Martha Nussbaum

Frontiers of Justice

Ch 6: Beyond Compassion and Humanity, Pt 1

Pages 325-356


1.      OVERVIEW

2.      Dignity for animals: Animals entitled to a dignified existence

         a.      Includes at least

         b.      Adequate opportunities for nutrition and physical activity

         c.      Freedom from pain, squalor and cruelty

         d.      Freedom to act in ways characteristic of the species (rather than being confined and made to perform silly and degrading stunts)

                   i.       Circus animals have undignified way of life?

         e.      Freedom from fear

         f.       Opportunities for rewarding interactions with other members of species and of different species

         g.      Chance to enjoy light and air in tranquility

3.      Fact humans act to deny animals dignified existence is an issue of justice

         a.      No reason why exiting mechanism of basic justice, entitlement, law can’t be extended across species barrier

4.      Relationships we have with animals involve

         a.      Responsiveness, sympathy, joy in excellence, concerned interaction

         b.      Also, manipulativeness, indifference and cruelty

5.      Relationship should be regulated by justice, not war of survival and power now obtains

         a.      “Animals as participants in the ethical community, creatures in partnership with whom we ought to work out our ways of living”


6.      Capabilities approach does better job with animal entitlements than does Kantian social contract views (Rawls) or utilitarian views

         a.      Kantian social contract approach falls short because

                   i.       Commitment to rationality as ground of dignity

                   ii.      Social contract among equals approach makes obligations of justice toward animals not possible

                   iii.     Obligations to animals are derivative from obligations to humans

                   iv.     Are duties of charity not justice



8.      Problems with the contractarian notion of origin of justice/social cooperation and applying it to animals

         a.      Justice arises when parties to contract “make a deal” for their mutual advantage

         b.      Contract requires equality of power: no one party can be strong enough to dominate or kill all others

                   i.        Asymmetry of power between humans and animals too great for a real contract to make sense

                   ii.      Animals not equals of humans in power and resources

         c.      How could contract with animals be for mutual advantage?

                   i.       If we want to protect ourselves from animals we can just kill them (as we do)

                   ii.      Any human seeking to make contract for mutual advantage will simply omit animals

         d.      Why make a deal with creatures securely controlled and dominated?

9.      Contractarian assumption/conflation Nussbaum rejects

         a.      Animals can’t be primary subjects of justice as they cannot be framers of the contracts that creates justice

         b.      Conflates two questions

                   i.       Who frames principles of justice

                   ii.      For whom are the principles framed?

         c.      Capabilities approach keeps these two questions distinct

         d.      If social contract creates justice via reciprocal promises/agreements, leaves animals out (questions must have same answer?)



11.    Justice as only part of morality

         a.      Justice important political and moral virtue, not only one of them

         b.      Also duties of compassion and humanity

12.    Rawls says obligations to animals not question of justice (entitlements, rights, dignity that can be violated) but of compassion and humanity

         a.      Because: To be subject to justice must be a moral person and this involves

                   i.       Capacity for a conception of the good

                   ii.      Capacity for a sense of justice (at least to a minimal degree)

                   iii.     Animals don’t have this

                   iv.     Animal reciprocity: While some animals are capable of reciprocity with humans (dogs/apes), not all animals are (birds and lions?), and the sense of reciprocity is not the type that Rawls believes is necessary to get duties of justice

13.    What duties of justice adds to idea have duties of compassion to animals (blame and entitlement)

         a.      Compassion involves idea creature is suffering and not to blame for it

         b.      Does not involve idea that someone is at fault or to blame for the suffering

         c.      Compassion omits essential element of blame for wrongdoing

         d.      Difference between

                   i.       Compassion feel for animal suffering from natural cause

                   ii.      Response might have to suffering of animal who is being treated cruelly by humans

14.    What if add to duty of compassion, thought it is morally wrong to cause that suffering?

         a.      Not enough: Not just morally wrong, but wrong in way raises questions of justice

         b.      Creature wronged has an entitlement not to be treated that way and one of a particularly urgent/basic sort

         c.      We do not think that all acts of unkindness, thoughtlessness (or moral wrong) are instances of injustice

15.    Sphere of justice sphere of basic, urgent entitlements

         a.      Mistreatment of animals unjust

         b.      Not simply the claim that it is wrong of us to act that way

         c.      But they have a right, a moral entitlement, not to be treated that way, unfair to them

         d.      Animals as agent and subject, to whom something is due

                   i.       A creature who is itself an end

         e.      Who have a good they are entitled to pursue

                   i.       Damages done to them, blocking their pursuit of the good, is unjust



17.    Three aspect of all Utilitarian views

         a.      Consequentialism:

                   i.       Right act one promotes best overall consequences

         b.      Sum-ranking

                   i.       Tells us how to aggregate consequences across lives

                   ii.      By adding together (or aggregating) the goods present in distinct lives

         c.      Substantive view of the good (2 forms)

                   i.       Hedonism: good = pleasure, bad=pain

                   ii.      Singer’s preference utilitarianism: consequences to pursue those that on balance “further interests (desires or preferences) of those affected


18.    Utilitarian in tension with liberal respect for plurality of comprehensive conceptions of good

         a.      It overreaches how much should be legislated when insists we maximize the good

         b.      It ignores fundamental idea of “liberal” political thought that citizens should be allowed to choose own conceptions of good

         c.      Liberalism:

                   i.       Role of government limited to prevent injustice: Government/society may only prohibit people from infringing each other’s basic rights/entitlements–should only prevent people from treating each other unjustly

                   ii.      Government’s role not to maximize social good

                   iii.     Government/society should let citizens pursue their own conception of the good

                            (1)    Within the restraints of basic justice, individuals should be allowed to pursue their own conception of the good (religious, secular, aesthetic, whatever)

                            (2)    Conservatism: Government may require religion, ban self-harm, require virtuous behavior

         d.      Society/politics should set up basic conditions of justice that govern lives of people who disagree about the (rest of the) good (and have different conceptions of value)

         e.      Utilitarian’s requirement to maximize overall good ignores this limitation of political action and requires that government specify and pursue an overall comprehensive good for political sphere


19.    Singer’s preference utilitarianism does better with this problem

         a.      Liberal as it defers to what people actually prefer

20.    Preference utilitarianism has problems with “deformed preferences”

         a.      Preferences shaped by ignorance, greed, fear

                   i.       Cigarettes, wanting to have more than others, preferring a dictator’s policies for fear of what will happen if do not

         b.      Adaptative preferences: preference that simply adapt to the low level of living one has come to expect

                   i.       “Unjust treatment often makes allies out of the oppressed”

                            (1)    Girls subject to female genital mutilation support the practice

                   ii.      E.g.: Chickens stuck in cages whole life may not be particularly unhappy or in pain or have frustrated preferences–but their capabilities of been thwarted and this is unjust


21.    Utilitarian problems due to sum ranking

         a.      Treats some as means to ends of others

22.    Capabilities approach does not simply add all relevant goods together

         a.      Insist that each and every individual has an indefeasible entitlement to come up above a threshold on certain key goods

         b.      Insists on treating individuals as ends

         c.      Don’t allow some to have extremely high well being purchased through other’s disadvantage

         d.      Even welfare of society as a whole does justify violating an individual

23.    Utilitarianism refuses this insistence on separateness and inviolability of individuals

         a.      Because of its commitment to sum-ranking all relevant pleasures, pains or preferences, frustrations

                   i.       All are fungible in a single systems

         b.      Can’t rule out results that are extremely harsh toward a given group or class

         c.      Does not rule out slavery or life long subordination of some to others in theory, but only due to empirical considerations about total utility/well-being

         d.      Best reasons to be against slavery, torture, lifelong subordination is its unjust, not an empirical calculation of total or average well-being

24.    These problems are especially troubling with animals

         a.      Utilitarian sum ranking does not rule out on grounds of basic justice great pain and cruel treatment of at least some animals

                   i.       Circus animal example

                            (1)    The pain of a few circus animals mistreated could be outweighed by the pleasure of large human audiences

                            (2)    Can’t say: This is intolerable; a moral violation

                            (3)    Making basic entitlements contingent on people’s malicious pleasure gives them far too weak and vulnerable a place

                   ii.      But what about valuable animal experimentation for human benefit?

         b.      Interspecies comparisons of utility are even more difficult/indeterminate than interpersonal comparisons within a species

         c.      Animals can have deformed preferences should not maximize

                   i.       Animals can learn submissive or fear induced preferences

                   ii.      Creatures accustomed to captivity may never be able to learn to live in wild

                   iii.     Aggregating deformed preferences can lead to endorsement of unjust status quo


25.    Problematic utilitarian (hedonistic) view of good as pleasure, a single homogenous feeling varying only in intensity and duration

         a.      Ignores the diversity of goods, ignores goods don’t arise in sentience and fail to criticize preferences developed under unjust conditions

26.    Each basis animal entitlement pertains to a separate domain of functioning

         a.      Not “bought off” by even very large amount of another entitlement

         b.      Don’t make up for confinement of an animal by giving it extra helpings of food

27.    Animals pursue a plurality of distinct goods

         a.      Friendship and affiliation

         b.      Freedom from pain

         c.      Mobility

         d.      Should not aggregate the pleasures and pains connected to these distinct entitlements

28.    Animals pursue goods not felt as pain/frustration when absent

         a.      Free movement and physical achievement

         b.      Altruistic sacrifice for kin and group

29.    Some animal pains may be valuable

         a.      Grief of animal for a dead child or parent or for suffering of a human friend–part of an intrinsically good attachment

         b.      Pain involved in effort to master difficult task

30.    Utilitarianism vulnerable on questions of numbers

         a.      So long as lives of animals brought into existence to be killed are minimally worth living, the meat industry is supported by utilitarianism



32.    Basic moral intuition of capability approach concerns dignity of forms of life that posses both abilities and deep needs

33.    Basic goal to address the needs for a rich plurality of life activities

34.    Waste/tragedy when living creature with innate/basic capability for some functions evaluated as important/good never gets the opportunity to perform those functions

35.    Examples: Failure to educate women, promote adequate health care, extend freedom of speech and conscience to all citizens

         a.      Are a kind of premature death, death of form of flourishing that has been judged to be worth of respect and wonder

36.    Humans should have chance to flourish in their own way (provided do no harm to others)

37.    Once judged a capability is essential to life with human dignity have very strong moral reasons for promoting its flourishing and removing obstacles to it

38.    Same attitude to natural powers that guides approach with humans guides it also with other animals

         a.      Not just humanity and rationality worthy of respect and wonder

39.    Capability approach wonders at all complex life–wrong to block flourishing

         a.      CA has a basic wonder at living beings, wish for their flourishing, and for world where creatures of many types flourish

         b.      Wants to see each thing flourish as the sort of thing it is

         c.      Capabilities approach judges that there is something wonderful and wonder-inspiring in all the complex forms of life in nature

         d.      If feel wonder at complex organisms, it suggests idea that it is good for that being to persist and flourish as the kind of thing it is

         e.      “Ethical concern that functions of life not be impeded, that dignity of living organism not be violated”

         f.       Closely related ethical judgment that it is wrong when flourishing of a creature is blocked by harmful agency of another (idea at heard of capabilities approach)

         g.      Emotion of wonder leads to ethical duty to respect

40.    But life feeds on (undermines the flourishing of) other life!

         a.      Predators do this; even plants compete

41.    Point of justice to secure a dignified life for many different kinds of beings

         a.      Look at world and figure a way that core group of basic entitlements tied to notion of dignity of living beings, can be protected

         b.      Purpose of social cooperation is how to live decently together in a world in which many species try to flourish

         c.      Ways of living that prevent blighting of valuable natural powers

42.    No sentient animal should be cut off from chance for flourishing life

         a.      Life with type of dignity relevant to that species

         b.      All sentient animals should enjoy positive opportunities to flourish