07 May 2008

Babies and Animals, Part 2

Seven months after R. G. Frey's essay was published, philosophers Dale Jamieson and Tom Regan replied to it. (Dale Jamieson and Tom Regan, "Animal Rights: A Reply to Frey," Analysis 38 [January 1978]: 32-6.) They make the following points:
1. Nobody makes the argument Frey criticizes. It is certainly not an "important argument," as Frey claims.

2. Frey claims that there are only three grounds for premise 2 of the argument: potentiality, similarity, and immortality. None of these grounds, he says, applies to animals. Jamieson and Regan reply that some animals are potentially rational. If so, then it is not the case, as Frey claims, that every ground for affirming premise 2 renders premise 1 false. At least one ground for affirming premise 2 renders premise 1 true.

3. The three grounds Frey supplies for premise 2 are not exhaustive. There is at least one other ground—namely, sentience—for the proposition that babies have rights. Unfortunately for Frey, this ground, unlike the three he supplies, does not preclude animals from having rights. Since both babies and animals are sentient, both have rights.
I think point 2 is shaky. Animals are not rational in any meaningful sense, and if they are not rational, then they are not potentially rational. Point 3 is a good reply, in my opinion. The right not to be made to suffer derives from (i) sentience and (ii) the intrinsic badness of pain. As for point 1, I don't see why it matters whether anyone has made the argument. It's an argument in favor of animal rights. Those who deny that animals have rights (e.g., Frey) must find fault with it. As for whether it's an "important" argument, I don't know. Nothing hinges on whether it is.

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