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Speciesism and the Idea of Equality

  • Bonnie Steinbock (a1)
Extract

Most of us believe that we are entitled to treat members of other species in ways which would be considered wrong if inflicted on members of our own species. We kill them for food, keep them confined, use them in painful experiments. The moral philosopher has to ask what relevant difference justifies this difference in treatment. A look at this question will lead us to re-examine the distinctions which we have assumed make a moral difference.

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1 Singer, Peter, Animal Liberation (A New York Review Book, 1975).

2 Singer, 5.

3 Williams, Bernard, ‘The Idea of Equality’, Philosophy, Politics and Society (Second Series), Laslett, and Runciman, (eds.) (Blackwell, 1962), 110131, reprinted in Moral Concepts, Feinberg, (ed.) (Oxford, 1970), 153171.

4 Wasserstrom, Richard, ‘Rights, Human Rights, and Racial Discrimination’, Journal of Philosophy 61, No. 20 (1964), reprinted in Human Rights, Melden, A. I. (ed.) (Wadsworth, 1970), 96110.

5 Ibid., 106.

6 Hart, H. L. A., ‘Are There Any Natural Rights?’, Philosophical Review 64 (1955), and Benn, S. I., ‘Abortion, Infanticide, and Respect for Persons’, The Problem of Abortion, Feinberg, (ed.) (Wadsworth, 1973), 92104.

7 Singer, , 9.

8 Benn, , ‘Equality, Moral and Social’, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy 3, 40.

9 Singer, 266–267.

10 This conception of altruistic motivation comes from Nagel, Thomas's The Possibility of Altruism (Oxford, 1970).

11 Williams, , op. cit., 157.

12 Donaghy, Kevin, ‘Singer on Speciesism’, Philosophic Exchange (Summer 1974).

13 Singer, , 22.

14 We run into the same problem when discussing abortion. Of what significance are our feelings toward the unborn when discussing its status? Is it relevant or irrelevant that it looks like a human being?

15 I would like to acknowledge the help of, and offer thanks to, Professoi Richard Arneson of the University of California, San Diego; Professor Sidney Gendin of Eastern Michigan University; and Professor Peter Singer of Monash University, all of whom read and commented on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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