Palmer, Chap 4:

Wildness, Domestication and the LFI


1.      Wildness

         a.      Extent not humanized

         b.      Degree (more or less)

         c.      Constitutive wildness (wild vs domesticated)

                   i.       Not selectively bred by humans or genetically altered by such things as hunting pressure

         d.      Location wildness: (Wild vs developed): Live in a place on which humans have had relatively little effect

                   i.       End of nature idea; global warming (supposedly) means all earth impacted by humans

         e.      Dispositional/behavioral wildness (Tame vs wild)

                   i.       Wild animals are those that are aggressive or fearful toward humans

         f.       Fully wild: Animals not domesticated and living in wild areas (1st and 2nd senses)


2.      Domestication

         a.      A typical definition:

                   i.       “Bred in captivity; in human community that maintains complete mastery over its breeding, organization of territory and food supply”

         b.      Palmer’s definition:

                   i.       Animals intentionally controlled by humans with respect to breeding, e.g., deliberate selective breeding, in relatively recent time frame

                   ii.      Not include gray squirrel (not domesticated animal) even though behaviorally tame, co-evolved alongside humans, and live successfully in human communities

                            (1)    For its breeding not selectively controlled and no deliberate human intervention

                   iii.     Not include zoo populations (even though become genetically isolated) as breeding not deliberately controlled by humans

                   iv.     What about managed deer populations?


3.      Domesticated animals characteristically

         a.      Have smaller body sizes than wild ancestors

         b.      Smaller cranial capacities

         c.      Smaller teeth

         d.      Characteristically neotonous = persistence of youthful characteristics into adulthood

         e.      Examples of characteristics shaped by humans

                   i.       Exaggerated or diminished fattiness, possession of horns, muscle, appearance of fur, large breast size in turkeys so unintended result can’t copulate normally


4.      Animals in contact zone

         a.      Neither fully wild nor fully domesticated

         b.      May be animals we most frequently encounter

         c.      Mutualism, commensalism, contramensalism

         d.      Exotics ( if “an exotic” is an animals introduced to a new ecosystem type by humans, then it is constitutively wild, but not location wild)

                   i.       Escaped parakeet

         e.      Feral (bred by humans, but not under human control)

                   i.       Cats living in the bushes



6.      LFI in general

         a.      We have obligations to assist/care for domesticated animals, no such obligations to animals in the wild

                   i.       But see no-contact LFI below where there can be duties to assist under certain circumstances (animals in contact zone)

         b.      All versions of LFI involve a prima facie (=possible to override) duty not to harm animals in any given context

                   i.       This duty is capacity oriented (not relational)


7.      Strong LFI: Neither harm nor assistance in the wild is permitted

8.      Weak LFI: Harm is not permitted, but assistance in wild (sometimes/always) permitted but not required

9.      No-Contact LFI: Harm not permitted, assistance is (sometimes/always) permitted but not required, but/except contact/entanglement with animals may generate special obligations to assist

         a.      Possibility includes case were we must assist in response to moral agents harming wild animals


10.    All forms of LFI deviate from capacity oriented approaches in terms of duties of assistance

         a.      While duties not to harm are capacity oriented

         b.      Duties of assistance are relational: depend on relation of animal to human



12.    LFI makes distinction between harming/not assisting

13.    Consequentialism (=right acts determined solely by the results/consequences) rejects this distinction

         a.      So LFI is non-consequentialist

14.    Consequentialist argument rejecting harming/not assisting distinction:

         a.      Why distinguish causing X amount of pain (harming) and allowing X amount of pain to continue (not assisting)–when one could relieve it?

                   i.       Button pain example

         b.      If permissible to allow X amount of pain when one could relieve it, then it is permissible to cause X amount of pain

         c.      What matter is what happens not who does what

         d.      Morally required to bring about best state of affairs (impersonally considered)

                   i.       LFI seems to reject this (nor required to alleviate wild animal suffering)


15.    Impersonal (agent neutral) vs agent-centered/relative distinction

         a.      Distinction between consequentialism and deontology (=right acts treat individuals with respect; morality is not about maximizing good consequences) parallels the distinction between agent neutral (impersonal perspective) and agent-centered/agent relative perspective

         b.      Consequentialism’s impersonal perspective

                   i.       Should kill one to save five

         c.      Deontology’s agent-centered perspective

                   i.       Should not kill one even to save five, even though this would bring about better outcome from impersonal perspective

                   ii.      For the agent is doing the harm/violation

                   iii.     Morally relevant that it is the particular agent (me) that acts

                   iv.     One is peculiarly responsible for what one does in a way not responsible for what one fails to prevent

                   v.      Fits with LFI


16.    Defense of distinction harming and not assisting

         a.      What happens isn’t only issue

17.    Harm: When we harm someone we deprive them of something they otherwise would have had

         a.      We impose on them

         b.      We take away some good they were already in possession of, good they had independently and unrelated to us

         c.      If we had done nothing, person would have been better off

18.    Assistance: makes someone better off (than if not acted)

         a.      Imposition on the agent rather than on the person being assisted

         b.      If do nothing, fail to aid, person remains in same situation they were in independently of and unrelated to us

         c.      In harming, we make situation worse

                   i.       In failing to aid, we just do not change it for the better

19.    If only look at happenings, situations look same; but if look at responsibility of the agent, situations look quite different


20.    Consequentialism entails negative responsibility

         a.      One is responsible not only for what one actually does but also for what one fails to prevent

         b.      Implies a hugely expanded scope of moral responsibility


21.    LFI assumes a distinction between harming and not assisting and claims no duties to assist unless some kind of special relationship holds

Questions on Palmer, Chap 4: Wildness, Domestication and the LFI


1.         Define wildness. Can something be more or less wild? Explain.

2.         Explain the difference between constitutive, location, and behavioral wildness. What does Palmer mean by “fully wild?”

3.         What is Palmer’s definition of domesticated animals? Explain whether on this definition squirrels, zoo animals, or managed deer populations are domesticated animals?

4.         What are some of the characteristics typical of domesticated animals? E.g., what does “neotonous” mean?                                       

5.         Are “animals in the contact zone” fully wild or neither domesticated?

6.         Explain the sorts of human/animal relationships involved in these: Mutualism, commensalism, contramensalism

7.         Explain the difference between exotic animals and feral animals.

8.         Explain the difference between the strong, weak, and no-contact LFI. What obligation to wild animals (and domesticated animals!) do they all agree upon?

9.         Using an example, explain the difference between harming and not assisting. Does the consequentialist approve or reject this distinction? Why? Does LFI approve or reject this distinction? Do you think this is a morally relevant distinction?

10.       Explain the difference between an impersonal, agent neutral perspective and an agent centered perspective. Use the example of killing one person to save 5 others. Which of these does consequentialism accept? Which does deontology and Palmer accept? Why?

11.       Explain what it means to say consequentialism entails negative responsibilities.