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Born free and equal?: on the ethical consistency of animal equality

Stijn Bruers (UGent)
(2014)
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(UGent)
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Abstract
This dissertation investigates the possibility of constructing a consistent ethical system that offers clear notions of equality and incorporates an animal ethic. The first part is more meta-ethical in nature, reflecting on notions such as moral intuitions, universalism, consistency and coherence. It demonstrates that moral illusions might exist and offers a method to discover such moral illusions. The second part turns to normative ethics, dealing with principles of welfare, justice and basic rights. It tackles problems ranging from population ethics to non-ideal theory. Finally, the third part moves to applied (animal) ethics, In analogy to optical illusions, I demonstrate that speciesism is not only a kind of prejudicial discrimination but also a moral illusion: an obstinate intuitive judgment that is inconsistent with a coherent system. The third part also tackles the predation problem and the sentience problem in animal ethics. The end result of this work is a pluralist principlist ethical system that can be captured in a metaphor of five moral fingers working together as the moral hand. This moral hand is a constructed, coherent ethical system of five universalized ethical principles based on strong moral intuitions. The thumb represents the principle of universalism, which is a basic ingredient of coherentism, and generates an anti-discrimination rule. The index finger symbolizes a consequentialist welfare ethic, based on the coherence of impartiality and empathy. The middle finger is the mere means principle of a deontological rights ethic: humans (and animals) have a right not to be used as merely means to someone else’s ends. This principle captures a lot of moral intuitions that pop up in famous dilemmas. A fourth principle, the ring finger, refers to the value of biodiversity and adopts some elements of carnism, the opposite of veganism as ideology. This fourth principle solves the predation problem and is coherent with some other moral intuitions. Finally, the little finger represents the principle of tolerated partiality which can be used in some final moral dilemmas. With these five fingers of ethics, we can grasp the moral problem of consuming animal products, and answer the question whether veganism is a moral duty.
Keywords
normative ethics, Animal ethics

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Bruers, Stijn. 2014. “Born Free and Equal?: On the Ethical Consistency of Animal Equality”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
APA
Bruers, S. (2014). Born free and equal?: on the ethical consistency of animal equality. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Bruers S. Born free and equal?: on the ethical consistency of animal equality. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy; 2014.
MLA
Bruers, Stijn. “Born Free and Equal?: On the Ethical Consistency of Animal Equality.” 2014 : n. pag. Print.
@phdthesis{4360970,
  abstract     = {This dissertation investigates the possibility of constructing a consistent ethical system that offers clear notions of equality and incorporates an animal ethic. The first part is more meta-ethical in nature, reflecting on notions such as moral intuitions, universalism, consistency and coherence. It demonstrates that moral illusions might exist and offers a method to discover such moral illusions. 
The second part turns to normative ethics, dealing with principles of welfare, justice and basic rights. It tackles problems ranging from population ethics to non-ideal theory. 
Finally, the third part moves to applied (animal) ethics, In analogy to optical illusions, I demonstrate that speciesism is not only a kind of prejudicial discrimination but also a moral illusion: an obstinate intuitive judgment that is inconsistent with a coherent system. The third part also tackles the predation problem and the sentience problem in animal ethics.
The end result of this work is a pluralist principlist ethical system that can be captured in a metaphor of five moral fingers working together as the moral hand. This moral hand is a constructed, coherent ethical system of five universalized ethical principles based on strong moral intuitions. The thumb represents the principle of universalism, which is a basic ingredient of coherentism, and generates an anti-discrimination rule. The index finger symbolizes a consequentialist welfare ethic, based on the coherence of impartiality and empathy. The middle finger is the mere means principle of a deontological rights ethic: humans (and animals) have a right not to be used as merely means to someone else{\textquoteright}s ends. This principle captures a lot of moral intuitions that pop up in famous dilemmas. A fourth principle, the ring finger, refers to the value of biodiversity and adopts some elements of carnism, the opposite of veganism as ideology. This fourth principle solves the predation problem and is coherent with some other moral intuitions. Finally, the little finger represents the principle of tolerated partiality which can be used in some final moral dilemmas. With these five fingers of ethics, we can grasp the moral problem of consuming animal products, and answer the question whether veganism is a moral duty.},
  author       = {Bruers, Stijn},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {XIII, 367},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Born free and equal?: on the ethical consistency of animal equality},
  url          = {http://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/born-free-and-equal-on-the-ethical-consistency-of-animal-equality/},
  year         = {2014},
}