Assignment 3: Animal Rights: Kant and Singer
Read the introduction to Chapter 3 on Animal Rights. Textbook: Louis Pojman and Paul Pojman, Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application. Seventh Edition. Cengage Learning. and the 2 readings below.
Answer the questions below for each of the readings. You can write as much as you want.
(A) Holly L. Wilson, The Green Kant: Kant’s Treatment of Animals (There is a selection in this chapter by Kant that you should read. But it may be too difficult, so there are no questions for it.) Kant believes that animals have no rights at all in part because they don’t have reason and aren’t “ends in themselves.”
(B) Peter Singer, A Utilitarian Defense of Animal Liberation. Peter Singer is a utilitarian (which holds that one is morally required to do what promotes the greatest good for everyone who is affected by the action, including animals. On this utilitarian ethical theory, the good is defined as pleasure and the absence of pain. So we must maximize pleasure over pain. The utilitarian approach to morality is very different from Kant’s approach. (But notice that Tom Regan, another animal rights supporter, takes a Kantian view. We’ll look at Regan in the next assignment.) Singer holds that animals have a right to equal moral consideration, because they feel pleasure and pain, too. Singer is NOT saying that animals should have all rights equal to humans — like the right to a fair trial. That’s obviously absurd. He is saying that animals should have a right to equal moral consideration of their pain and pleasure. In other words, their pleasure and pain should count morally, and their pain counts just as much as our pain. So we need to give their pleasure and pain equal moral consideration when we act. If you disagree with Singer’s idea about what gives animals moral status, then you should explain why it is that the pain we feel counts morally while the pain animals feel does not — or is it that you don’t think that the ability to feel pleasure and pain is what gives something moral status?
(A) Answer the following questions on Wilson’s discussion of the important 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
1. As Wilson explains Kant, why does having a soul distinguish animals from things?
2. Kant says that animals (and plants) are also distinguishable from things because animals are “organized beings.” Organized beings are both intrinsically and extrinsically purposive. Explain these two important concepts.
(i) Intrinsically purposive
(ii) Extrinsically purposive
3. As Wilson explains, Kant believes that human beings are distinguishable from other animals because we have the additional status of being “ends-in-ourselves.” What does this mean, and why aren’t animals ends-in-themselves, too?
4. Kant ties the moment of our recognition of human dignity (that we are ends-in-ourselves and the true ends of nature) to the moment when human beings recognize what?
5. Wilson explains Kant’s view that our reason expresses itself in three important ways. We have technical, pragmatic, and moral predispositions. From the moral perspective, we treat animals in ways that are good for them and promote their interests. Kant believes that this is fine, but some people want to go further with the moral approach and give rights to animals. Explain why Kant says that rights cannot be extended to animals.
6. Evaluate Kant’s arguments for not giving rights to animals. Do you agree with Kant? Explain why or why not.
(B) Answer the following questions about Peter Singer’s article. Singer is a famous philosopher. You may have seen him on TV. You can see Peter Singer in this video lecture on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHzwqf_JkrA&feature=related. There is no requirement to watch this video, but he presents some of his views.
7. Singer wants to extend the basic principle of equality to other species. He is talking about the right to equality of consideration, but equal consideration of what exactly?
8. Singer explains that, according to Bentham, the capacity for ________ is a prerequisite for having interests.
9. As Singer explains it, speciesism is to be condemned along with racism and sexism. Please answer the following.
(i) Explain, as Singer puts it, how speciesism violates, like racism and sexism, the principle of equality.
(ii) What are the examples of speciesism that Singer points out?
10. Singer’s states, “There seems to be no relevant characteristic that human infants possess that adult animals do not have to the same or higher degree.” But Kant points out what he thinks is a relevant difference on the basis of which we can justify treating human infants differently from adult animals, even though an infant may not be as developed (in terms of sentience or rationality) as the animal. Please answer the following.
(i) Based on the 4 paragraphs on page 67 (starting with the words “This position…”), what is Kant saying and what would be Kant’s response to Singer’s statement?
(ii) Would Singer accuse Kant of being a speciesist because Kant uses “high-sounding phrases” and draws the boundary of the sphere of rights along arbitrary and irrelevant biological lines (arbitrarily favoring his own species)?
(iii) Does Kant capture a real non-arbitrary, legitimate, and relevant moral difference between infants and animals that justifies unequal consideration? Explain your view.
11. Singer quotes Stanley Benn (p. 104). Benn seems to be making a claim that is similar to Kant’s claim. Benn refers to rationality as the human norm. According to Benn, an imbecile is to be given equal consideration because, although falling short of the norm, an imbecile is still a member of the human species. He claims that it would be unfair to give the imbecile unequal consideration just because of an isolated defect. Benn thinks that although a normal dog may have something like the reasoning ability of an imbecile, treating the dog unequally is acceptable because it is a member of a species in which rationality is not the norm. But Singer asks, “If it is unfair to take advantage of an isolated defect, why is it fair to take advantage of a more general limitation?” (p. 104) (The more general limitation is that the dog fails to be a member of a species in which rationality is the norm.)
Did Singer make a good point here about the dog and the imbecile? Would we be taking unfair advantage of a dog by not giving it equal moral consideration of its interests (its pain and pleasure) just because it is a member of a species in which rationality is not the norm? Please defend your view.
12. Please make your view clear here. Do you agree with Singer that animals have a right to equal moral consideration of their interests (their pain and pleasure), and that to deny them this right would be unjustified discrimination against them? Or do you think that animals do not have a right to equal moral consideration of their pain and pleasure? Explain as completely as you can why you agree or disagree.