Jamieson (pp. 116-20) on Regan’s Rights Theory


1.       Regan criticizes utilitarianism

          a.       Treats individuals as means rather than ends

          b.       Individuals only valuable in so far as contribute to making world a better place

          c.       Individuals as receptacles of value

                    i.        Not valuable in themselves

          d.       Singer’s equal consideration of interests principle takes interests as morally significant, not the individual whose interests they are

2.       For Regan it is the individuals who are valuable

          a.       Individuals have value independently of their experiences and value to others

          b.       They have inherent value

          c.       Sanctity of such lives

3.       Inherent value does not come in degrees–all who have it have it equally

4.       *Regan rejects perfectionist views

          a.       Creature’s value varies to the extent it exemplifies some favored quality (perfections)

          b.       Those with “imperfections” (e.g, disabilities of some sorts), have less inherent value

                    i.        And can be sacrificed for those with more inherent value

          c.       This is a morally pernicious view

5.       Worry: Is perfectionism so clearly wrong-headed?

          a.       Beauty a perfection; those with greater aesthetic value matter more?

                    i.        Save a beautiful species before an ugly one?

          b.       Who should one run over?

                    i.        Quadriplegic or full bodied person? A mentally retarded child or a mentally advanced one?

          c.       Even Regan makes discriminations in treatment based on characteristics

                    i.        Non-subjects of a life, get excluded from moral arena

                    ii.       Dog’s life worth less than humans life, because dog’s death involves less forgone opportunities

6.       Who has inherent value?

          a.       Subjects of a life (p. 117)

          b.       Beings who can have beliefs, desires and experienced well being

                    i.        Not all living things are subjects of a life (most are not!)

          c.       All mammals over the age of one

          d.       Humans and non-humans have inherent value equally

                    i.        Says Jamieson of Regan’s views “Just as wrong to kill a cow as a human”

                    ii.       But see below on why death harms humans more than it harms animals.....

7.       Subjects of life have basic moral rights, e.g., right to life, to liberty, to freedom from torture

8.       **Harm principle:

          a.       Must not harm creatures with inherent value

9.       Jamieson’s critique of Regan’s views about duties of assistance

          a.       Regan argues one must come to the defense animals when threatened (by moral agents)–when their rights are being threatened

          b.       This avoids the problem of rescuing wild animals from predators or other natural harms (“policing nature problem”)

          c.       For Regan, there is no duty to assist if harm caused by something other than moral agent–for then it is not a rights violation

          d.       But Jamieson points out this is not consistent with the related human right to assistance

                    i.        Humans have right to be rescued from harm caused by things other than moral agents (avalanches, tree falling, grizzly bear)

          e.       Thus humans have stronger rights than animals in this regard

10.     Rights not absolute and can be overridden

          a.       E.g., duty to not harm can be overridden

                    i.        Guilty may be punished

                    ii.       Innocent (child, lion) may be harmed in self-defense

11.     **Death of a dog not as great a harm as death of a typical human

          a.       Because ‘the magnitude of harm that death is--is a function of the number and variety of opportunities for satisfaction it forecloses for the given individual”

          b.       Is Regan giving up on claim of “equal inherent worth of a humans and nonhuman subjects of a life?”

          c.       Especially, given Regan’s “worse-off principle” which says can harm the many to save the few if the few have more at stake (will be made worse off)

                    i.        e.g., Throw hundreds of dogs off a life boat before throw off one human

Study Questions on Jamieson on Regan’s Rights View

1.         What is “perfectionism.” What is to be said in favor of it? What is to be said against it?

2.         How does Regan’s view about the obligation to help humans in trouble differ from his view about our obligations to help animals in trouble?

3.         Does Regan think the death of a dog and a human are equally harmful? Why or why not?