Analysis Of Contractarianism And Animal Rights Essay

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Mark Rowlands in his article Contractarianism and Animal Rights focuses on John Rawl’s social contract argument. Rowlands writes that Rawls liberal egalitarian version of contractarianism is more than capable of assigning a direct moral status to non-human animals. This essay will set out Rowlands views with reference to philosophers and academics writing about the rights of non-human animals. Contractarianism is generally thought a theory that alleges only individuals who can understand and choose to take part in an agreement or ‘social contract’ can have moral rights (Rowlands, 1997). As Tom Regan points out “animals, since they cannot understand contracts, obviously cannot sign; and since they cannot sign, they have no rights” (Regan, 2009, p.843).
In, what Rowlands calls, ‘the conceptual heart’ of Rawls contractarianism, is his idea of an ‘original position’ and ‘a veil of ignorance’. Rawls describes the original position as the appropriate initial status quo which ensures that the fundamental agreements reached in it are fair (Rawls, 1973, p.17) A person finds themselves in the original position under a ‘veil of ignorance’ deprived of certain facts about themselves, for example, their conception of good and their socio-economic position in society. All occupants of the original position are conceived of as ‘rational’. Rowlands doesn’t insist that all non-human animals are classified as rational agents, but rather that there is nothing in Rawls contractarianism that

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