A Sensible Speciesism?

Philosophical Inquiries 4 (1):49-70 (2016)
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Abstract

In his essay “The Human Prejudice” Bernard Williams presented a sophisticated defense of the moral relevance of the concept “human being”. Here I offer both an analysis of his essay and a defense of his conclusions against criticisms made by Julian Savulescu and Peter Singer. After a discussion of the structure of Williams’s argument, I focus on several complaints from Savulescu: that Williams underestimates the similarities between speciesism and racism or sexism, that Williams relies on a disputable internalism about reasons to make his case, that Williams ignores the arbitrariness of species membership, and (a complaint also made by Singer) that Williams attacks a straw man in considering only negative utilitarianism when criticizing the idea of an Impartial Observer. I defend Williams against these charges and end with a brief discussion of how his alien invasion example illustrates the fundamentally different philosophical sensibility of Bernard Williams in comparison to critics like Savulescu and Singer.

Author's Profile

Christopher Grau
Clemson University

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