On the Fifth Day
edited by Richard Knowles Morris and Michael W. Fox

This collection of essays on animal rights includes two good ones and ten lesser ones. The good ones are "Human Duties and Animal Rights" by Joel Feinberg and "Beyond Anthropocentrism in Ethics and Religion" by John B. Cobb, Jr. Famous animal rights advocates mentioned in several of the essays include Albert Schweitzer, Joseph Wood Krutch, Alfred North Whitehead, the Phenomenologists, and Buddha. On the other side, Descartes and Kant are mentioned most often.

Joel Feinberg makes these points:

"So far as we know, no animals other than man have the intellectual equipment necessary for the reliable performance of duty and the discharge of responsibility. They cannot make promises or enter into contractual agreements. Nor can they even grasp the concept of a duty or a commitment. These failures of intellect and volition, I think, disqualify animals as genuine moral agents eligible for our trust and answerable for their failures." p. 49
Speaking about well-trained dogs, he says:
"... they haven't the slightest inkling of the reasons for the norm. They don't understand why departures from the norm are wrong, or why their masters become angry or disappointed. ... For dogs, the only basis of their master's "right" to be obeyed is his de facto power over them. ... to suffer a guilty conscience is to be more than merely unhappy or anxious; it is to be in such a state because one has violated an "internalized standard." a principle of one's own, the rationale of which one can fully appreciate and the correctness of which one can, but in fact does not, doubt."

"Punishment can be inflicted on animals to good effect. But unlike genuine punishments inflicted on human criminals, it is not understood by a symbolic convention to express moral judgments on the offender or his past conduct. No animal could understand a moral judgment made about him in any language, natural or contrived. No animal could appreciate the morally blameworthy quality of his deviant act any more than it could appreciate the rational grounding of the violated rule. And no animal could be reasoned with by an appeal to commonly held ideals and convictions. That is why the full-fledged legal punishment of animals would be ludicrous, and that is why animals are not assigned legal duties and made legally answerable for their discharge." p. 50-51

Despite their intelligence and ability to speak in abstract terms, Christians and other religious people who say that to be moral it is necessary to believe in a god who enforces his commandments by administering punishments in Hell and rewards in Heaven have the moral psychology of dogs rather than of human beings. They do not understand the rational basis for the moral rules that they follow. They rely on the external threats and bribes of their gods to provide them with motives for good behavior. They have not internalized their moral principles. So, like dumb animals, they cannot suffer from guilty consciences.

Feinberg makes the following points:

"It simply does not follow, however, that the intellectual shortcomings that disqualify animals for duties automatically disqualify them for rights as well." p. 53

"Animals may have claims against us, but they cannot know that they do, nor can they even grasp the concept of a right or another's duty to them. Hence, they cannot make claim, on their own, to something as their due or initiate legal proceedings, on their own, for their own protection. ... The immediate reply to this argument, of course, is that one need not know that one has a right in order to have it, and that animals no less than infants and insane persons can make claims in law courts through proxies speaking in their behalf." p. 53

"Sometimes, for example, John Doe hires an expert to solve his problems and grants him discretion within wide limits to exercise his own professional judgment. A buyer, trustee, guardian, or lawyer is often a representative in this sense--he is not a mere instrument of his client's will, simply registering decisions made independently by the client, but he is a representative of his client's interests. A creature need have no will or choice of his own, nor even any clear awareness of his predicament, to be represented in this second way. Mere possession of interests is quite sufficient."

"At this point in the dialectic, the person arguing against the possibility of animal rights is driven to his final position. If he has accepted the argument up to now, his only remaining move is to deny that any animals but man can have interests. The possession of interests can be seen at this point to be the crucial mark of conceptual suitability for right-ownership. Not only are interests necessary for a being to be represented in the relevant sense; they are also essential to its being the sort of thing that can have a good of its own, for to act in a creature's interest is to act for its good." p. 54-55.

"Possession of interests by no means automatically confers any particular right or even any right at all upon a being. What it does is show that the being in question is the kind of being to whom moral or legal rights can be ascribed without conceptual absurdity. To have a right, after all, is to have a claim, and to have a claim is to be in a legitimate position to make certain demands against others. A mute creature can make claims only by means of a vicarious representative speaking for it, but if it has no interests of its own, it cannot be represented in this way, having no "behalf" in which another can speak. Moreover, if a creature has no interests of its own, it has no good or welfare of its own and cannot be helped or hindered, benefited or aided, in which case it has no "sake" for which one could act. In that event there could be no coherent reason for regarding any conduct of others as its due, and thus the concept of a right would simply not apply to it.

It is not true however, that animals do not have interests (in the relevant sense) of their own. However the concept of an interest is ultimately analyzed, the materials out of which interests are compounded must surely be wants and aims. These in turn presuppose at least certain rudimentary cognitive equipment--the ability to recognize and distinguish, to expect and believe, and to adopt means to ends. The higher animals, at least, do seem to have cognitive lives of their own. Most of us (whatever our philosophical disagreements) agree in recognizing the behavioral manifestations of their wants and the objectives of their pursuits. The trustee for funds set aside for the care of animals can easily know what it is to act in the interests of the animals he cares for, and if he should abscond with the funds, another party can speak up indignantly in the mute animal's behalf, demanding for it its due. Unlike mere artifacts and plants, moreover, animals can experience suffering and frustration, states that are surely not in their interests. Compared to those of human beings, animals' interests are few and simple, but such as they are, they are sufficient to make talk of their rights coherent and meaningful." p. 55-56

"What I mean by a moral right is a claim whose validity derives not (necessarily) from a legal or institutional rule, or a convention or agreement, but rather from a moral principle binding on the conscience of all moral agents." p. 57

"We understand that some pain does more good than harm on balance, but what follows is that justifiable pain is a necessary evil, not that some pain is good in itself. If the essential character of pain and suffering themselves makes them evil--evil not for their consequences but in their intrinsic natures--then it follows that given magnitudes of pain and suffering are equally evil in themselves whenever and wherever they occur. An intense toothache is an evil in a young person or an old person, a man or a woman, a Caucasian or a Negro, a human being or a lion." p. 58

"The exclusion of arbitrariness and favoritism is part of what we mean when we characterize judgments as "moral." This explains why we fall naturally into objective modes of speech when we ascribe moral rights. ... when we ascribe moral rights, we speak not of deciding, but of discovering and reporting their existence ... because a right is a claim, and the basis of a claim is a reason, and when reasons are sufficiently cogent, they have a coercive effect on our judgments. When this is so, we feel that we have no more choice in making the judgment than we do when we report the findings of our senses about a matter of empirical fact" p. 59

"... there is at least one kind of absolute and unalterable right for which only human beings can qualify, and that is the right not to be degraded and exploited even in painless and humane ways. ... the higher kind of dignity that precludes even humane use as mere instruments requires a level of rational awareness that animals cannot achieve." p. 60

"Human pain seems self-evidently an evil to those who have known it quite simply because it is pain--because it hurts, and to be hurt is to suffer something evil in itself. Human life, however, seems a supreme good to those who treasure it, not because it is life, but because it is human.... Life, then, is a trivially obvious but necessary condition for the existence of any uniquely human properties that may have an intrinsic value. Abstracted from those properties, however, it is far from "self-evident" that life has any value in its own right at all, much less an invariant supreme value "wherever and whenever it occurs."

"I conclude therefore that it is possible to hold without inconsistency that an individual human life as such is a thing of far greater value than an individual animal life as such." p 67

This approach bases rights on intrinsic values, which are difficult to establish and which should be left to individual discretion. Justice needs to be more certain than this.
"... a species, unlike an individual animal, is not the kind of entity of which it even makes sense to say it can have rights. ... it has no interests of its own and is not even the kind of thing that could have a good of its own." p. 67
Here is a quotation on war:
"It is easier for an aggressor to kill when he does not see the appeasement displays and signals for surrender. Animals fighting close together can hardly avoid seeing the signals, but once man was able to use projectile weapons, these natural mechanisms to cut off the aggressor were weakened. The greater the range of combat, the easier killing became, and the push-button war of the twentieth century was the final step in distancing and depersonalizing adversaries. p. 115 Michael W. Fox

Quotations from "Beyond Anthropocentrism in Ethics and Religion" by John B. Cobb Jr.:

"Whereas everything has instrumental value--that is, has some capacity to contribute to the good or ill of others--only experience has intrinsic value. The existence of something that is wholly nonexperiential is a matter of indifference except as it contributes to some experience. The occurrence of an experience matters in itself--, that is, it has intrinsic value. It also has instrumental value for other experiences.

Experience has a subject-object or self-world structure. All experience is experience of something or, more accurately, of many things. It is the way in which what is given objectively becomes subjectively appropriated, integrated, and transcended. Within experience, therefore, we can distinguish what is felt from how it is felt, The "what" is the objective pole of the experience; the "how" is the subjective pole. The subjective side of experience is emotion." p. 138

From "Foundations for a Humane Ethics" by Charles Hartshorne:
"The body is a very complex society of cells, each cell an individual in a far stronger sense than is an organ, such as heard or brain. Since ethics is concerned with social relations, the fact that our very bodies are cases of social organization and cooperation is not to be brushed aside as a mere detail; rather, it is an illustration of a basic principle on which all ethics must rest. If our cells were not unconsciously, instinctively ethical (in a minimal sense of that word), we could not be consciously so, and indeed could not exist. But in this sense all higher animals illustrate the same principle, that of life serving life, individual serving individual." p. 154

"A nervous system is a subsociety of cells by which a society of cellular individuals is made into a single supercellular individual. As each cell is an individual, so is the supercellular animal, if endowed with a nervous system." p. 155

"On the cellular level only the nerve cells endure throughout life ... True, the gene structure found in every cell is largely fixed, but this is an identity of form, not of matter..." p.158

"Only man draws representative pictures, maps, and diagrams, uses musical and mathematical notations, points or draws an arrow to show direction, uses a color for an understood meaning as in traffic lights, and so on. Symbolic capacity is our human advantage and superiority. Is it a difference in kind from other animals or only one in degree? I answer: it is a difference in degree so vast that for many purposes one can safely forget that it is one of degree." p. 160

"A clue to the nature of our symbolic power is in its reflexiveness. If other animals can talk, it is about things other than talk. But we can talk about talk, we have the word word, also language, foreign language, symbol, analogy, metaphor, and innumerable others. Until nonhuman animals exhibit something comparable, we need not concern ourselves with the hypothetical possibility that they might attain our level of consciousness, participate with us in conscious ethical and political discussion, and the like." p. 160-161

Year Read: 1997


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