28 November 2016


I started this blog 13 years ago today. There have been 310,008 visits, which is an average of 23,846.7 visits per year, 457.0 visits per week, and 65.2 visits per day (taking leap years into account). Here is the first post, on 28 November 2003.

25 November 2016

Bernard E. Rollin on the Moral Status of Animals

Bernard E. RollinPhilosophers have shown that the standard reasons offered to exclude animals from the moral circle, and to justify not assessing our treatment of them by the same moral categories and machinery we use for assessing the treatment of humans, do not meet the test of moral relevance. Such historically sanctified reasons as “animals lack a soul,” “animals do not reason,” “humans are more powerful than animals,” “animals do not have language,” “God said we could do as we wish to animals” have been demonstrated to provide no rational basis for failing to reckon with animal interests in our moral deliberations. For one thing, while the above statements may mark differences between humans and animals, they do not mark morally relevant differences that justify harming animals when we would not similarly harm people. For example, if we justify harming animals on the grounds that we are more powerful than they are, we are essentially affirming “might makes right,” a principle that morality is in large measure created to overcome. By the same token, if we are permitted to harm animals for our benefit because they lack reason, there are no grounds for not extending the same logic to non-rational humans, as we shall shortly see. And while animals may not have the same interests as people, it is evident to commonsense [sic] that they certainly do have interests, the fulfillment and thwarting of which matter to them.

(Bernard E. Rollin, "The Moral Status of Animals and Their Use as Experimental Subjects," chap. 41 in A Companion to Bioethics, 2d ed., ed. Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer [Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009], 495-509, at 497 [italics in original])

07 November 2016

Leonard Nelson (1882-1927) on Duties to Animals

Leonard Nelson (1882-1927)Moral philosophers, even those belonging to the Critical School [the followers of Kant and Fries], have often represented duties to animals as indirect duties to oneself or to other men. For instance, maltreatment of animals is forbidden on the ground that it encourages cruelty, that is, a disposition that obstructs fulfillment of duty. Now, maltreatment of animals may have just that effect; nevertheless the argument in question takes no account of the whole truth. For according to this argument, maltreatment of animals is reprehensible because of the incidental effects it has on the character of the agent or of other men. Where the effects are not harmful, maltreatment of animals would thus be permitted.

If we examine the arguments on the basis of which the existence of direct duties to animals has been denied, we are compelled to conclude regretfully that most of these arguments are sophistical—indeed, they are so threadbare that we find it surprising that they could be advanced by people who claim to be schooled in scientific method. The treatment this problem has received in ethics would be devastating testimony to the limitations of human understanding, if it were not clear that interest rather than error accounts for it.

(Leonard Nelson, System of Ethics, trans. Norbert Guterman [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956], 137 [footnote inserted into text in brackets])

04 November 2016


This blog had 1,219 visits during October, which is an average of 39.3 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 45.7.

01 November 2016

Ten Years Gone

Here are the posts from November 2006.