by David Sztybel

January 17, 2013


  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Problems with Intuitionism
  3. Rights Views3.A. Immanuel Kant and Julian Franklin3.B. John Rawls, Mark Rowlands, and Mark Bernstein3.C. Alan Gewirth and Evelyn Pluhar3.D. Tom Regan’s Animal Rights Theory3.E. Gary Francione’s Animal Rights Theory3.F. Compassion-Based Rights3.G. Tradition-Based Rights A: Steve Sapontzis’ “Everyday Morality”3.H. Tradition-Based Rights B: Bernard Rollins’ “Common Sense”

    3.I. Rights Theories That Do Not Logically Entail Rights

    3.J. The “Frankentheory” of Rights

  4. Utilitarianism
  5. Virtue Ethics
  6. Ethical Egoism
  7. Pragmatism
  8. Ecoholism
  9. Feminist Ethic of Care
  10. Conclusion
  11. Discussion and Questions

1. Critical Thinking

  • means standing back from a given argument and assessing it for strengths and weaknesses, factors pro and con, which translates into positive and negative criticisms
  • two types of arguments, using 1. deductive and 2. inductive logic:
    1. deductive argument [Slide 2 of 23]
      • classic example of a valid deductive argument:
        1. All humans are mortal.
        2. Socrates is a human.
        3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
        • notice premises and conclusion [Slide 3]
        • if assert these premises and deny conclusion,
          contradicting oneself
      • Bertrand Russell would analyze the Socrates argument in
        mathematical form: If all As are Bs, and X is A, then X is B.
      • example of an invalid deductive argument: [Slide 4]
        1. Mathematics at university is a very difficult subject.
        2. Harold is studying mathematics at the University of
        3. Therefore, Harold is having a difficult time studying
          mathematics at university.
      • notice how conclusion does not follow, because given the premises, Harold could still be having an easy time of his math; calling university math difficult is relative to the standard of the average person, but Harold might be a mathmatical genius
      • one can assert the premises and deny the conclusion without self-contradiction
      • good arguments require more than just correct facts; they require right inferences from the facts
    2. inductive argument [Slide 5]
      1. We have been experiencing dramatic, weird weather such as more dangerous hurricanes.
      2. Stronger hurricances fit global warming theory.
      3. Therefore, global warming is probably occurring.
        • inductive arguments based on actual observations, and are matters of probability, not whether one contradicts oneself as in deductive arguments
        • this argument has some strength but would need to
          consider other supporting factors and also counter-arguments if one is to establish a thorough assessment of probability of global warming

      an argument that is weak would be:

      1. I lived through a fierce storm while on vacation.
      2. This fits the global warming theory.
      3. Therefore, global warming is probably occurring.
  • an argument is a series of statements in which at least one premise entails, justifies, or leads to at least one conclusion
    • the initial statement(s)s are called premises, because the argument is built upon them
    • conclusions are said to be logically entailed, or they follow, or are evident, or inferred
    • a deductive argument whose premises logically entail the conclusion is called a valid argument (means cannot assert the premises and deny the conclusion without self-contradiction)
    • a deductive argument whose premises do not logically entail the conclusion is called an invalid argument
    • a deductive argument whose premises entail the conclusion (making it valid and whose premises are true is called a soundargument (the strongest kind)
    • an inductive argument, by contrast, has conclusions that are improbable or probable by degrees
  • a fallacy is different from a falsehood
    • fallacies are errors in inference or logic, and pertain to arguments
    • falsehood is an error about facts, and applies to statements, e.g., “Kant wrote in Victorian times.” is a falsehood.
    • the key fallacy is called the non sequitur, which means the conclusion does not follow from the premises
    • equivocation occurs when one uses the same word in different ways, e.g., in the example given above, math being difficult for the average student versus math being difficult for Harold
    • fallacies often have special names such as equivocation, or contradiction, overgeneralization, or inappropriate appeal to authority (e.g., a law professor saying what the law should be based on his being a “legal expert”); ad hominem (e.g., Hitler is a monster and he was a vegetarian [a myth actually], so vegetarianism must be bad; that conclusion does not follow logically)
    • two kinds of argumentative weaknesses: factual and logical
    • the factual concerns statements, which may be a premise in an argument: is it true or false?
    • logic concerns arguments, and questions whether inferences are right
    • more about fallacies at http://davidsztybel.info/24.html
    • two kinds of argumentative weakness: factual and logical
      • the factual concerns statements: is the premise true?
      • logical concerns arguments: is the inference from the premises justified?
      • argumentative strength based on truth of premises and validity of inferences
    • in a deductive argument, the justification is stronger because it has to be 100%
    • in inductive arguments, the justification means that the conclusion is more or
      less probable
    • this is the essence of critical thinking: evaluating the truth of statements and the validity of deductive arguments, and the strength/weakness of probability of inductive

    2. Problems with Inuitionism

    • The problems:
      1. intuitions are not justified or evident, which many see inherently as bad theory.
      2. intuitions are appeals to prejudice.
      3. intuitions jump to conclusions at the start of a theory and then derives conclusions, making it seem as though they are not merely jumping to conclusions.
      4. indecisive: different intuitions for every theory
      5. cannot use intuitions to decide between intuitions without viciously circular reasoning
      6. can lead to differences being negotiated dogmatically or even violently
      7. can intuit oppression, as I will show later on in representing intuitive anthropocentrism.
    • I will show that all the major theories rely on intuitions by posting the intuitions in a rough fashion on overheads for the different views

    3. Rights Views

    3.A. Immanuel Kant and Julian Franklin [Slide 7]

    • positive criticism:
      • opposes exploitation and harming
      • embodies the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would be treated, i.e., with respect and fairness
      • promotes consistency or coherence in ethics
      • seeks to go beyond mere cultural customs
      • these strengths are common to virtually all the rights theories and so I will not repeat the positive criticisms with each treatment of a different rights theory
    • negative criticism:
      • one can universalize any set of rules [logic: does not lead validly to what we recognize as ethical]
        • tyrants can universalize special treatment for ego
        • can universalize utilitarianism
      • not treating someone as a “mere means” is too vague: longer chains for the slaves technically meets this criterion [logic: does not deductively entail human or animal rights]
      • respects only rational beings, Franklin extends to sentient beings [controversial: need to justify another theory to bear this out]
      • never lie, steal, cheat, kill is too rigid [controversial: need to justify another theory to bear out this conclusion]

    3.B. John Rawls, Mark Rowlands, and Mark Bernstein [Slide 8]

    • negative criticism
      • can frame any ethical theory as right from the original position
      • whether born as animals or not depends on a fictional scenario
      • if say “unjust” to exclude animals from those one can incarnate into, must mean it cannot be conceived from the original position to exclude animals, which is untrue

    3.C. Alan Gewirth and Evelyn Pluhar [Slide 9]

    • negative criticism
      • can admit need some welfare and freedom for ends without claiming rights to welfare and freedom
      • the principle of generic consistency would not be applied by many people: why treat others the same way just because, abstractly, they are of the same kind as me in some ways? All Earth objects are equally on our planet and I don’t need to be generically consistent in how to treat them all
      • we can be consistent about being inconsistent, the ethical nihilist says, thus being consistent about all kinds of things, responding to them arbitrarily
      • we do not always need to be consistent: e.g., choice of desserts
      • theory based on seeking any ends whatsoever, and that is nihilistic, and openness to any ends whatsoever does not show a mindset predisposed to morality, rights, etc.
        • therefore, Gewirth’s theory focuses too much on means to ends, and not on endsthemselves
        • it is not enough that some ends follow from upholding welfare and freedom, since the foundation of this is pursuing any ends whatever, which will not necessarily inspire respect for anyone’s welfare and freedom, not even one’s own
  • 3.D. Tom Regan’s Animal Rights Theory [Slide 10]
    • positive criticism:
      • strong rights for humans and other animals
      • opposes utilitarian vivisection and “environmental fascism” [all the rights theories have these positive characteristics potentially, and many others from Kant’s theory too]
    • negative criticism:
      • why not give rights to sentient beings, simply? Singer stresses sentience as does Francione and others. A subject of a life has memory, a sense of the future, the ability to initiate action in pursuit of their desires and goals (Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, 1st ed., p. 243); would a demented senior without these abilities not have rights?
      • Regan intuits “the respect principle”, but “respect” is ambiguous and can mean any ethical theory whatsoever
      • endorses saving human over dog in lifeboat case because more “opportunities for satisfaction”: does that mean, “Save the rich over the poor”?
      • says equal inherent value although all or most of the ten features can be had by degrees:

      …beliefs and desires, perception, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future; an emotional life together with feelings of pleasure and pain; preference- and welfare-interests; the ability to initiate action in pursuit of their desires and goals; a psychophysical identity over time; and an individual welfare in the sense that their experiential life fares well or ill for them, logically independently of their utility for others and logically independently of their being the object of anyone else’s interests. (Case for Animal Rights, 1st ed., p. 243)

    3.E. Gary Francione’s Animal Rights Theory [Slide 10, continued]

    • positive criticism: strongly protects animals’ interest in not being considered property
    • negative criticism
      • intuitionist
      • he associates property status with treating animals as resources, slaves, objects, but:
        • responsible ownership is a notion that can make inroads against treating animals merely as objects or merely as resources
        • vegan animal ownership does not have anynegative characteristics except the ownership, which can also be used positively at times, e.g., to demand safe treatment of an “owned” animal at a vet’s
        • Francione upholding a right not to be considered property logically entails that being considered property must only be a bad thing, which is not neessarily true
      • a native hunter, influenced by anti-speciesism, may give up hunting but never considered animals to be property – ethnocentric theory of animal rights
      • property status is not the root problem: speciesism is, and what leads to speciesism, such as exploitive interests that interfere with compassion
      • says he derives his rights theory directly from the principle of equal consideration of interests, but utilitarianism can also use that principle, as can ethical egoism, etc. (treating like cases alike unless a reason to the contrary)
      • says his view rests comfortably on two intuitions (Introduction to Animal Rights, p. xxxvi):
        1. avoiding unnecessary suffering and
        2. allowing humans to be preferred in
          cases of necessity

        but these principles can rationalize medical vivisection in many minds

    [Slides 11 – 13]

    3.F. Compassion-Based Rights [Slide 13]

    • negative criticism:
      • Dunayer, Buddhists, Rousseau, ethic of care
      • peoples’ compassion highly variable
      • longer chains for slaves could be one person’s version of “compassion”
      • does not justify why compassion is appropriate – intuitionist
      • many criticisms from feminist ethic of care relevant here – discussed later

    3.G. Tradition-Based Rights A: Sapontzis’ “Everyday Morality” [Slide 14]

    • negative criticism
      • “everyday morality” includes anthropocentrism
      • Peter Carruthers also insists on “common sense” and says that validates factory farming and laboratory testing without qualification
      • common-sense can be wrong: geocentrism
      • all major theories are in a sense part of common-sense tradtions, so appeal is utterly inconclusive

    3.H. Tradition-Based Rights B: Bernard Rollins’ “Common Sense”[Slide 14, continued]

    • negative criticism
      • same four criticisms that apply to Sapontzis’ traditionalism
      • concludes animals only have the right not to be excluded from discussion: too weak
      • says weak right because Kant said: “Ought implies can.” [Means that we cannot say someone ought to do something, such as, “You ought to erase the past,” if the person cannot do the thing or it is impossible.]
        • can’t have animal rights in society now, therefore we can’t say we ought to have animal rights in society now (Rollin)
        • invalid argument: overlooks what we cando in the long-term, which may be difficult but is not necessarily impossible

    3.I. Rights Theories That Do Not Logically Entail Rights [Slide 15-16]

    • can universalize any ethical theory (Kant)
    • any ethical theory is based on “reflective intuitions” (Regan)
    • Francione’s equal consideration of interests is compatible with any ethical theory, just means treating like things alike unless there is a reason to do otherwise; all theories do this and supply reasons, sometimes intuitionist like Francione, for treating some differently from others
    • Rowland’s and Bernstein’s Rawlsian “veil of ignorance” has spirits capable of framing virtually any ethical theory
    • Gewirth and Pluhar (also Paola Cavalieri has endorsed Gewirth in her book, The Animal Question) use generic consistency as a principle, but that only means being consistent about kinds of things, and also, all theorists can agree to that and the fact that everyone needs some freedom and well-being to act
    • any given theory has a tradition
    • ethics based in compassion can range from ethical egoism, through rights, utilitarianism or other views too; Dunayer supports an ideal of justice intuitively too, but any moral theory has some idea of “justice”
    • theories of rights are logically empty, can drive virtually any moral theoretical truck through these logical systems
    • logical invalidity: the frameworks do not logically entail the rights that are asserted, but they are supposed to; basic fallacy of thenon sequitur
    • mine is a generous critique based on logical invalidity, becauseconcedes the precious theoretical frameworks (e.g., Kant’s universalizability) that these theorists advocate

    3.J. The “Frankentheory” of Rights

    • last time in discussion period I indicated that if we have strong rights to life, liberty, and welfare, this structure can be consistent with those rights being
      • universalizable (Kant)
      • capable of being formulated in the original position (Rawls)
      • can consider freedom and welfare to be useful to everybody (Gewirth)
      • consistent with intuitions of individual dignity (Regan, Francione)
      • consistent with compassion being part of those intuitions (Dunayer)
      • consistent with the equal consideration of interests (Francione)
      • coherent with tradition, or moral “common-sense” (Rollin) or “everyday morality” (Sapontzis), at least in a sense
    • this demonstrates that different rights theories are natural allies politically, but starting from each of these frameworks is perhaps not so great or so right, and so the death of my Frankenstein’s monster is – it may be – inevitable
    • each of the parts of the monster is too decayed and disorganized or dysfunctional to stitch together into a functional whole

4. Utilitarianism [Slides 17, 18]

  • utilitarianism lacks the strong protection of individual dignity that the rights theories at least mean to have, although their logical emptiness does not really protect individual dignity at all
  • positive criticism
    • seems fair to count everyone’s units of utility equitably
    • calls attention to the importance of results or consequences
    • going purely by rules leads to conflicting principles, and utilitarianism gives a way to resolve these conflicts, at least in theory
    • flexible and sensitive to different situations or contexts
    • plausible that rational agents should promote what is “best”
  • negative criticism
    • intuitionist
    • of several criticisms, will mention that seems to be nonsentientist, as explained in the reading, my essay, “The Rights of Animal Persons” (see essay)

5. Virtue Ethics [Slide 19]

  • positive criticism:
    • not as caught up in calculating consequences
    • in theory allows for sturdy and reliable character in people
  • negative criticism
    • intuitionist
    • too vague as a basis for ethics: can have aggressive warrior virtues, such as the code of honour for the samurai, or Friedrich Nietzsche’s violent conception of virtue

6. Ethical Egoism [Slide 20]

  • positive criticism:
    • seems to offer a way, at least in theory, for self-interested people to engage in ethical behaviour
  • negative criticism:
    • no special reason why ego should be counted differently, always
      someone more talented, and “it’s me” doesn’t seem to be a good reason
    • seems based on just ignoring others, or the illusions resulting from the fact that one’s own interests may seem more vivid than those of others
    • victimizes animals and perhaps also the mentally disabled

7. Pragmatism [Slide 21]

  • positive criticism
    • flexible, practical
    • allows for skepticism about absolutes which many find right-seeming
  • negative criticism
    • flexible, practical, can interpret any ethics from practical considerations, depending on what “works” for whom

8. Ecoholism [Slide 21]

  • three words: intuitionist “environmental fascism” (Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, 1st ed., p. 362)

9. Feminist Ethic of Care [Slide 23]

  • positive criticism
    • people perhaps do not live their moral lives according to abstractions so much as navigate through a network of caring relationships, including professional, friendly, and loving relationships
    • views individuals not only in isolation, but in relationships to others
    • people only do what they care about, so connects well with moral motivation
    • flexible and sensitive to context like act utilitarianism only differently
    • bursts stereotype of moral theorists as “cold and unemotional”
    • moral agents need to care about something or they would be catatonic, and need to care in the right way or they could be psychopaths
  • negative criticism (see “The Rights of Animal Persons” for many of these

    • disdain universal or abstract principles, instead emphasizing actual caring relationships, but many people have limitedsympathy or empathy, and one cannot be asked to copy anyone else’s sympathy or empathy, let alone an abstract, universal ideal of sympathy or empathy
    • does not seem to take reasoning or justification in ethics seriously
    • one can empathize or sympathize with aggressors, as Carol Adams points out but without a solution
    • empathy replicates another point of view but does not tell us how to act, leading to a deadlock of differing views, ethical subjectivism, and ethical relativism
    • can abuse substantial empathy with another through realizing weaknesses or levers for manipulation
    • people biased in how they empathize and sympathize, tends to occur more with those resembling oneself, thus leading to favoritism
    • substantial empathy cannot often be achieved even with intimates
    • even if perfect empathy, does not guarantee respect since one may have lucid self-awareness and be a masochist

10 Conclusion

  • trying to devise an ethical theory with all of the strengths of all of the theories, but without the flaws; will hint about it in my lecture on non-violence as a basis for animal rights
  • see reading, started to develop theory of best caring which some see as having all of the advantages but not the disadvantages of these mainstream ethical theories and others not covered in this brief survey

11. Discussion and Questions