Palmer, Ch 2

Capacity Oriented Accounts of Animal Ethics


1.      Main idea

         a.      Capacity oriented approaches to animal ethics are problematic or incomplete especially when thinking about assisting animals

                   i.       She evaluates three: Utilitarianism, rights approaches, and the capabilities approach)

         b.      Need context-sensitive, relation-based moral responsibilities, in particular, ones that depend on the relation of the particular animal to humans (and the related idea of whether they are wild or domesticated animals) and not just a focus on capacities



         a.      These features are problems for utilitarianism on Palmer’s view

3.      Definition of utilitarianism: Right acts ones whose consequence maximize overall interest-satisfaction (e.g., happiness) of sentient beings

4.      Distinction of wild and domestic is of no moral relevance (like species)

         a.      Since domesticated house cat and wild bobcat both can suffer and have preferences

         b.      They call on our moral attention in similar ways

                   i.       Their capacities and interests alone are morally important

         c.      Their preference and interests might be different, so I will treat them differently

         d.      But get same amount of moral concern, both in terms of harm and assistance

5.      Utilitarianism not backward looking

         a.      As it is consequentialist, only consequences matter (and consequences are always in the future)

         b.      Source/cause of the pain or whose preferences are being fulfilled is not directly relevant

                   i.       Origin of the suffering not relevant (nature or humans)

                   ii.      Wild animal pain and domestic animal pain equally bad

         c.      Only question is “how best to relieve suffering”

         d.      No types of suffering more or less important

         e.      “In judging an act there is no need to know who is doing what to whom so long as the impact of these actions, direct and indirect, on the impersonal sum of utilities is known”

6.      Utilitarianism can’t account for reparations

         a.      Reparative justice: Owing people or animals something for past wrongs as a matter of justice

         b.      Palmer thinks there are reasons for assisting particular animals based on our treatment of them in the past

                   i.       A special relationship to a particular animal in a specific context

                   ii.      E.g., we took over their habitat and so now they are starving–we owe something to them (and not because or simply because it will produce good results–as utilitarianism would claim)

7.      Utilitarianism undermines the wild

         a.      Implications of utilitarian animal ethic:

                   i.       Replacement of wild with less pain filled environment

         b.      Utilitarianism should be

                   i.       Against wilderness preservation

                   ii.      Animals do better with benevolent human care and management

                   iii.     Predators/carnivores could be eradicated, prey kept in check by sterilization

                   iv.     New species of small tranquil herbivorous animals bred in large numbers, replacing the current predator-prey system

                   v.      Feed animals in the winter

                   vi.     Treat wild animal disease

                   vii.    Do you agree all these are problematic?

                   viii.   Are the last two less problematic?

8.      Singer’s claim we have no right to interfere and play Big Brother doesn’t seem supported by utilitarianism

         a.      Given how horrible he thinks animal suffering is, not at all clear why we should not put considerable resources to prevent animal suffering

9.      Practical problems of relieving suffering in wild

         a.      To focus on these--as real as they are--is to avoid the issue of whether we should relieve this suffering if we could

                   i.       Is it ethically problematic in principle?

         b.      Further, in some cases it is clear we could relieve suffering (Wildebeest example)

         c.      Our increased technological skill in managing nature (vaccination, radio tracking, wildlife contraception and sterilization) make it increasingly likely we can manage wild animal welfare with reasonably predictable results

10.    Utilitarian views here conflict with Palmer’s LFI, according to which

         a.      Humans should relieve suffering of individual domesticated animals

         b.      No such responsibilities to wild animals; they should be left alone

         c.      Not the view that ethical obligations to assist wild animals are outweighed by other priorities

                   i.       Such responsibilities are just not there at all

         d.      What goes on in wild is not our moral business

11.    An alternative to Palmer’s position would be to claim that there are two legitimate value intuitions that conflict

         a.      (1) LFI, based on the value of autonomy for animals, value of wild nature un-interfered with by humans

         b.      (2) Concern for (and responsibilities to) animals who suffer in the wild

         c.      Palmer seems to reject 2 as legitimate concern



13.    Definition of rights theory: Moral action (right acts) respect individual rights

14.    Regan on harm of death a deprivation (a taking something away)

         a.      Animals have both preference (desires) and welfare interests (good of own)

         b.      Can be harmed by infliction or deprivation

         c.      Need not be aware of a deprivation to have been deprived

         d.      Death harms by deprivation

         e.      Even if animal not aware what it is missing and not been pained, they may still be harmed

         f.       This seems to conflict with Palmer’s experiential account of well being

15.    Regan’s animal rights theory

         a.      Animals that are subjects of a life have inherent value that is non-experiential

         b.      Basis of their claim to non-acquired rights

         c.      Rights do not arise by voluntary acts or one’s place in an institutional arrangement

         d.      Moral agents have duties not to harm those with inherent value/rights but also to come to the defense of those who have inherent value when they are threatened by other moral agents


16.    Regan on positive/negative rights and duties to assist

17.    Definitions of positive/negative rights

         a.      A has negative right to p means that B must not intentionally make if the case that not p

         b.      A has a positive right that p means B must help, to some relevant degree, to bring it about that p

18.    Three relevant duties (using right to liberty/life as an example)

         a.      Positive rights (positive duties)

                   i.       Duty to bring it about that someone gains or maintains liberty (release from ropes)

                   ii.      Duty to aid by providing what is needed for life

         b.      Negative rights (negative duties and positive duties)

                   i.       Duty to avoid (intentionally) taking away (infringing) on someone’s liberty (tying someone up)

                   ii.      Duty to not take away someone’s life (or prevent them from access to means of living)

                   iii.     Duty to protect others’ negative rights (Ned would prefer calling this a type of positive right entailing positive duties)

                            (1)    Positive duty to prevent others from tying someone up

                                      (a)     Duty to protect others against those who would deprive him of life or means to life

                   iv.     Possible position: only duties we have are negative to avoid infringing someone’s rights

                            (1)    No positive duties to assist in the protection of negative rights

19.    If animals have positive rights, goes against LFI and involves great interference in the wild

         a.      E.g., Protect animals from being killed by harsh weather, provide them with food if not enough available


20.    Regan’s view animals have only negative rights including duties to assist them from having rights violated (and this can only be done by a moral agent) and this avoids problem of massive intervention in wild

         a.      We should not harm animals (including wild ones) (negative duty)

         b.      We should assist them to prevent others from violating their rights

         c.      Since only moral agents can violate rights

                   i.       A human hunter violates deer’s rights

                   ii.      A wolf (as not a moral agent) is not violating any rights

         d.      This does not commit us to preventing wolf from killing the deer, or to feeding the deer when nature takes away its food

         e.      “Require to assist a victim of injustice, but not these who are not victims of injustice”


21.    Regan’s view does not seem plausible in case of humans (or domesticated animals)

22.    Hungry child example

         a.      If child hungry because hurricane destroyed home, right to respectful treatment does not entail assistance

                   i.       For hurricane not a moral agent

         b.      If child hungry due to mean landlord that made it impossible for parents to earn enough money to buy food, right to respectful treatment would entail assistance

                   i.       Prevent landlord from infringing child’s rights

                   ii.      Or consider less controversial case where person is stealing food from child

         c.      Or what if one’s cat is about to be harmed by a wolf; not duty to prevent it?

23.    Jamieson’s boulder rolling example

         a.      Person sees falling boulder will kill a man below and can warn him at little cost

         b.      Assume boulder is

                   i.       Intentionally pushed by woman

                   ii.      Accidentally loosened by woman

                   iii.     Rock loosened by hunting wolf

                   iv.     Natural rock fall

         c.      Regan’s view entails only i. (and perhaps ii.???) involves duty to assist

                   i.       Not duty of justice to warn in case of wolf/natural fall as not moral agents and no rights infringed

                   ii.      This is not plausible:

24.    Tsunami counter example to Regan

         a.      No duty to set off a tsunami alarm to alert thousands of costal settlements about imminent innundation since it threatens no one’s rights

25.    How Regan’s view differs from LFI

         a.      Regan: No duty to assist anyone (human/animal) where threat is from something other than moral agent

         b.      LFI differentiates situations where assistance is required and when not

                   i.       No duties to assist wild animals, may be duties to assist humans and domesticated animals even when threat is not from a moral agent



27.    Nussbaum’s capability approach to ethics

         a.      Core capabilities of humans and animals need to be realized/promoted up to a minimal threshold for dignity of that type of life

28.    Nussbaum’s view applied to animals

         a.      Animals can be harmed by being prevented from fulfilling core capabilities even if does not cause them suffering or if they are unaware of deprivation

                   i.       Harm of painless killing

         b.      Animals should be permitted to flourish and assisted in flourishing


29.    Nussbaum’s language suggesting we do have obligations to take care of wild animals (even when we are not responsible for their predicament)

         a.      Because our pervasive involvement in nature, we have affected even wild animals and thus are morally responsible for the situations they find themselves in

                   i.       Prior human action generates special obligations that otherwise would not exist.

         b.      Additionally, implausible to think no duties of material aid where animals are dying of disease or natural disaster

         c.      Such aid should “preserve and enhance autonomy; bad if all animals ended up in zoos dependent on human arrangements”

         d.      For animals, paternalism is usually appropriate

         e.      What happens to the victim is the key issue, not who does the bad thing

                   i.       Death of gazelle afer painful torture is just as bad for the gazelle whether inflicted by tiger or human

         f.       If painful predation can be prevented w/o causing worse harms it should be

         g.      If intervention can be carried out w/o worse consequences it should carried out

         h.      Rather than reintroducing predators where prey population is a problem, Nussbaum suggest sterilization is to be preferred

         i.       Sick wild animals should be aided

         j.       She’s not comfortable with wild animals habits of “humiliation of the weak

         k.      Nature is no model to follow; it never is going to provide all species with “cooperative and mutual supportive relations”

         l.       **So should be a gradual supplanting of natural by just

         m.     Nussbaum’s view unlike Regan’s view that what goes on between a lion and a gazelle is none of our moral business, however tortuous

30.    Nussbaum’s view is capacity oriented and requires assistance

         a.      Main idea of capabilities approach that the capabilities of all morally considerably beings should be fulfilled up to minimal threshold

                   i.       Applies whether human or animal

                   ii.      Among animals whether wild or domestic

         b.      Depends on what a being is like, rather than role of relations and context.

Questions of Palmer, Ch 2


1.         Explain the difference between a capacity oriented approach to animal ethics and Palmer’s context-sensitive, relational approach.

2.         What is the utilitarian account of right action? Does it consider the distinction between wild and domesticated animals morally relevant? Why or why not? Is it backward looking? Why or why not? Can it account for reparations? Why or why not?

3.         What does Palmer argue the utilitarian animal ethic involves when it comes to wild nature? Do you think she is right? Is this a problem for utilitarian animal ethics? Do the practical problems with relieving wild suffering get utilitarianism out of this problem?

4.         How does the LFI contrast with the utilitarian position on assistance to wild animals? Might one have both the LFI intuition and the utilitarian concern to relieve wild animal suffering?

5.         What is the rights account of moral action?

6.         According to Regan, how does death harm a being? Must this harm be experienced?

7.         Explain the importance of the notion of harm inflicted by moral agents to Regan’s view about when we are required to assist.

8.         Explain the difference between positive and negative rights and what sorts of duties they entail.

9.         How does the idea that animals have positive rights conflict with the LFI?

10.       Explain how Regan’s animal rights view avoids the problem of requiring massive intervention in the wild

11.       Use Jamieson’s boulder rolling examples (and Palmer’s tsunami example) to explain the problems with Regan’s view of duties to assist.

12.       How does Regan’s view differ from LFI on question of assistance?

13.       What is Nussbaum’s capabilities approach to ethics? How does it apply to animals?

14.       What implications does Nussbaum’s view have for the wild and assistance to animals in the wild?