Ethics and Moral Reasoning

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PHI 208 Week 2 Discussion Question Prompts

Instructions:  There will be two discussions in week 2.   Please select one question from the six options below and respond to it as your initial post.  Students can post three replies to classmates and/or instructor on any topic for the week.

Treatment of Animals Questions

 

1.       1.Singer argues that there is no moral justification for denying moral consideration to animals. Can you think of a reason why our moral consideration should include all humans regardless of their level of cognitive ability, yet denied to non-human animals simply because they have lower levels of cognitive abilities (though still higher in some cases than those of human infants and some mentally disabled humans)? What response might he have to your way of drawing the line between the types of beings that should get moral consideration and those that should not?

 

2.       2.Singer reasons for what he calls the “basic principle of equality”. What is this principle and how is it supposed to be applied? What reasoning does he give that this principle should be applied to non-human animals? Do you agree? On what basis do you think we should determine which types of beings should be treated with equal moral consideration?

 

3.       3. Singer argues that eating meat is speciesism because it involves sacrificing the most important interests of members of other species for relatively trivial interests of our own species. Does he have a point here? Is there any reason that you can give why our preference for meat dishes is more important than an animal’s interest in not being killed (and raised in captivity)?

 

4.       4. Tom Regan (1985) and Peter Singer (1989) agree that we have moral responsibilities toward animals, but disagree about the best approach to animal ethics.

What basic conclusions do they agree about (be specific)?

How would you explain the basic difference in their approach? Specifically, explain how Singer’s argument represents a utilitarian view, referring to John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism for the basic framework of a utilitarian theory of morality. In what way is Regan’s view a non-utilitarian one? Name at least one argument he makes that is non-utilitarian, and compare it with an argument from Singer that is utilitarian.

(Remember that the aim in this discussion is to unpack the utilitarian approach to ethics, not simply to discuss our responsibilities toward animals.)

Finally, share your responses to either or both of the arguments and any of the other material on animal ethics from this week.

When responding to your peers, consider what Singer and/or Regan would say in response to their remarks, think about whether what a peer calls a non-utilitarian consideration might be, after all, a utilitarian one, or vice versa, or think of strengths and weaknesses in their argument that they might not have considered.

Regan, T. (1985). The case for animal rights. In P. Singer (Ed.), In defense of animals (pp. 13-26). New York: Basil Blackwell.

Singer, P. (1989). All animals are equal. In T. Regan & P. Singer (Eds.), Animal rights and human obligations (pp. 148-162). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

 

5.       5. What objections does Tom Regan give to the utilitarian approach to ethics? What does he mean when he says that utilitarianism does not value us as individuals but only our feelings? Is he right? Do you agree with him that the ends do not justify the means (why or why not)?

 

6.       6. Tom Regan says that we all have equal inherent value by virtue of being ‘experiencing subjects of a life’. What does it mean to be an ‘experiencing subject of a life’? Do you think that being the subject of a life means that one has equal inherent value? Does it follow from that view that animals should be given rights to life and freedom?