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Peace. AgingHippie (talk) 20:52, 8 February 2015 (UTC)

The case for animal rights[edit]

The following represents a preliminary account of the book presently in review, The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan. I shall contribute greatly to this article in the upcoming weeks to present a robust account of all the arguments therein, condensing 400 pages into a document of several. I will also determine whether there exists a more appropriate placement for the preceding, to remove this from the main body of this article. That article now commences:

Tom Regan, following the footsteps of Peter Singer, adds to the literature in defense of animal rights, promoting a more so deontological, rather than strictly utilitarian account.

Chapter 1: animal awareness[edit]

In the first chapter, Regan refutes the Cartesian view of animal consciousness, proceeding dialectically from complete denial of animal consciousness toward a basic acknowledgement of such consciousness, embodied in his "cumulative argument for animal consciousness".

1.1 Descartes's denial[edit]

Descartes is infamous for regarding animals as "thoughless brutes", living machines incapable of thought, and therefore devoid of any and all consciousness. However, Descartes did acknowledge that animals were aware of some things, denying only the conscious capacity for thoughts about such awareness. Though a muddy account, Descartes does offer the following hierarchy of sense-perception, the basest, merely stimulus-response, the intermediate, CNS (central nervous system) processing, and the third, awareness of things beyond the self, i.e., beyond the immediate processing of external stimuli to thoughts about the stimuli themselves. But since Descartes denies that animals possess a mind, he inadvertently denigrates animals to the lowest order of sense-perception, that of stimulus-response.


Biocentrism refers to the belief that life, not just human or sentient life, is intrinsically valuable.

Debate:Biocentrism--Animalian (talk) 02:06, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

Moral Subjectivism[edit]

Moral subjectivism holds that morality is subjective, contingent on personal or cultural beliefs, similarly to moral relativism. However, many moral subjectivists argue that, since morality is ultimately subjective, morality is in fact meaningless, leading to moral nihilism, the belief that morality does not exist and should be abandoned altogether. Major criticisms of moral subjectivism and nihilism, however, include the essentiality of morality to human society, thought, and meaning, objectionable conclusions (such as that an atrocity, no matter how vile, is and never can be wrong), and the simple fact that any value, even the value of pure rationality or objectivism, necessarily presupposes the existence of morality, since value is a meta-ethical property which underlies all ethical theories, regardless of whether these theories are well-articulated. Arguments for moral subjectivism generally derive from the imputed meaninglessness of morality, stemming from the belief that morality is ultimately subjective, and hence, "choosable".--Animalian (talk) 14:33, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Moral reasoning[edit]

Moral reasoning refers to the logical and procedural modus operandi by which we may assess moral propositions, including specific claims and acts, as distinct from strict moral principles, such as Kant’s universalizability criterion. Similar to critical thinking skills, moral reasoning proceeds by the tenets of logic and derives from the such tenets. Moral reasoning and critical thinking skills may therefore be understood as “applied logic”, and are therefore central in the assessment of both moral and nonmoral claims.

Fundamental principle of moral reasoning[edit]

The fundamental principle of moral reasoning proceeds thusly:

In the absence of a morally relevant difference, two cases must be treated like.

As stated, the “consistency principle” may be condensed to read thusly:

Like cases must be treated alike.

The converse of the first formulation is also true. More generally, both formulations derive from the logical demand of consistency, the cornerstone of most logical systems. In propositional logic, for example, were a proposition and its negation both true, the truth-value of all claims would become indeterminate, and all such claims meaningless. In essence, consistency is a logical demand of utmost importance, without which meaninglessness becomes manifest.

Likewise must we respect the logical demand for consistency in moral matters. Failure to comply with such demand leads to moral arbitrariness, which allows for the dissimilar treatment of relevantly similar persons. For example, it is morally arbitrary to award one student a C for his work and another student an A for comparable work in the absence of any morally relevant difference between either student.

To clarify the impetus against moral arbitrariness, note that historically, as at the present, moral arbitrariness has given rise to the most despicable forms of discrimination, as in the case of slavery. Wherefore rights were ascribed to wealthy, white land-owners in pre-civil war America, they were denied or abrogated in the case of poor, non-white, non-landowning persons. Quite clearly, ceteris paribus, poverty, skin pigmentation, and land ownership are neither sufficient nor morally relevant characteristics upon which to found or deny rights.

Second principle of moral reasoning[edit]

The second principle of moral reasoning is procedural rather than logical, and asserts that if one appears to have violated the consistency principle, the burden of proof to demonstrate otherwise rests with him. Since moral reasoning employs critical thinking skills and derives from logic, protocol concerning the rules of formal debate and the burden of proof follow accordingly. Not surprisingly, moral argumentation directly reflects other modes of argumentation, except that the former involves moral as opposed to nonmoral claims.

Moral reasoning in argument[edit]

Taken together, the consistency principle and the second principle, the principle of “moral burden”, outline the fundamental principles of moral reasoning. While the consistency principle makes demand upon logical consistency, the moral burden principle makes demand upon satisfaction of the burden of proof. Proper compliance with these the principles of moral reasoning, alongside other critical thinking skills, immediately improves the strength of one’s moral arguments, and are useful for winning arguments by force of superior logical argumentation.--Animalian (talk) 01:44, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

The ideal moral judgment[edit]

Though a moral judgment may never be perfectly ideal, we may specify minimum requirements by which a moral judgment may approach such an ideal. We may reformulate these requirements as questions, against which we may weigh both our judgments and the judgments of others.

Conceptual clarity[edit]

Is the meaning of the proposition and its terms sufficiently clear and understood?


How well does the proposition reflect relevant information? To what extent is it factually informed?


How well does the proposition obey the rules of logic? Is it consistent? Are its implications reasonable?


To what extent is the proposition or its implication morally arbitrary? Are morally relevant differences cited? Are these differences actually valid?


How emotionally excited was the author? How calm is the author’s writing?

Valid moral principles[edit]

Does the proposition rely on valid moral principles? Is the proposition supported by valid reasons?--Animalian (talk) 05:57, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

Criteria for evaluating moral principles[edit]

The following criteria, phrased as questions, may be used to evaluate moral principles.


Does a moral principle ever imply that the very same act can be both right and wrong?

Adequacy of scope[edit]

Is the principle too specific to be generally useful? Can it be applied to a variety of cases?


Is a principle vague in what it requires, when it comes to right and wrong?

Conformity with our intuitions[edit]

Does a moral principle imply actions consistent with our considered beliefs?--Animalian (talk) 23:50, 6 March 2015 (UTC)

Critique of moral theories[edit]

Moral theories may be criticized within and beyond the domain of ethics. Whereas internal criticism focuses on whether a moral theory satisfies basic structural requirements, external criticism focuses on the relative usefulness of a given theory.

Internal criticism[edit]

Does a theory avoid contradictions? Is it unambiguous? Can the theory be generalized?

External criticism[edit]

Does the theory address more problems than another? Does it address problems more effectively than others? How powerful is it in comparison to other theories?--Animalian (talk) 02:04, 8 March 2015 (UTC)

Selective irrationality[edit]

Selective irrationality refers to cases wherein an otherwise rational individual succumbs to irrational belief or practice. A selectively irrational scientist, for example, while skeptical, analytic, and empirical in most any other domain, might accept the premise of god on blind faith, reneging her former scientific merit and scruple. In general, selective irrationality refers to cases wherein a sufficient degree of choice surrounding a belief or practice exists and one willingly and knowingly chooses an irrational belief or practice over more rational alternatives. Since the deluded are often the least likely to recognize their delusion, fulfillment of the second criterion, while rarer, indicates a deliberate act of self-delusion, and therefore constitutes a more severe indictment than irrationality alone. As such, selective irrationality applies to the aforementioned scientist if she knowingly and deliberately embraces other ways of “knowing” while simultaneously professing and practicing the scientific creed elsewhere. The indictment of selective irrationality therefore applies to deliberate acts of compartmentalization, whereby one dissociates certain aspects of his or her life from others, perhaps to hypocritical (or “selectively irrational”) extent.

Criterion of choice[edit]

The criterion of choice presumes that one possesses sufficient autonomy to choose a belief or practice him or herself. If one, for example, one is held under threat of death to believe in the “one true god” or to profess geocentric theory, one’s autonomy to choose is compromised or impaired, to varying degrees of severity. The greater autonomy one may exercise, without incurring significant damage or a sufficient risk thereof, the greater the extent to which one is culpable for his or her beliefs. Though the language thus far is vague, everyday affairs in first world countries rarely involve circumstances under which one is not or should not be held accountable for his or her beliefs, since, in such countries, one is generally free to believe, and to choose to believe, as one wishes. Consequently, otherwise competent doctors who subscribe to anti-vaccination propaganda should be harshly judged, unless the insanity plea is legitimate or held under threat of serious harm, which externalizes that particular doctor’s locus of control.--Animalian (talk) 17:17, 18 March 2015 (UTC)


The argument from marginal cases[edit]

The argument from marginal cases is a cornerstone in the animal rights debate, and among the strongest yet posed in favor of extending equal moral consideration to animals. It begins with the premise that some human beings are marginal in that they lack certain abilities or display these abilities to a lesser degree than others; some human beings, for example, are mentally retarded. However, we regularly and emphatically extend protection to these individuals. But since animals are relevantly similar (say, in their capacity to suffer) to such individuals, it follows that we ought to extend the same protection to animals as we extend to “marginal” human beings (at least insofar as suffering is concerned.) Otherwise, we would be justified in subjecting infants, the retarded, and the otherwise disabled to the same cruelties we visit upon animals. The argument from marginal cases is therefore often posed as a syllogism:

P1: If no morally relevant difference between marginal human beings and some nonhuman animals exists, and some marginal human beings have moral status, then some nonhuman animals have moral status.
P2: No morally relevant difference exists between marginal human beings and some nonhuman animals.
C1: Therefore, some nonhuman animals have moral status.

In compliance with the fundamental principle of moral reasoning, that like cases be treated alike, it follows that some nonhuman animals be treated similarly to marginal human beings, i.e., be afforded the same protections. As such, the argument from marginal cases demands consistency and justice in place of moral arbitrariness.


Critics of the argument from marginal cases often allege that marginal human beings enjoy a higher moral status than otherwise relevantly similar nonhuman animals simply by virtue of being members of the species Homo sapiens.

To support this conclusion, critics generally employ one of either two chains of reasoning. In the first, critics postulate that we have stronger obligations to members of our own species. However, this partition between human beings and certain nonhuman animals fails to explain why human beings, even the most marginal among us, occupy a higher moral category. In the second, critics contend that marginal human beings had what animals never had, namely, the potential for rationality.

There are several problems with this reply. First, what a thing can be and what a thing is are importantly and logically distinct. Second, some marginal human beings, such as the severely mentally retarded, will never achieve the level of rationality we normally ascribe to human beings. The “potential for rationality” in the case of the severely mentally retarded is therefore largely if not entirely illusory. It therefore follows by the argument from marginal cases that we ought to extend the same protections to certain nonhuman animals as we extend to the irrecoverably retarded. Third, this reply forces us to judge an individual not by his own merits, but by the merits of others. As James Rachels argues, an exceptionally intelligent chimp could be denied a college education, not for his lack of talent, but because his talent is atypical of chimps as a whole.

Critics might still maintain that we have stronger obligations to members of the human species, perhaps not by virtue of genetic heritage, but by virtue of the social contracts into which we enter. However, this leads to a conclusion few of these critics would accept. Namely, by bringing farm animals into existence, we have an acquired duty to provide for them, just as a parent has an acquired duty to provide for his or her children. Even if we did not bring these animals into existence, they would still reserve the natural, unacquired, prima facie right to not be harmed. Since factory farming causes significant, unjustified harm, and since factory farmers are generally responsible for the existence of these animals, the rights claims of these animals are strengthened, not weakened, and the magnitude of their rights violations compounded.

Other alleged differences between human beings and many nonhuman animals that would justify our horrendous treatment of animals can likewise be explained away, dismissed, or shown to demonstrate precisely the opposite of what critics intend to demonstrate.--Animalian (talk) 21:42, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

"But since animals are relevantly similar (say, in their capacity to suffer) to such individuals, it follows that we ought to extend the same protection to animals as we extend to “marginal” human beings (at least insofar as suffering is concerned.)"
I reject this argument. I would only extend the same protection I give to so-called "marginal" human beings (who are only "marginal" from a subjective viewpoint) to other sapients. Other animals on this planet are not fellow sapients, as the term is understood scientifically. And no, sapience does not apply individually; it's a species classification.
The qualification of sapience immediately eliminates your argument, as "like to like" no longer applies, no other animal species on this planet being sapient as human definition provides.
Of course, all this as moot, as your argument about marginal humans is purely moralistic/ethical in nature and not actually based in science or verifiable evidence. Sorry. --Castaigne (talk) 22:11, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Sentience exists on a spectrum. You are apparently referring to the upper end of that spectrum, sapience, the ability to act with judgment, to behave as a moral agent. However, there are human beings who clearly are not sapient, such as those who are severely retarded. Quite clearly, the severely retarded either lack the capacity for reason or have so diminished a capacity for reason as to be, in terms of reasoning ability, no better at reasoning than some nonhuman animals. In fact, some nonhuman animals are closer to "human-level" sapience than the most marginal among us. Pigs, for example, are widely regarded by scientists to possess the intelligence of a three-year old, meaning that pigs are closer to sapience than many human children and the otherwise underdeveloped. Knowing this, it would be arbitrary to extend protection to the severely retarded or otherwise underdeveloped and withhold such protection from animals of similar mental ability.--Animalian (talk) 22:38, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Sapience is sapience only if it is expressed, and its magnitude a function of the degree to which it is expressed. However, a being could belong to a species the members of which are generally sapient, as in the case of the severely retarded human being. A retarded human being is not sapient just by being biologically human, but by expressing sapience.--Animalian (talk) 22:51, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
I have to agree with Animalian about sapience here. If a scientist enhanced the brain of a chimp to be equal (or superior) to a human's in all relevant facets, you would seriously contest that the chimp still cannot hold the same moral position as a human because of its species? That sort of essentialism is unscientific. (talk) 00:46, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
Oh, further.
"Namely, by bringing farm animals into existence, we have an acquired duty to provide for them, just as a parent has an acquired duty to provide for his or her children."
No, that's an assumption. I don't agree with that assumption at all.
Your whole problem is trying to prove this morally and ethically when, well, no one here gives a rat's ass about subjective viewpoints. --Castaigne (talk) 22:13, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
The suggestion that animals can experience suffering doesn't seem very subjective, though. (talk) 22:17, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Experience of suffering is not what sapience is. You are confusing sentience with sapience. --Castaigne (talk) 22:38, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
I wasn't suggesting that. Your main rebuttal of Animalian's argument is that humans are the only sapient animals, but Animalian mentions/implies at several points that the comparisons between marginal humans and certain animals are mainly relevant because they suggest similarity in their capacity to suffer. So I thought it'd be relevant to mention that the suggestion that animals can suffer is exceedingly uncontroversial. Perhaps humans can experience some forms of suffering the vast majority of animals can't, but is there any reason to assume for example that the physical pain a human experiences from being poked with a nail is substantially different from what a non-human animal would experience? When the capacity to experience certain types of suffering is not meaningfully different, why should we still only consider human suffering as relevant? You're quick to dismiss Animalian's argument as unscientific, but I fail to see how this domineering focus on sapience is not also a purely subjective viewpoint. (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for your clarity, number 141. Perhaps you should write this article--I can't even figure out how to post it.--Animalian (talk) 02:45, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
Hello, Castaigne. Sorry for antagonism in the past. Though you didn't shoulder your burden of proof as gloriously as you could have, it appears that, in the end, your arguments won--at a personal level, for me. I do see some problems with your present criticism, however. First, I am not sure precisely what you have done or will do to my work, but it would seem unjust to eradicate it entirely. Because there is something you can criticize doesn't automatically mean that the entire work is wholly invalid. It just means that there are criticisms which may or may not prevail. Even then, I have presented the best proxy for an argument central to the animal rights debate, which means that it has value, if only that value comes from refuting it. Second, you raise grave criticisms indeed, and perhaps I am deeply mistaken. It is a deep fear of mine as I have come to study metaethics. I fear the whole of ethics may, in fact, be no more than a useful fiction. I will try to address these and other concerns. Please give me some time.--Animalian (talk) 22:29, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
As you like. --Castaigne (talk) 22:38, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
Ethics is an attempt to consolidate the subjective experience with our values. And even if our values prove ultimately subjective—in fact, I believe that our conception of everything is ultimately subjective, though some conceptions are doubtlessly more “subjective” than others—ethics is still our best attempt to coordinate lives of meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe. You agree that humans are subjective, that we can construct meaning through abstract concepts absent mind-independent objects. With our meaningless lives, we can therefore pursue whatever “meaning” we prefer. However, I believe there should be limitations to this pursuit of subjective preferences. For example, out of respect for the subjective condition and its general preference for pleasure over pain, I believe we ought not to rape, torture, and murber billions of animals each year. I believe we also ought to intervene when tyrants abuse and kill their people. In the nihilistic universe you propose, entirely devoid of ethics, for you consider every appeal thereto categorically invalid, you can take no objection to horrors about you. You strip life of all meaning it could possibly have, the meaning we construct for ourselves. You rob us of the very language to decry evil, whether subjective, or not. If we were to adhere to the strict verificationism you advance, you are in no position to tell the creationist what we ought to believe; all you can declare is that his beliefs are scientifically improbable. Nor are you in any position to tell me and others what we are to believe. For this requires an ethical premise, of which you deny all meaning. And there would be no reason to pursue science. For science is merely the study of the natural world. But why ought we to study the natural world? Since the “ought” can never be, for you have killed the ethical premise, science serves as its own self-justification. If you were therefore to speak of the objective value of pursuing of science, of understanding and exploiting the world more fully, you presuppose a system of value, perhaps not of intrinsic value, but of value nonetheless. Either you concede that there is no reason to pursue science, or you accept an ethical premise somewhere, which is tantamount to hypocrisy, given your allegations against ethics. Even if our values are subjective, we should respect them, unless they violate impermissibly the values of others. They are the only possible source of meaning, even if we construct these meanings apart from the natural world.--Animalian (talk) 03:20, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
Although methodological naturalism almost certainly provides the best explanation for the world around us, adhering to strict verificationism leads to absurd consequences you surely do not wish to accept. Consider the following syllogisms--
P1: A despotic ruler is gratuitously torturing and killing millions.
P2: Ethics is invalid.
C1: Therefore, do whatever.
Since you categorically deny the validity of all moral propositions, there are no means by which to discriminate one course of action from another, for they are equally meaningless. In consequence, we have no obligation, nor could we ever have, to stop the actions of even the most genocidal ruler.
P1: A creationist believes in a literally impossible god.
P2: Ethics is invalid.
C1: There is no reason to convince the creationist otherwise.
You might object to this conclusion on the grounds that we ought to believe what is empirically verifiable. However, this employs an ethical premise, prescribing what we ought to do rather than merely describing the world around us.
Perhaps you might yet argue that this ethical premise is exceptional in that it betrays the scientific prerogative, rather than our more subjective sentiments. But this position is likewise untenable. First, science cannot be valueless as you claim, for this would contradict the very aim of science--to explain the natural world. Science does not and cannot incorporate ethics if it is an attempt to merely describe the world around us. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, this and perhaps other "scientific ethical claims" are valid, while all other ethical claims are invalid. It would follow that it is empirically verifiable that people have values, and that these values matter to them, often profoundly so. Since it is also empirically verifiable that some of these values are essential to functioning of human society, and that, moreover, most humans value this functioning, it would follow that we ought to respect those values conducive to functioning of human society. And though these values may prove ultimately subjective, we are fundamentally and perhaps inextricably subjective beings. You would have to therefore discount our very humanity to achieve this perfectly objective existence, implicit only to science free of the ethical premise. Since such an existence may not even be possible, your regard for the subjective experience is certainly irrational. Now please live a good life, and live simply that others may simply live.--Animalian (talk) 18:06, 5 May 2015 (UTC)