporary ethical arguments.
In his reply to the Nobis-Graham review of Tibor Machan's book, Putting Humans First, John Altick defends Machan's and Rand's theories of moral rights, specifically as they relate to the rights of non-human animals and non-rational human beings. Nobis and Graham argue that Altick's defense fails and that it would be wrong to eat, wear, and experiment on non-rational—yet conscious and sentient—human beings. Since morally relevant differences between these kinds of humans and animals have not been identified to justify a (...) difference in treatment or consideration, it is wrong to harm animals for these purposes also. (shrink)
The criticisms of Falk et al. are addressed, and the question of whether claims made by Falk et al. are valid is revisited. This rebuttal contends that Falk et al. misconstrue Popper’s role in philosophy of science and hence do not provide a strong test of their hypothesis. Falk et al. claim that they never made causal statements about the impact of zoo and aquarium visits in their 2007 study. Yet, this commentary shows that Falk et al. draw several unsupported, (...) strong causal conclusions. The criticism that primary documents were not used in Marino et al. is also addressed, as this refutation demonstrates that the analysis was based on all available documents. Finally, this commentary aims, through its criticisms of Falk et al. , to catalyze better-quality research on the effects of zoo and aquarium visits. (shrink)