Korsgaard's Duties towards Animals: Two Difficulties

Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism 1 (10):9-25 (2022)
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Building on her previous work (2004, 2012, 2013), Christine Korsgaard’s recent book Fellow Creatures (2018) has provided the most highly developed Kantian account of duties towards animals. I raise two issues with the results of this account. First, the duties that Korsgaard accounts for are duties “towards” animals in name only. Since Korsgaard does not reject the Kantian conception in which direct duties towards others require mutual moral constraint, what she calls duties “towards” animals are merely Kantian duties regarding animals, verbally repackaged. Hence, Korsgaard’s account is best understood as an expansion (albeit a substantial one) of Kant’s own view of an indirect duty regarding animals. Second, the expansion does not take us quite as far as Korsgaard hopes. She aims for a conception in which our duties towards animals and humans are equally important, but her argument does not support this conclusion. I point out the potential for a more radical revision of Kant’s anthropocentrism that rejects his underlying assumption that duties towards others are based on mutual constraint.

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