Utilitarianism and Animal Rights

3174 WordsFeb 28, 200613 Pages
Animal Rights Throughout history morality has been a topic of intense debate. Innumerable thinkers have devoted immense amounts of time and energy to the formulation of various ethical theories intended to assist humans in their daily lives. These theories set out guidelines which help to determine the rightness or wrongness of any given action and can therefore illuminate which choice would be morally beneficial. And while many of these theories differ substantially, most have at least one common underlying principle, namely that humans deserve to be treated with a certain level of respect. This idea comes from the belief that all humans have interests which are significant enough to be considered, hence no one should impede another…show more content…
It is strikingly obvious that both of these theories exhibit substantial differences in the way in which they determine morality. Utilitarians focus on pleasure and pain whereas Kant concentrates on absolute moral rules and human dignity. Yet how do these variations manifest themselves within the context of animal rights? I will first put forth the traditional Kantian argument regarding the status of animals. The Categorical Imperative makes a distinction between two types of individuals. Rational beings are referred to as "persons" while non-rational being are deemed "things"#. So while a rational being can never be used as a means, "things" exist almost solely for that purpose. From this point the implications concerning animals become clear. "So far as animals are concerned, we have no direct duties. Animals…are there merely as a means to an end. That end is man."# This viewpoint advanced by Kant is further expounded upon in his essay "Our Duties to Animals". Here he explains that we have no direct duties to animals because they are not self-conscious, rational moral agents. Instead we have indirect duties to human beings in regards to animals. We should therefore not be cruel to animals because "he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men."# According to Kant, " we can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."# Yet there are many difficulties

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