Peter Singer, “A
Utilitarian Defense of Animal Liberation”
is a reconstruction of Singer’s Argument:
At least some nonhuman animals, like human animals, have interests.
Any being that has interests is entitled to moral consideration.
Therefore, any nonhuman animal that has interests is entitled to moral
Every genuine interest should be given the same consideration as other like
regardless of whose interest it is.
C: Therefore, those nonhuman animals that have
interests are entitled to equal moral
least some nonhuman animals have the capacity for suffering and enjoyment,
i.e., at least some nonhuman animals are sentient (in Singer’s restricted sense
that these nonhuman animals can experience suffering and enjoyment, it makes
sense to think of their lives as going well or badly, better or worse, for them.
their lives can go better or worse for them, then they have interests, as some
things are in their interest, and some things are contrary to their
capacity for suffering and enjoyment is thus a necessary and sufficient condition
for having interests at all.
exactly does Singer mean by “equal consideration”? There are factual differences between human
and nonhuman animals, which Singer recognizes.
In particular, humans have certain “higher” mental faculties that give
them more varied interests than nonhuman animals. Humans can enjoy reading a good book, for
example, while nonhuman animals cannot.
Humans can also suffer more types of discomforts, like feeling anxiety
over the remote future. So some human interests
are very different from any of the interests of nonhuman animals. Equal consideration for Singer just means
taking equally seriously the like interests of humans and nonhuman animals to
avoid suffering and to enjoy their lives.
The Scope of the
“the moral community” we mean everyone who is entitled to moral
consideration. Is there some feature
that all humans have and that no nonhumans have that would warrant placing
humans within our moral community and nonhuman animals outside of it, or that
would justify our considering human suffering as morally more important than
nonhuman suffering? This is the
challenge to anyone who wants to reject Singer’s argument.
Here are some
further clarifications of Singer’s views that may be helpful
does not argue that humans and nonhuman animals should be treated equally, or
that they should be given the same rights.
He makes this explicit when he says (page 72), “The extension of the
basic principle of equality from one group to another does not imply that we
must treat both groups in exactly the same way, or grant exactly the same
rights to both groups…The basic principle of equality, I shall argue, is
equality of consideration; and equal consideration for different beings may lead
to different treatment and different rights.”
principle of equality says the following: when considering the like interests
of humans and nonhuman animals they should be given equal consideration. In particular, he argues that we should count
the suffering of nonhuman animals equally with the like suffering of any other
being (page 75).
does this mean? Here is an example (from
Singer) to illustrate the principle. If
I slap a human baby in the face with a little bit of force, and I slap a horse
on its rear with the same amount of force, then I’ve hurt the baby more than
I’ve hurt the horse, and so I’ve done something worse to the baby than I’ve
done to the horse.
there is something I could do to the horse that would hurt the horse as much as
slapping the baby in the face with a little bit of force hurts the baby, and
these two actions are (other things being equal) equally wrong, says
Singer. The horse’s interest in not
being hurt deserves equal consideration to the baby’s interest in not being
hurt, when the degree of pain is the same in each case (these would be what
Singer calls “like interests”). That is
what Singer’s principle of equality amounts to.
Singer calls “speciesism” is favoring members of your own species, simply
because they are members of your own species.
This is the sense in which Singer compares speciesism to racism or
sexism, and he thinks that they are all objectionable on the same grounds,
i.e., because it is unfair to favor members of your own race, or your own sex,
or your own species, simply because they are members of your own race, or your
own sex, or your own species.
Singer Paper Topic
explain premises 1, 2, and 4 of Singer’s argument, and how he argues for each
explain whether or not you think Singer’s argument is plausible, and why.
careful not to read more into a premise than it actually says. Each premise says something very specific, so
with each premise just stick to what it actually says (for example, premise 2
just says that any being that has interests is entitled to moral consideration;
it does not say that any being that has interests is entitled to equal moral consideration. That claim comes later in the argument).
paper should be double-spaced, with one-inch margins, using 12-point font, and
no longer than two pages. Citations from
the readings can be made by simply citing the relevant page numbers from the
text parenthetically at the end of a sentence or paragraph. Your only sources
in answering the questions should be the article and the video from Singer, and
the notes provided in this document. In
particular, you should not use any secondary sources from the Internet.
paper is due in the Dropbox on D2L no later than 11:30 pm on Sunday, February
you have any questions about the assignment please e-mail me.