The crisis in rights theories not leading to strong rights, an extraordinary outcome, is somewhat detailed in “The Rights of Animal Persons.” However, since I am doing a series on crises in animal ethics (not all are discussed in the essay just mentioned), expanding on the list posted in September, I will briefly discuss this difficulty. The major approaches to animal rights hitherto duplicate human rights theory in the arena of animal ethics. They are: (1) intuitionism; (2) compassion; (3) tradition; (4) Kant’s theory; (5) Rawls’ theory; and (6) Gewirth’s theory. I actually discuss all of these theories in the last post, so I will not bore the reader with a repetition. Minimally, these rights theories do not entail strong rights, but are compatible with utilitarian vivisection for medical purposes, for example, because: (1) one can have utilitarian intuitions; (2) utilitarianism can claim to be “compassionate”; (3) there are utilitarian traditions; (4) Kant claims we should go by universalizable principles, but we can universalize utilitarianism; (5) we can set utilitarian principles of justice from “the original position” (see last post for details); (6) utilitarianism is compatible with needing freedom and well-being, and the principle of generic consistency, or treating like things alike. I also can show that sado-masochism is compatible with all of these frameworks too. It might seem odd to say that in the case of compassion, but if ethics is based on the compassion that people happen to have—well, sado-masochists might not have much. If compassion is advocated as an ideal because it promotes good, sadism can produce a good. In any event, these rights frameworks are grossly indeterminate. They do not result in what their advocates claim, which is a pity, because even granted the assumptions they wish others to share, their conclusions do not follow. And it is asking a lot to have others simply agree to one’s intuitive assumptions. Last time I showed that all of the frameworks are either intuitionist or crypto-intuitionist as well. Surely it is a crisis in rights theory if they do not even vindicate rights!
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