Monday, July 28, 2008

New Series on Animal Ethics

Believe it or not, I have said all I want to for now concerning the animal rights pragmatism versus fundamentalism debate (on whether animal "welfare" laws are permissible, or even important, for the animal rights movement). I have written a lot about Francione's ideas on this score since he has a lot to say about the topic. I think this might have been the most urgent topic to discuss for the animal rights movement, since the outcome of the debate may determine what actions animal rights activists might take. There are some Francione followers who read my essay, "Animal Rights Law," and switched over to following the lead of my ideas on animal pragmatism, and they also desire to promote my blog which contains important additional insights not found in the essay just noted. I am pleased that I ended that series with a meditation on what is positive in Francione's approach, in keeping with my orientation towards being balanced and strictly issues-oriented concerning what he has to say.

Many other questions of animal ethics tend to be more academic. They are very important, but they are most often not apt to alter the behaviour of animal rights activists. However, theory is still vital for settling practical questions. In "The Rights of Animal Persons," I note how past theories of animal rights do not logically entail antivivisection. My own theory, I argue, does, and that is significant. I will comment in more detail in the Animal Ethics series how past theories do not logically rule out vivisection, since there are many different aspects of this problem.

While some people may be won over by reading philosophical arguments, it is not clear to me how large a percentage of society this amounts to. We should not underestimate in this respect though. We can list considerations which should cause us to conclude that so-called "animal ethics" matters a great deal:

  1. Whether philosophizing should take place is in many ways independent of how often it happens to occur in the world at this time. That something is uncommon does not imply that it is without value. People ought to cultivate philosophy that they may choose more wisely, and hopefully not be dogmatic in what they believe but rather justified. That is not easy to do, but it is essential to being accountable. Perhaps one far-flung day adults who are unable to fully reason about their ethical principles will not be regarded as fully mature. That cannot be the case today, however, since supposedly the best theories on offer cannot thoroughly be rationally defended, in my view.
  2. I myself have convinced people using arguments in favour of animal rights.
  3. Testing one's view for rational adequacy helps one to be accountable to oneself, to either shore up one's beliefs or indicate an area of thought that needs to be developed. The process of reasoning could well even cause one to modify one's stance, either to a greater or lesser degree.
  4. People read books on the subject to intelligently decide their stance on such matters
  5. University students take courses studying such material
  6. The leaders of society, politicians, lawmakers, lawyers and the judiciary, sometimes look to academic theories to ground their approaches, and then the practical reflection of what they believe may emerge in the rest of society
  7. As society makes progress in the area of animal suffering-reduction, the next phase of progress will have to be more philosophical; there will be no more atrocity images to show since the blatant cruelties will have been taken care of and we will be left with forms of animal slavery that need to be debated on more philosophical grounds
  8. Animal ethics are already debated to some extent in academics
  9. I predict that if all goes well, ethics education will one day find itself into mandatory schooling for everyone in society; in both of the latter two contexts, one real and the other still only imaginary, winning arguments are priceless.
Winning arguments, ultimately, is what I aim to achieve. Whether I attain that in any given case is up to each person to decide for himself/herself.

My series on animal ethics will examine animal rights theories, and also theories that compete with animal rights. Believe it or not, I have not yet commented on Francione's animal rights theory (with the exception of his views on "unnecessary suffering"). I have only addressed his arguments on animal activism. However, we have had an abundance of Francione lately so I will turn now to other animal theorists, such as Tom Regan, Evelyn B. Pluhar (as her name appears on her important book; her surname is now Pluhar-Adams), Paola Cavalieri, Julian Franklin, Bernard Rollin, Steve Sapontzis, Mark Rowlands, Mark Berstein, and others. Eventually, I will get to Francione's own theory of animal rights. All in good time. I will illuminate my perception that animal rights theory is in a state of crisis. I have already argued this in "The Rights of Animal Persons" in a manner that many people have found to be right and even refreshing. There I argue that astonishingly enough, current theories of animal rights do not even logically entail rights in any strong form. However, while the article contains other, more specific criticisms of the theories of animal liberation, it could by no means be comprehensive. I will highlight what in other theories seems to me right or positive, while also criticizing in a way that recognizes problems. I will not be able to vindicate what I regard as right though without my own theory of morality, called "best caring ethics." (BCE) This is introduced in my published article (accessible on this website) called "The Rights of Animal Persons," and I will make some reference to that essay. The forthcoming series of blog entries will highlight why I think we need a book defending BCE at a length that permits much more depth and thoroughness. My book is on the way but still needs time before it greets the public.

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