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PHL-162: notes for week 15

Carl Cohen: The Case Against Animal Rights 1. Why Animals Have No Rights [896] Definition of a right: a claim, or potential claim, that one party may exercise against another [896] they are in every case claims, or potential claims, within a community of moral agents [897] Only in a community of beings capable of self-restricting moral judgments can the concept of a right be correctly invoked [897] Humans have such moral capacities, (non-human) animals do not. (What Singer would ask Cohen: Do ALL humans have such capacities? Are those that dont not part of the community? Or, if they are, why cant animals be?) No animal can commit a crime, because they do not have mens rea that is, guilty mind or the awareness of wrongdoing. Does a lion have a right to eat a baby zebra? Does a baby zebra have a right not to be eaten? [898] (How about a parallel question: does a human have the right not to be eaten by a lion? If not, does that mean that the human doesnt have the right to be eaten by another human? Why or why not?) 2. In Defense of Speciesism [898] Philosophers in the utilitarian tradition follow Jeremy Bentham in not talking about rights, but instead talking about suffering. That is, Bentham doesnt say animals have rights, but he does say that it is wrong to mistreat them anyway. 3. Biomedical Research Must Still Proceed [898] The errors committed by the person who says that because biomedical research causes suffering to animals it should be banned: 1. The assumption that All sentient beings have equal moral standing Cohen quotes Singers equation of racism and speciesism and says this argument is worse than unsound; it is atrocious [899] His reason: Racism is wrong because there is no morally relevant distinction between the races, whereas the morally relevant differences between humans and non-humans are enormous, and almost universally appreciated [899] These include: humans engage in moral reflection (What would Singer say to this? Isnt Cohen basing his rejection of racism on a claim of fact? What if there were, say, differences in intelligence between the races? Remember Singers imagined example of the groups divided by IQ [883]. Also, what about severely retarded humans?) 1

PHL-162: notes for week 15

4. Speciesism is Necessary [899] 2. Even if the suffering should be counted, it is vastly outweighed by the benefits. (Maybe a strict utilitarian would have to say that, but of course, a strict utilitarian would say that performing research on humans would be justified, should the benefits be enough. What would Cohen say to the Willowbrook case?) Final criticism: critics of biomedical research are HYPOCRITES: Scrupulous vegetarianism, in matters of food, clothing, shelter, commerce, and recreation, and in all other spheres, is the only fully coherent position the critic may adopt. [901]