Oversight in the Canon: The Animals Issue Rekindled

Dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara (1996)
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I take issue with an argument to the effect that because contractualism proves--both practically and theoretically--the philosophically superior moral theory, we have the result that nonhuman animals can have no, nor ought be extended any, moral standing. The combined argument belongs to Peter Carruthers, and appears in his The Animals Issue. My response involves demonstration that on careful analysis contractualism fares even less well than the two theories against which Carruthers compares it--rights and utilitarian. Furthermore, I offer a sketch of a theory which does not fall for reliance on a singularly problematic premise--a premise which plays pivotally in traditional contractualist, rights and utilitarian accounts. The upshot is that this "alternative rights theory" fares best in reflective equilibrium analysis as against not only those theories Carruthers decries, but contractualism as well. We are, it appears, drawn back to the nagging question of whether and how things nonhuman may matter morally. For, Carruthers conclusion is disallowed. That the alternative rights theory offers novel yet satisfactory means by which to account for moral motivation and knowledge, as well as differences in moral respect due morally relevant beings, is explored. That the theory avoids the troublesome pitfalls of intuitionism and supervenience further secures its frontrunning position--which, again, begins to indicate that and how more than solely humans are of moral relevance


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