Study Questions Final Exam on Animals

Singer, Jamieson

1.         What is the difference between the “total view” and the “prior existence view” that Singer discusses.

2.         Explain Singer’s distinction between “merely conscious beings” and “future oriented beings” and the implications this has for painless killing.

3.         What is the “replaceability” argument concerning using animals for food? How does it relate to the utilitarian assessment of this practice?

4.         Explain Singer’s idea that preference creation is debit creation.

5.         Explain “speciesism” as we defined it in class.

6.         What is the marginal case argument?

7.         Evaluate the following argument: Since neither predator nor prey are moral agents predation is morally and evaluationally irrelevant (neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad).

****Skip Williams: No exam questions on that reading


8.         Does Kant believe that it is wrong to torture animals? Explain why or why not?

9.         *Explain how it is that Korsgaard thinks Kant’s own ideas justify obligations to animals. Include in your explanation how this is compatible with Kant’s rejection of moral (value) realism (value exists in the world separate from legislating wills).

10.       Evaluate this as a summary of Korsgaard’s Kantian view of animals. Since animals have inherent value (are valuable in themselves), a rational being must acknowledge this value and universalize concern for it.

Nussbaum (and Nussbaum and Palmer)

11.       *Explain contractarian theories of morality/justice. What do these theories say about duties to animals? Explain why at least unreformed contractarianism has problems accounting for direct duties to animals. Do “animal-inclusive” versions of contractarianism make sense? (See Palmer, p. 21)

12.       Nussbaum thinks preference utilitarianism is subject to the problem of “adaptative”or “deformed” preferences and that her view is not. Explain this issue.

13.       Explain the following criticism that Nussbaum levels at utilitarianism: Because of its commitment to sum-ranking, utilitarianism fails to acknowledge the separateness and inviolability of individuals

14.       What does Nussbaum say about “nature worship” and the belief that there is a balance of nature that is good and should be followed?

15.       Describe Nussbaum’s capabilities approach to our treatment of animals. What does it say about thwarting and or promoting capabilities. Does it suggest promoting all capabilities? Does it evaluate capabilities? Use the idea of ‘waste” and “premature death” to explain this approach.

16.        Explain these quotes from Nussbaum: “Differences of capacity affect entitlements not by creating a hierarchy of worth or value, but only by affecting what can be a good or a harm to a creature” and “Level of life is relevant not because it gives different species differential worth per se, but because the type and degree of harm a creature can suffer varies with its form of life.” Does Nussbaum accept the idea that some animals are more inherently worthy than other animals (say a chimp versus a bird)? Does she think that we need to worry more about harming the chimp than the bird? Why?

17.       Nussbaum thinks species membership can be morally relevant. Use her example of teaching language to Sasha (a mentally disabled human) versus teaching language to a chimp to make this point.

18.       *Why can’t traditional contractarian theories of morality and justice, account for obligations to animals?

19.       **Does Nussbaum accept the distinction between positive and negative duties, that is, that negative duties to not interfere are more morally important than positive duties to assist? Why is this distinction particularly important in thinking about wild animals?

20.       *What is Nussbaum’s view of the idea that domestic animals are our prisoners and we should not make them do things and best of all, set them free? What would Palmer think about this claim? What do you think?

21.       What does Nussbaum say about the idea we only have obligations of “material aid” (food, health care) to wild animals when we are responsible for their needs? What is your own view of this matter? What is Palmer’s view on this?

22.       Should humans police the animal world, protecting vulnerable animals from predators? Do Nussbaum and Palmer have similar views on this? Why or why not?

23.       *Consider the following language: “a gradual formation of interdependent world in which all species enjoy cooperative and mutually supportive relations; nature is not that way and never has been. So we should work for the gradual supplanting of the natural by the just”

            a.         Evaluate this claim from Nussbaum’s and Palmer’s and your own perspectives, making clear how your own views about the moral status and importance of animals feeds into your response.                              

24.       *Does Nussbaum accept all animal capabilities and believe we have an obligation to encourage their flourishing?

25.       What would Nussbaum say about the situation of a social animal raised in isolation from companions who is not aware of the deprivation or pained by it.

26.       Ability to have supportive relationships with other animals is good even if animal raised in isolation is not aware of the deprivation or pained by it.

27.       List 4 or 5 of the types of capabilities that Nussbaum believes both humans and some animals have.



28.       *Using concrete examples, explain the laissez-fair intuition that Palmer discusses and distinguish between various forms of it. Which form does she accept and why? Which do you accept and why?

29.       Explain the difference between a capacity oriented approach to animal ethics and a relational approach.

30.       *Which animals does Palmer argue are morally considerable?

31.       *Explain in some detail why Palmer does or does not think we have obligations to assist thousands of drowning wildebeest? Explain why she does or does not think we have obligations to (feed) the horses on our farm? If there is a difference between her judgments in these two cases, explain the difference she sees. If there is no difference, explain the similarity she sees between these two cases.

32.       What are three different types of considerations that support the idea that some animals feel pain.

33.       What is the difference between Palmer’s subjective experiential account of well being and an objective account of animal well being (like Nussbaum’s)?

34.       Explain the following criticisms that Palmer makes of utilitarianism: it is not backward looking, it can’t account for duties of reparation, it makes no distinction between wild an domesticated animals and it suggests eliminating the wild and replacing nature with a more managed and pain-free environment.

35.       Explain the distinction between positive and negative duties. Which duties does Regan’s animal rights view involve, and specifically explain Regan’s views about duties of assistance. What is Palmer’s (and others) criticism of this view? Hint: It is implausible especially in the case of humans (e.g., boulder falling on a person example).

36.       Explain the difference between these three relational approaches to animals: Affective (care) relational approach, causal relational approach, and contractarian relational approach. Which one does Palmer accept?

37.       Discuss Palmer’s evaluation of the idea that there is a domesticated animal contract.

38.       Which of the following reasons for our lack of duties to wild animals does Palmer accept? (1) All suffering (including wild animal suffering) generates duties to assist, but these are always outweighed by other moral concerns about the consequences of assistance (2) Not assisting wild animals is best for them given their wild-animal natures, (3) We do not have the kind of relationships to wild animals that generate duties to assist.

39.       Does Palmer accept or reject the idea that causing a harm is morally different (worse) from failing to prevent it (or assisting in response to it)? What is your own view on this?

40.       Palmer argues the duties not to harm and duties to assist have different justifications. What are these differences? (Hint: capacity based versus relationship based)

41.       What are Palmer’s reasons for thinking domesticated animals (unlike wild animals) are close (not distant) in morally relevant ways?

42.       Why is a squirrel not a wild animal according to Palmer’s definition of wild animal?

43.       What are duties of reparation? What are the two groups that might have such duties?

44.       Why does Palmer think it peculiar to talk about reparations to agricultural animals in factory farms?

45.       Does Palmer accept voluntarism, the idea that all special obligations (e.g., duties to assist) must be voluntarily assumed? Does she think that “pet-free Peter” has obligations to assist the dumpster kittens? In what sense is this obligation voluntarily assumed?

46.       Explain Palmer’s idea that shared attitudes can lead to group responsibility. How might one be responsible for harm done by others in one’s group?

47.       Does Palmer think we have duties of assistance to a child who fell into a puddle and is drowning at our feet even though we are unrelated to that child and have no causal responsibility for its fate?

48.       *What does Palmer say about domestication and pet ownership? Does she think that domestication is a relation we should not create? What are some of the reasons she considers for this claim? What are your views on this subject?

49.       *Consider a mouse genetically engineer to develop breast cancer. Discuss whether or not it has been harmed. What might Palmer say? What do you think about the development of such a mouse (viz, the “oncomouse”).

50.       *Does Palmer think animal suffering is of moral importance? Explain.

51.       *Palmer claims the implications of Regan’s negative rights view on duties to assistance depends on whether or not moral agency is involved. Explain how this argument goes.

52.       *What is the “replacement argument?” Explain how it might be used against a utilitarian argument against killing.

53.       *Discuss Palmer’s ideas about whether or not painless killing of animals is wrong. Discuss both the desire argument and the lost future argument.

54.       Does Palmer think that a person who encounters a suffering wild animal, feels compassion for it and assists it is violating a duty not to assist? Does she think this person is virtuous?