Nonhuman Self-Investment Value


Guardians of companion animals killed wrongfully in the U.S. historically receive compensatory judgments reflecting the animal’s economic value. As animals are property in torts law, this value typically is the animal’s fair market value—which is often zero. But this is only the animal’s value, as it were, to a stranger and, in light of the fact that many guardians value their animals at rates far in excess of fair market value, legislatures and courts have begun to recognize a second value, the animal’s value to her guardian. What is this noneconomic value, and how should guardians be compensated for it? In Part 1, I propose a novel method to answer this question. My method includes a third, even more controversial, value: the animal’s value to herself. The idea that an animal could invest in herself faces many criticisms. In Part 2, I defend the claim by examining the mental capacities of dogs (Canis familiaris). I rebut the central objection—that dogs lack the psychological capacities required for self-investment—by showing that dogs are autonomous, think about their futures, and inhibit their desires in light of their goals. I close by suggesting that whereas the approach has conservative implications for the valuation of companion animals, it has radical implications for the valuation of agricultural animals. Keywords: companion animals, animal law, legal theory, value theory, practical ethics, economic value, noneconomic value, intrinsic value, instrumental value, animal welfare, dogs, animal rights, capital value, self-investment value, autonomy, wrongful death, philosophy of animal law, animal minds, moral standing of animals, legal standing of animals, agency, prospection, canine neurobiology, bereavement, replaceability, non-ideal ethics

Author's Profile

Gary Comstock
North Carolina State University


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