Utilitarianism about Animals and the Moral Significance of Use

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SpeakerDavid Killoren (postdoctoral research fellow, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne); Robert Streiffer(Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison).

The Hybrid View endorses utilitarianism about animals and rejects utilitarianism about humans. This view has received relatively little sustained attention in the philosophical literature. Yet, as we show, the Hybrid View underlies many widely held beliefs about zoos, pet ownership, scientific research on animal and human subjects, and agriculture. We develop the Hybrid View in rigorous detail and extract several of its main commitments. Then we examine the Hybrid View in relation to the view that human use of animals constitutes a special relationship. We show that it is intuitively plausible that our use of animals alters our moral obligations to animals. That idea is widely believed to be incompatible with the sort of utilitarian approach in animal ethics that is prescribed by the Hybrid View. To overturn that conventional wisdom, we develop two different principles concerning the moral significance of human use of animals, which we call the Partiality Principle and the Strengthening Principle. We show that the Partiality Principle is consistent with several key commitments of the Hybrid View. And, strikingly, we show that the Strengthening Principle is fully consistent with all of the main commitments of the Hybrid View. Thus we establish the surprising result that utilitarians about animals can coherently offer a robust and intuitively appealing account of the moral significance of animal use.

Booking: Not required, but please arrive early to be guaranteed a place.

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Jointly arranged with the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities.


Humanities & Identities

Contact name: Rachel Gaminiratne

Contact email: rachel.gaminiratne@philosophy.ox.ac.uk

Audience: University of Oxford only