The scope of this paper will examine the notion of equality with respect to the value of life as it is contained in the argument between Tom Regan and R.G. Frey. Regan maintains that “all who have inherent value have it equally” (Regan 66). Frey, conversely, maintains that not all lives can be of equal inherent value since the potential for enrichment is not equal for all lives. Taking both arguments into consideration, the remainder of this paper will attempt to reconcile these arguments, suggesting that a sensible compromise is possible.
Regan supports his argument with the following premises :
1. All human life is of equal inherent value solely because each human is an experiencing ...view middle of the document...
All ESL have an interest in their own welfare and this is sufficient to warrant equal consideration. Thusly, the value of ones life has nothing to do with “one’s talents or skills, intelligence and wealth, personality or pathology, whether one is loved and admired or despised and loathed” (65). By accepting the validity of Regan’s argument, it seems to follow that all ESL would then, indeed, have equal inherent value --making any unequal valuation of life morally impermissible.
Frey however finds Regan’s first premise to be dubious. It is important to mention that Frey is not contesting the legitimacy of animal rights; but is, instead, raising doubt on Regan’s claim of premise one – that all human life is of equal inherent value. As Frey reveals and opposes, Regan’s first premise rests upon “agreeing that all human life, however deficient, has the same value” (Frey 68). Frey frames his argument as follows:
1. The value of life is derived from the “scope or potentiality for enrichment” (68).
2. However, not all humans have equal potential for enrichment.
3. Therefore, life cannot be of equal value.
If true, this argument inflicts a heavy blow to Regan’s claim, allowing for lives to be unequally weighted and decisions made in accordance with their value (or lack of). For instance, an infant with only half a brain, which undoubtedly has a “negative effect on the quality of life”, does not have the same potential and scope for enrichment (68). The life value of the half-brained infant, consequently, is less than that of an infant with a functional, fully intact brain.
On one hand, for most, it appeals to reason that life has equal inherent value. This forms the basis for central governing moral beliefs. One specific example is that of The Golden Rule. The Golden Rule advocates one to treat others (others, I submit, can apply to all beings, not just humans) as one would like others to treat oneself. Treating one as oneself implies that one is equal to another, for neither is subordinating one to the other. Regan’s call for equality on the value of life also appeals to the notion that one should not kill. For, the killer exalts the value of their life over the life value of their victim.
On the other hand, many cases can be cited which run counterintuitive to the equality of life. Frey provides the example of “an elderly human fully in the grip of senile dementia” (68). Another, perhaps more lucid example, is that of a person in a vegetative state. Both of these underscore the deteriorating quality of life and exemplify scenarios in which life is “no longer worth living” (68). Accordingly, as life becomes no longer worth living, the inherent value of life diminishes, allowing for “trade-offs between it and other things” (68). As a consequence, this allows for cases of euthanasia and abortion. Although these two issues are highly contested, I argue that both ensure the equal value of life. Allowing a suffering human...