Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices

Here is an interesting essay on animal ethics, considering whether or not the presence of carnivorous species (including but not limited to our own) is morally desirable or whether, on the other hand, the world would be a better place without them.


This is an essay from the New York Times' philosophy blog The Stone from about a year ago, but it is relevant to our topic here, and as a piece of public philosophy especially so, so I am posting the link to it for the members of this group to read and comment on.

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It's an interesting argument indeed - I've assigned this piece in my courses on Animal Studies at UMass Lowell (available down at the bottom of my course wiki here:


My view is that this would be a catastrophically bad idea, and it's the result of a moral myopia that only accounts for policy decisions on one metric (in this case: net suffering). I blogged some (more wandering) thoughts of mine on this topic earlier this Summer here:


My students' responses to this article were particularly interesting, in that they drew a clear distinction between anthropogenic and 'natural' harms. The question of wild/free-roaming animal pain struck them as beyond the scope of human agency, and thus apparently unimportant.


I don't share this view, for a few reasons. First, because I'm mostly a consequentialist, and the origin of a harm is at least theoretically separable from its effects. And second, because my ethical views on these issues line up most closely with a Singer-ish equal consideration of interests. The interests of a field mouse in avoiding predaction from the barn owl shouldn't be less morally significant than the issue of my rescue beagle in avoiding, say, getting hit by a car. (A caveat: because I know and love my beagle, for me it is different - very different.)

But my opposition to this is that it completely ignores the nature of ecology, and strikes me as a perfect example of the kinds of things traditional conservatives accuse progressives of (i.e., Burke's views on how social engineering projects often take you in very different directions than you were planning on going...).


But yes, a fascinating discussion piece, for sure!



No, though we will.


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