Speciesism and Sentientism

Journal of Consciousness Studies 29 (3-4):205-228 (2022)
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Many philosophers accept both of the following claims: (1) consciousness matters morally, and (2) species membership doesn’t matter morally. In other words, many reject speciesism but accept what we might call 'sentientism'. But do the reasons against speciesism yield analogous reasons against sentientism, just as the reasons against racism and sexism are thought to yield analogous reasons against speciesism? This paper argues that speciesism is disanalogous to sentientism (as well as racism and sexism). I make a case for the following asymmetry: (a) some non-humans clearly have interests, but (b) no non-conscious entities clearly have interests. This asymmetry, I argue, renders sentientism resistant to the standard argument against speciesism.

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Andrew Y. Lee
University of Toronto at Scarborough


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