Global Ethics and Environment

By Nicholas Low | Go to book overview
Save to active project

10

Mapping human rights

Tom Regan

Introduction

Philosophers have written more about animal rights in the past twenty years than their predecessors wrote in the previous two thousand. Not surprisingly, disagreements abound. To begin with, among those who challenge the attribution of moral rights to animals are philosophers who operate within well-worn moral traditions in Western thought. Peter Singer (1975, and this volume, Chapter 9) and Carl Cohen (1986, 1996, 1997) are representative. 1 Singer follows in the tradition of the nineteenth-century English utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, who ridicules moral rights as ‘nonsense upon stilts’. For both Bentham and Singer, not only non-human animals but humans too lack moral rights. Half true, maintains Cohen. Animals, he argues, most certainly do not have moral rights; but Bentham and Singer err, in Cohen’s view, when they deny that humans have them. Nothing could be further from the truth: according to Cohen, not just some, all humans possess basic rights, including the rights to life and to bodily integrity.

As different as Singer and Cohen are in the conclusions they reach, they are importantly similar in how they approach the question of animal rights in particular and the more fundamental question of moral right and wrong in general. Both operate in what might be described as the Enlightenment tradition. Both assume that moral right and wrong are matters that in principle can be determined by the disciplined use of reason, just as both assume that the answers we seek must pay proper deference to the privileged moral position of certain individuals—individual human beings, in Cohen’s case; individual sentient beings, in Singer’s.

Despite their many differences, and easily lost in the storm of controversy, Singer and Cohen occupy common ground with philosophical advocates of animal rights (Pluhar, 1995; Regan, 1983; Rollin, 1981; Sapontzis, 1987). The latter also operate in the post-Enlightenment tradition; in other words, as is true of Singer and Cohen, philosophical advocates of animal rights also believe that moral right and wrong are matters that in principle can be determined by the disciplined use of reason and that the answers we seek must pay proper

-158-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Global Ethics and Environment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 320

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?