28 May 2012

Tom Regan on Human Chauvinism

Tom ReganThere is a neglected other side to the anthropomorphic coin. This is human chauvinism. The anthropomorphic side reads: "It is anthropomorphic to attribute characteristics to nonhumans that belong only to humans." The human chauvinism side reads: "It is chauvinistic not to attribute characteristics to those nonhumans who have them and to persist in the conceit that only humans do." Human chauvinism, that is, like all other forms of chauvinism, involves a failure or refusal to recognize that those characteristics one finds most important or admirable in one's self, or in members of one's group, are also possessed by individuals other than one's self or the members of one's group, as when male chauvinists fail, or refuse, to see that they are not alone in possessing admirable qualities. With the argument of the present chapter serving as the backdrop, the conclusion we reach is that to deny consciousness or a mental life to mammalian animals is an expression of human chauvinism.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 31 [italics in original; endnote omitted] [first edition published in 1983])