Palmer, Chap 5

Developing a New Relational Approach




3.      One & Two: All suffering (including wild animal suffering) generates duties to assist, but these are always outweighed by other moral concerns about the consequences of assistance

         a.      Reason to not assist is because it would

                   i.       One: Cause more harm/suffering

                   ii.      If true, this would only support a contingent LFI

                   iii.     In those cases where we could prevent more suffering, we would have duty to assist

                   iv.     That in some cases wild animals experiential well-being over time is enhanced by not assisting, does not show this is true as a general principle--for it often is not true

                   v.      Contrasting cases:

                            (1)    Feeding hungry bear will lead over time to disaster for the bear (gets used to human food)

                            (2)    Vaccinating infected mountain sheep (from disease that kills 75%) benefits each individual sheep over time

         b.      or Reason to not assist is because it would

                   i.       Two: Interfere with the wildness of nature (see below)

4.      Three: Not assisting wild animals is best for them given their wild-animal natures

5.      Four: We do not have the kind of relationships to wild animals that generate duties to assist

         a.      Palmer’s favored position; rejects others

         b.      Palmer believes that, in contrast to wild animals, our relationships with domesticated animals and animals in contact zone are such as to generate duties of assistance



7.      Jen Everett’s view

         a.      If humans regularly assisted wild deer “it is questionable whether they could flourish according to their natures”

                   i.       In contrast, assisting domesticated animals is consistent with them flourishing according to their natures

         b.      **Palmer says argument might make sense for deer as a species, but not for individual deer

8.      Deer can’t subjectively desire to remain wild and be left alone

         a.      Unlike the human case were a person might desire to be left alone and not interfered with, even if this leads to shorter, less healthy life (because the person wants climb dangerous mountains)

         b.      Not plausible deer could desire to be wild and left alone (when interference would lead to it having a longer, healthier life)

                   i.       Too sophisticated a mental state for deer

                   ii.      They will typically take food when starving and if protect them from predator will take opportunity to escape

                            (1)    Is medical treatment an exception? They will resist it, but this does not mean they have a desire to remain sick rather than have humans improve their health

         c.      Not plausible that in terms of an animal’s subjective experience that it fails to flourish because human interference frustrates their desires for wildness or noninterference


9.      Palmer considers (and rejects) that maybe

10.    Is wildness (being left alone, not being assisted) part of an objective feature of wild animal flourishing?

         a.      Not about how it feels to an animal from the inside (not subjective experience)

         b.      Wildness is a kind of capability (like running or howling) that is good for animal to manifest

                   i.       Not being interfered with by humans (a lack of a certain relation) is important for the flourishing of that animal

                   ii.      And this is separate from any other of its capabilities

         c.      Palmer thinks it strange to think of this as a capability

                   i.       While an animal might require relationship with its parents to flourish

                   ii.      Here claiming an animal requires non-relations with humans to flourish

         d.      Non-assistance allows an animal to manifest its objective natural capabilities w/o being inhibited by human activity      

                   i.       But (says Palmer) in cases where they need assistance (or die), this does not seem plausible

11.    Is being left alone objectively good for wild animal autonomy?

         a.      Parent/child analogy

                   i.       Leaving wild animals alone is like wise parents who after the time of maturity let their children live their own lives

                            (1)    But parents should assist in life/death situations, and LFI says should not do this

         b.      Palmer claims wild animals not capable of autonomy in conceptual, rational decision making sense

                   i.       So could not be an objective good for them

         c.      Is being self-governing, a value in the animal’s life

                   i.       Even if it is an objective good, would it outweigh the other objective goods, specifically life/health?


12.    Two: Value of wildness of nature in general trumps animal goods

         a.      Nature’s wild value would be compromised by human interference to assist wild animals

         b.      And this value trumps the goods of the animals that would be lost by non-interference

         c.      E.g., wildness of nature more important than lives of animals we could save

         d.      Way to justify Strong LFI (don’t harm and don’t assist)

         e.      Palmer thinks this is a hard argument to make



14.    Palmer’s libertarian move:

         a.      Duties to assist only arise by agreements or special relations

                   i.       While duties not to harm exist independently of such agreements

         b.      Supports LFI:

                   i.       No duties to assist wild animals as no special relations with them;

                   ii.      Duties to assist domesticated animals as special relations with them



         a.      Wildness might be thought of as distance (bodily distance from human interaction, location distance from humans)

16.    Many argue that distance morally irrelevant

         a.      Singer: Just as should rescue child drowning at our feet, so should assist distant starving child

         b.      Crazy idea that we could morally discount the importance of the effects of our actions the father away they are (“n percentage per yard”)

17.    Palmer: Not plausible that bare spacial distance is morally important

18.    Senses of “distance

         a.      Spacial distance

         b.      Emotional distance

         c.      Distance in a cultural, community, or nation sense (beyond a boundary) (do not share common institutions)

                   i.       Those who have not contributed to the group

                   ii.      Who fail to share some characteristic thought to be central with other members of group

                   iii.     View of immigrants in this country?

         d.      Those to whom it is more costly to help

         e.      Independence of individuals/groups from each other

                   i.       Lack of causal entanglements

                   ii.      Leads to lack of moral responsibilities

                   iii.     Greater contact, influence, greater moral responsibility

19.    Note that wild animals are (typically) distant in all these senses!

20.    Palmer: Wild animals are distant in morally relevant ways and domesticated animals are close in morally relevant ways




22.    Starving Venusians example: Weaker claim than hungry humans

         a.      Do we have duties to assist Venusians (community of hungry people on Venus)?

         b.      Distant in above senses; no one on earth has any causal responsibility for their plight

         c.      Singer’s view: Suffering Venusians should be taken equally into account with suffering Earthlings

         d.      Not equal duty view: Many argue that while seriously wrong to land there and torture/eat them/destroy their crops, if any duties to assist, they are very much weaker than duties to assist comparably hungry people on earth

23.    Robin Crusoes example: No injustice that would ground duty to assist

         a.      Different island, different resources, different abilities and desires to work, so have different levels of well being,

         b.      Lived totally independent of each other

         c.      Is there a duty of better off Crusoes to assist worse-off ones?

         d.      Nozick: No

                   i.       No question of justice raised by differential in each’s holdings

                   ii.      No one can make a claim of justice against others

                   iii.     Might one make a claim based on fairness?


24.    Some bad things represent injustice and some do not

         a.      Can say there is something unjust about access to health care or re-distributional effects of taxation

         b.      Not unjust if rained on picnic or baby born with cleft palate

                   i.       Fall out of realm of human intention and moral responsibility

         c.      Similarly if wild animals are hungry or suffering or being preyed upon, nothing unjust about that state of affairs

                   i.       One argument for claiming duty of assistance is if find themselves in a bad situation due to an injustice


25.    Thomas Pogge-main defender of assistance to distant poor–accepts libertarian idea that causing poverty (harming) is very different from failing to reduce it (failing to assist)

         a.      And rights and justice only ground negative duties; not duties to assist

26.    Pogge argues that we have duties to assist impoverished people in world today because we have (in part) caused their poverty (or are at least entangled with it)

                   i.       We’ve failed in negative duties not to harm

         b.      Poor on earth (unlike Venutians, or wild animals) are the victims of injustice

                   i.       Due to

                            (1)    Effects of shared institutions; better off shape institutions that benefit them

                            (2)    Uncompensated exclusion from use of natural resources

                            (3)    Effects of a common and violent history; well off benefit from violent history that gives them good start in life while depriving others

         c.      Wealth of affluent not achieved independently of relations to poor/suffering


27.    Palmer argues that duties of assistance to animals must be generated by some relationship

         a.      Human/animal entanglements

         b.      Shared institutional frameworks

         c.      Responsibility for harms to animals

         d.      Responsible for generation of particular vulnerabilities

         e.      Entrenched deprivation

         f.       History of domination

         g.      Shared oppressive institutions

28.    We are so related to domesticated, but not to, wild animals

29.    Wild animals outside realm of human contact are outside realm of justice

         a.      They are ‘other nations’ in Regan’s language

         b.      No duty to assist them as their situation reflects no injustice and no moral agents were involved in bringing it about

         c.      Assumption: Only ways duties of assistance can be generated is due to an injustice (or entanglements)?

30.    Problems Palmer will address later (ch 7)

         a.      No duty do help needy humans, if need not due to an injustice?

                   i.       No duty to rescue drowning child at one’s feet (as not due to injustice?) (but is a duty to help starving child on other side of world as starvation due to human economic policies?)


31.    These considerations support no-contact LFI

         a.      Not strong LFI (for none of these arguments say impermissible to help those in need when not victims of injustice)

         b.      Nor weak LFI (for wild animals in contact zone have been made vulnerable by humans or had their negative rights violated)



33.    How humans are responsible for domesticated animals

         a.      For actual situation they find themselves in, often involving close confined spaces prevent them from find food, mates for themselves

         b.      For important aspects of their natures, including inability to be self-sufficient

         c.      For their very existence

34.    We have made domesticated animals supremely vulnerable and almost wholly dependent on people

         a.      Their dependence is permanent, enduring and lifelong (unlike humans who are dependent as infants and aged )

35.    External and internal dependence of domesticated animals

36.    External

         a.      Captive wild animals could fend for themselves in wild but can’t in confinement and circumstantially dependant on humans for food and shelter

         b.      Some domesticated animals might be able to fend for themselves in wild, but lack access to such environments and so are dependent on humans

         c.      We have responsibilities to provide care because we have denied animal access to other possible options for survival

37.    Internal

         a.      Domesticated animals deliberately shaped by humans

                   i.       Bodily form, fur, hair, susceptibility to disease, reproductive capacity, temperament

         b.      Need us to survive and flourish

                   i.       W/o us to care for them many would die and even those survive in feral state would not flourish

         c.      Often, there is no wild environment in which they could be self-sufficient

         d.      Examples

                   i.       Cows only give birth via C-section

                   ii.      Cats bred w/o fir/claws

                   iii.     Lab mice genetically bred for cancer

                   iv.     Domesticated horses released into wild often attacked by wild horses and fail to grow sufficiently thick winter coat to protect themselves; not likely live long in wild


38.    Bottom line:

         a.      When humans deliberately create morally considerable, sentient animals who have no other ways to fulfill their needs and constitutively profoundly dependent on and permanently vulnerable to humans

         b.      Humans create special obligations toward them


39.    Parallel between humans creating vulnerable and dependent animals and choosing to have a child

         a.      Have an obligation to take care of the child, not simply (or mainly?) because vulnerable but because it is your child

         b.      Because you created it you have obligations to take care of it

         c.      Parent who creates a child but denies he has any duties to assist it is much worse than other people refusing to help the child

40.    Deep involvement in creation of very nature and capacities of sentient being creates intensified moral responsibilities for its welfare


41.    Problem of how humans in general get these responsibilities toward domesticated animals

         a.      We did not voluntarily assume them

         b.      They are group responsibilities and the responsibilities are diffuse and smeared over time and space

42.    Are vegetarians not (or less) responsible for the care of food animals than meat eaters are?

         a.      Give Palmer’s argument here?


43.    Questions on Palmer, Chap 5 Developing a New Relational Approach

1.         What is a contingent LFI and does Palmer accept it? Why or not?

2.         What are the four reasons for there not being a duty to assist wild animals that Palmer considers? Which does she accept?

3.         What are Palmer’s views about the claim that not assisting wild animals is best for them given their nature as wild animals?

4.         Do deer want us to leave them alone when they are starving or sick? Do deer desire to be wild?

5.         Is being left alone objectively good for wild animal autonomy somewhat like it is good when grown children are left alone by their parents to determine own lives?

6.         Explain the argument that the value of leaving nature wild trumps the value of animal good that would be lost without assistance.

7.         Explain how Palmer thinks duties of assistance can arise and how this is different from origin of duty not to harm.

8.         Do you or Palmer think spacial distance is morally important in terms of degree of responsibility? What other senses of distance (besides spacial distance) does Palmer consider?

9.         Explain Palmer’s Venusians and Robin Crusoes examples. What point is she trying to support with these examples.

10.       Give examples of bad things that are and are not injustices and explain why.

11.       What is Thomas Pogge’s view about whether or not we have an obligation to assist impoverished people’s around the world? Is it because he rejects the moral relevance of the difference between causing harm and failing to assist to prevent harm.

12.       What kinds of relationships with animals does Palmer think generate duties of assistance to them? Do these relationships apply to domestic and/or wild animals?

13.       Why does Palmer worry about the example of child drowning at one’s feet?

14.       Explain in some detail Palmer’s claim that domesticated animals are close in morally relevant ways. As forcefully as you can, explain why she thinks we have duties to assist them (special obligations towards them).

15.       Explain the analogy Palmer makes between the responsibilities of parents toward their children and humans toward animals.

16. Why might vegetarians have less of an obligation to take care of food animals than do meat eaters?