Speciesism, Prejudice, and Epistemic Peer Disagreement

Journal of Value Inquiry 55 (1):1-20 (2020)
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Peter Singer famously argues that speciesism, like racism and sexism, is based on a preju-dice. As Singer argues, since we reject racism and sexism, we must also reject speciesism. Since Singer articulated this line of reasoning, it has become a widespread argument against speciesism. Shelly Kagan has recently critiqued this argument, claiming that one can endorse speciesism with-out doing so on the basis of a prejudice. In this paper, I defend Kagan’s conclusion (that one can endorse speciesism without being prejudiced). However, many philosophers have found Kagan’s argument deeply unsatisfactory; so, I advance an alternative argument, different from Kagan’s, in support of his conclusion. My argument runs as follows: I argue that, if there is epistemic peer dis-agreement about a view, then the parties to this disagreement cannot reasonably label each other as prejudiced in their beliefs about this view. Then, I argue that there is epistemic peer disagreement about the truth of speciesism, from which it follows that the parties to this disagreement cannot rea-sonably label each other as prejudiced. Thus, one can affirm speciesism without being prejudiced. If I am correct that one can affirm speciesism without being prejudiced, then Singer’s argument (that if one rejects racism, one must reject speciesism) is unsound.

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Samuel Director
Florida Atlantic University


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