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New Meetup: The Moral Status of Animals

From: user 8.
Sent on: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 8:00 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for Berkeley Philosophy Reading Group!

What: The Moral Status of Animals

When: Sunday, June 6,[masked]:30 PM

Oakland Zoo
9777 Golf Links Rd
Oakland, CA 94605

What attributes give a being the right to moral consideration? What attributes are necessary for a species to have morality? Does nonhuman morality exist, and if so, is the difference between human and nonhuman animal morality more a difference in degree or in kind? Is it necessary for a species to have morality, or at least some precursors of morality, in order for humans to grant its members the right to moral consideration?

Peter Singer argues that sentience, defined as the capacity for suffering and enjoyment, gives a being interests and therefore the right to moral consideration. He argues from a utilitarian position that the fundamental principle of equality is equal consideration of interests. Bonnie Steinbock countered that humans deserve different moral consideration and have a different moral status from other species because of unique human capacities. Attributes philosophers have required for moral consideration are often the same attributes they require for morality, such as rationality, ability to act on general normative principles, autonomous self-governance, responsibility, desire for self-respect, disinterested concern for others, focus on the greater good, self-consciousness, beliefs and desires, and a sense of the future. Tom Regan argues an inherentist position that all beings which are the experiencing "subjects of a life" have equal inherent value and therefore deserve moral consideration, which includes all mammals at least one year old.

What are the implications of our conditions for morality and moral consideration on infants, low-functioning human adults, and the use of animals for food, cosmetics, clothing, sport hunting, experimentation, and in circuses and zoos? In the Middle Ages, nonhuman animals were tried in court for theft, vandalism, homicide, and sexual perversion. We?ve come a long way.

Let?s meet at the Oakland Zoo for a peripatetic meeting. We can walk and talk about the moral status of animals.

Entrance Fee: $11 (ages 15-54) or $7.50 (ages 55+), with discounts for military.

Here are the main readings:

Peter Singer, "All Animals Are Equal"

Bonnie Steinbock, "Speciesism and the Idea of Equality"

I also highly recommend at least one supplemental reading:

Copy and paste into Google Books: Gary Steiner, Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents: The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy

Sections up to "Epic and Pre-Socratic" thought are relevant.

Copy and paste into Google Books: Frans De Waal, Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved

Some sections are cut off, but they're still worth a read.

Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals

This is an excerpt from a collaboration between a cognitive ethologist and philosopher. In the preface appears this quote: "It is quite possible that there are...a number of intelligent men and women who are not yet aware of the fact that wild animals have moral codes, and that on average they live up to them better than men do theirs." -William Hornaday, The Mind and Manners of Wild Animals

Donald VanDeVeer, "Interspecific Justice and Intrinsic Value"

"The Moral Status of Animals" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
This is a thorough overview of positions.

?Planet of the Apes?
Just for fun? You may find some relevant lines!

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