1 III Is it Wrong to Kill Non-Human Animals?. 2 Narveson’s Project Narveson argues that Regan’s claims against Contractarianism fail. Narveson argues.
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- 1 III Is it Wrong to Kill Non-Human Animals?
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- 2 Narvesons Project Narveson argues that Regans claims against Contractarianism fail. Narveson argues that the moral principles we have the best reason to adopt are those that make us better off. With regard to animals, Narveson argues that we can justify a minimal set of restrictions on our treatment of some non- human animals without adopting Regans rights-based prohibitions. Narveson claims that the Contractarianism approach can explain why we have a stronger duty to a severely retarded child than to a non-human animal with similar capacities. Jan Narveson: On a Case for Animal Rights
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- 3 Morality, Generally Speaking Somethings being wrong either constitutes or implies that there is a reason for not doing it. For agent A to have a reason for not doing x is for it to be the case that among As values is a negative value attached to x or to something connected with x. So what do we say of a case where x would cause pain to some individual D, but where D is not an individual that A has any particular interest in (D may be a dog, or a human). Suppose D knows that it was A who did x. This may not matter. Suppose D gives A a reproachful look. This certainly might affect As decision to do x. Suppose D is able to react to x by tearing A to shreds. Certainly, A will now take notice.
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- 4 Morality, Generally Speaking With all this, however, we still havent given A a reason for having a moral aversion to doing x. We need two things: i.A reasonable understanding of what constitutes having a moral aversion to something. ii.A characterization of the sort of facts which would constitute good reasons for A to adopt such an aversion.
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- 5 Features of Morality (Defending Contractarianism) A morality is a set of prescriptions (requirements, prohibitions, recommendations, rules) with the following features: 1)Overridingness: Where there is a moral prescript, it should override contrary inclinations and interests held by an agent. 2)Universal Application: Moral prescripts apply to everyone (or at least to everyone in the relevant group). 3)Internalization: Where there is a moral prescript, some agent A will apply it to A. 4)Interpersonal Reinforcement: Just as a moral prescript applies to everyone, everyone is to enforce the prescript. 5)Decentralization/Informality: Morality is not a system imposed by force of declared law from without; everyone is to enforce it.
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- 6 Features of Morality (Defending Contractarianism) On this basis, a morality could be clannish, or biased, or arbitrary, but presumably rational individuals will not assist in the informal reinforcement of restrictions on behavior that is contrary to reason. Many acts are such that A will want to do them, but they will only be in As interests provided that others dont do them. Other agents will be in the same boat. If all agents do these acts, all the agents will be worse off than if they were able to agree to act in certain ways. What makes it worth As while to act on some reason is that A can expect that all other agents will do the same (and vice versa). It is in our collective interest to adopt collective rules that override any particular interest. These rules will be components of a rational morality.
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- 7 What About Non-Agents? If some individuals in a group are not agents (Narveson calls them patients), this schema will not apply to them. While it will not necessarily be in the interest of others to adopt and assist in the reinforcement of rules requiring agents to have regard for patients as such, many agents will be interested in such patients, and so it will be in everyones interest to have rules that protect these patients from harm. But rules benefiting patients as such, or calling upon agents to refrain from harming them as such, have no fundamental appeal. If we want something from an animal, and treating the animal well is necessary for getting it, then we shall have a reason to treat it well. If we dont, however, why go to the trouble?
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- 8 What About Non-Agents? We have a certain sympathetic involvement with individuals having certain experiences, regardless of their ability to do anything about it. As adults do with children, for example. But an argument that we should forego the many benefits available from eating animals, and extensive animal experimentation, simply because those benefits will come at considerable cost to the animals themselves, seems to be without merit. Certainly, such a notion is not generally intuitive: we do not think we do anything wrong in raising animals for their meat, even though the animals die as a result. However, we generally do believe that it is wrong to be deliberately cruel to such animals, or to mistreat or take the lives of human infants and the severely retarded.
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- 9 Marginal Cases Some humans to whom we are inclined to extend the benefits of morality are less qualified for them than are some animals. So how can we give moral regard to those humans and not to the animals? Some will argue that what is relevant is that one group consists of humans, and the other not, and that this is enough. But speciesism seems a poor candidate for moral relevance.
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- 10 Marginal Cases [M]oral relevance is established when it is shown that there is good reason for moral agents to have a principle in which the characteristic in question figures significantly.  And that good reason is provided by showing that there is good reason to think that moral agents will be better off having such a principle than they would not having one. (154) It seems clear that there is no such fact about the property of being a member of a species, as such, that will benefit agents, generally.
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- 11 Marginal Cases Some moral agents identify strongly with a group of individuals which are not moral agents (e.g. Hindus with particular animals). We may have good reasons for not having their attitude, but we will respect their customs when dealing with them, even if we find them strange or irrational. Similarly, we have good reason to place restrictions on the treatment of some particular animals, like household pets: we expect others to respect the objects of our interests, however peculiar. But extending this principle to higher animals generally (say, comparing them with oppressed people) is problematic.
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- 12 Marginal Cases The sort of commitment to animal rights is comparable to the moral content of religious beliefsit is a different sort of morality than what we are talking about: How can we live with ourselves if we continue to treat some feeling beings badly when we would object to such treatment of others, or ourselves?
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- 13 Marginal Cases While some vegetarians would dislike their dining companions ordering meat dishes, and some non- vegetarians would refrain from doing so in the company of vegetarians, we would not tend to take up vegetarianism ourselves, nor support legislative against the use of animal for laboratory experiments or as food. We have come to recognize the value of non-human animals on an environmental level, such that it is imprudent to hunt a species to extinction. Likewise, we value the intellectual interest in the continued existence of different species. And it seems that no claim by hunters will be strong enough to override either of these interests. Based on the public interest, we might restrict some extreme treatment of animals, but there seems no reason to accept the sort of restrictions imposed by Regans principles.
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- 14 Marginal Cases Consider again children and the mentally infirm: Such individuals will be wards of others, since they cannot care for themselves. So why should we be concerned for their wellbeing, as we mostly are? Why not let people hunt them? To answer these questions, we need to refer to two strongly supporting sets of considerations: 1)Every such individual is the offspring (and in many cases, the sibling) of persons who take a close sympathetic interest in their welfare; and 2)There is no appreciable interest in treating such individuals adversely.
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- 15 Marginal Cases This is contrasted with the case of most animals: Many animals have much to offer us, be it culinary, for clothing, for experimentation, etc. There is one special interest that properly rates special negative attention: cruelty for its own sake. There is a public interest to be had in exterminating attitudes of cruelty, generally. While we should be free to use animals for human purposes, we should not misuse them.
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- 16 Conclusion There is an overwhelming case for not classifying [marginal] cases identically with normal humans, and there is a good reason for generally regarding the higher animals as eligible for minimally decent treatment. (156) Marginal humans are to be given an intermediate status, though they are not charter members of the moral club. (Ibid)
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