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Humanities LibreTexts

4.3: Cases Against Animals

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  • While animal advocates focus on sufficient conditions for someone being in “The Moral Club” (as Rowlands puts it), anti-animal theorists tend to focus on necessary conditions, claiming that:

    We must take a being’s interests seriously, it’s wrong to harm it (except for very good reasons), we must respect it, etc., only if it is like this: ___.

    They then typically fill in that blank with rather cognitively advanced abilities: sophisticated reasoning, thinking about one’s thinking, intellectual achievement, religious worship, and so on. Their challenge, of course, comes from the fact that many human beings lack such sophisticated minds, yet we think we must take their interests seriously. This problem for anti-animal theorists is known as the “argument from marginal cases.” To get around it, these theorists often attempt to do some intellectual acrobatics, trying to relate non-mentally sophisticated human beings (who seem to lack the stated necessary condition for, e.g., having any moral rights) to sophisticated human beings in peculiar ways. We will attempt to pin down their reasoning and see if it seems to be generally valid or is developed as an ad hoc response to this problem or worse.

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