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Rotterdam In Da 50's Essay

581 words - 3 pages

Summary of the arguments for animals’ moral consideration.
Descartes:
Animals lack a rational soul, or consciousness. Therefore they are organic machines and do not have interests, and do not feel pain or enjoy pleasure as we do, so cannot be harmed. They can be excluded from the moral community.
Counter-arguments:
Science has debunked the assumption that they do not feel pain and pleasure.
Rebuttal: Even if they can feel pain, they lack self-consciousness and therefore cannot be understand themselves as individual entities and therefore have no interests.
Counter-argument:
Some animals have shown distinct self-consciousness, like elephants and dolphins. Other animals still have an interest in their own survival
Not all humans possess self-awareness, yet we claim they have interests and therefore deserve moral consideration. For example, people in a coma, ...view middle of the document...

Rationality allows us to be moral agents and this in turn entitles us to moral consideration. Kant, however, did not argue that we should treat animals however we wish, but as property of humans, who we have a moral duty to – so this is extended to animals insofar as it relates to our duties to each other.
Counter-argument:
It can be argued that animals are not devoid of rationality. The have exhibited the ability to problem-solve, make decisions and plan.
Using Kant’s reasoning, neither babies or the severely disabled are worthy of moral consideration in their own right
It seems that if we are to exclude animals on these bases, then we logically end up excluding a group of humans who we clearly believe are entitled to moral consideration. So, is this just being prejudiced against a species other than our own: is it Speciesism?
Rebuttal:
Is there anything necessarily wrong with favouring our own species above another?
Recall the ethical dilemma about saving your own family over a neighbour – it was obvious to many that we would favour those we are closest to.
Jeremy Bentham
Held that all sentient beings were deserving of moral consideration.
“The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk’ but ‘Can they suffer?’”
Counter-argument
The Greatest Happiness Principle can be used to justify actions against animals that liberationists would find morally reprehensible. Eg. Using animals for experimentations and fur. In these cases, if the animals are killed humanely (there by reducing or eliminating suffering), utilitarianism has no defence.
Peter Singer
Tried to overcome this problem using preference utilitarianism. All creatures, human and non-human, have an interest in their own survival and avoiding suffering and we have an obligation to take these into account when debating the treatment of animals.

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