The Animal Question: Why Nonhuman Animals Deserve Human Rights

The Animal Question: Why Nonhuman Animals Deserve Human Rights

The Animal Question: Why Nonhuman Animals Deserve Human Rights

The Animal Question: Why Nonhuman Animals Deserve Human Rights

Synopsis

How much do animals matter--morally? Can we keep considering them as second class beings, to be used merely for our benefit? Or, should we offer them some form of moral egalitarianism? Inserting itself into the passionate debate over animal rights, this fascinating, provocative work by renowned scholar Paola Cavalieri advances a radical proposal: that we extend basic human rights to the nonhuman animals we currently treat as "things." Cavalieri first goes back in time, tracing the roots of the debate from the 1970s, then explores not only the ethical but also the scientific viewpoints, examining the debate's precedents in mainstream Western philosophy. She considers the main proposals of reform that recently have been advanced within the framework of today's prevailing ethical perspectives. Are these proposals satisfying? Cavalieri says no, claiming that it is necessary to go beyond the traditional opposition between utilitarianism and Kantianism and focus on the question of fundamental moral protection. In the case of human beings, such protection is granted within the widely shared moral doctrine of universal human rights' theory. Cavalieri argues that if we examine closely this theory, we will discover that its very logic extends to nonhuman animals as beings who are owed basic moral and legal rights and that, as a result, human rights are not human after all.

Excerpt

In recent years, nonhuman animals have been at the center of an intense philosophical debate. Many authors have criticized traditional morality, maintaining that the way in which we treat members of species other than our own is ethically indefensible. Taking this shared idea as a starting point, some have provided a reformulation of the moral status of nonhumans based on their own specific normative positions.

My line of reasoning will be different. Instead of proceeding from a particular ethical perspective, I will start from premises that are, as far as possible, shared. I will then attempt to explore what they actually imply. What I shall develop will be, in other words, a dialectical argument.

The aim of the first part of the book is to put the animal question in context. The first chapter focuses on recent cultural changes both in the philosophical and in the scientific domain. In the second, the problem of the structure of the moral community will be explored, and an inclusive criterion will be put forward. I will employ the results thus reached as a framework within which to discuss, in the third chapter, the main defenses of the traditional position.

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