Study Questions on Clare Palmer’s Animal Ethics in Context

Questions on Palmer Introduction and Ch 1: Animal Capacities and Moral Status

1.         Using concrete examples, explain the laissez-fair intuition (=LFI) that Palmer discusses and distinguish between various forms of it.

2.         What is the “same capacity, same treatment intuition” and does it conflict with LFI? Why or why not?

3.         Explain the difference between a capacity oriented approach to animal ethics and a relational approach. Which does Palmer embrace?

4.         Describe Palmer’s “No Contact LFI” (it has three components) and evaluate from your own perspective.

5.         *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

6.         How does Palmer draw the distinction between wild and domesticated animals?

7.         *Which animals does Palmer argue are morally considerable? Does she deny that other animals also are morally considerable?

8.         Distinguish between moral status and (1) indirect moral concern, (2) rights, (3) moral significance

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

10.       What is an “aversive state”? What are three examples of aversive states that Palmer thinks some animals have.

11.       How are goal directed behaviors different from reflexive, fixed patterned responses?

12.       What is an intentional state?

13.       Identify the limited set of animal capacities that Palmer argues for. What more might we attribute to animals that Palmer does not argue for (nor deny).

14.       What is the difference between Palmer’s subjective experiential account of well being and an objective account of animal well being?

15.       Why does Palmer think that the good of a being that does not experience that good is not morally relevant?

16.       What is a contractarian account of moral considerabililty? What are some different versions of this doctrine? What are some of the problems with contractarian accounts in terms of their views of animals and morality?

17.       According to Palmer, does potential to attain a (moral) status give one the rights that go with that status?

18.       Discuss Palmer’s account of “harm?” Is a tree falling on a deer a harm? Why or why not?

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?

Questions on Palmer, Ch 3: Capacities, Contexts and Relations

1.         Explain and give examples of how capacities can be indicate moral thresholds and interest markers. How are these different? Give examples of capacities whose exercise is not important for a beings flourishing.

2.         Explain and give examples of how animal capacities can be changes or created by humans.

3.         Explain how capacity-oriented views determine what obligations are owed to you and then explain how Palmer’s (relational, contextual) view differs.

4.         Identify the three types of relational approaches Palmer considers and indicate which one Palmer prefers.

5.         According to care ethics, what determines our obligations and their strength? How might care ethics support LFI?

6.         What reasons does Palmer give for rejecting the care ethics approach?

7.         Explain the “affective communitarian” approach of Callicott and Midgley. What does Palmer like about this approach and what not?

8.         Explain Rolston’s causal relations approach to how special obligations (e.g., to assistance) arise. How does it explain the LFI?

9.         Describe the idea of a domesticated-animal contract. How did it supposedly arise? What does the contract involve (what are the supposed benefits and cost for each party)? Who is and who is not part of the contact? Can the contract be broken? How does this idea explain and justify the LFI?

10.       What are some of Palmer’s objections to this idea? Why does she think it is fundamentally flawed?

11.       What is the difference between explicit and tacit consent? Could an animal give tacit consent? Could an animal give tacit consent to domestication?

12.       Explain the idea that this human/domesticated animal contract is a “hypothetical contract.”

13.       Do animals benefit from domestication? Distinguish between species and individuals in answering this question.

14.       What do you think of the idea that we treat animals morally as long as we treat them better (or less badly) than nature treats them?

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 domesticated or neither?

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.

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.

Questions on Palmer, Ch 6: Past Harms and Special Obligations

1.         What is a reparation? Who are the two groups that Palmer thinks might have a duty of reparation (to make good the injustice)? Why might it be hard to have the perpetrators fulfil the duty of reparation?

2.         Using an non-animal and then an animal example, explain how the beneficiaries of an injustice who did not perpetrate it might have obligations of reparation.

3.         Do reparations require that harm be intended or that reparations be understood by the recipient to be reparations of an injustice?

4.         What are the two reasons Palmer gives for thinking reparations to agricultural animals are not appropriate.

5.         Explain Palmer’s Coyote/subdivision case. Who does she suggest provide reparations and why? What activities does she think might be suitable reparations in this case? Does it include removing buildings? What problem does she see with this suggestion?

6.         Explain the dumpster kittens/dumpster rats example.

7.         How do the capacity approach, the negative rights view, Palmer’s view differ on the kittens/rats case?

8.         Explain why she thinks the plight of the kittens is the responsibility of a much broader group than the breeder who put them there. Do you agree?

9.         Explain the “voluntarist” view of special responsibilities like duty to assist. Distinguish between explicit consent versions, role voluntarism, acceptance of benefits voluntarism.

10.       Palmer gives some examples of people with special obligations that are not voluntarily assumed. What are they?

11.       Explain why Palmer thinks most humans have benefitted from the pet institution.  Do you think she is right? Do you think this gives us duties to assist the kittens in the dumpster?

12.       Explain how Palmer thinks a “shared attitudinal climate” can lead to a group’s responsibility for harm done by some of the groups members. Apply this argument to both a human and an animal case. Describe the “shared attitudinal climate” toward animals that she thinks encourages or tolerates institutional harm towards animals.

13.       Palmer thinks benefitting from an injustice –even when the benefits are non-excludable so that one can’t avoid receiving them–give one some obligation to assist the victims of that injustice. Although one is “saddled” with this obligation, what does she think one can do to exit from this obligation?

Questions on Palmer, Ch 7: Problems & Questions (Assistant to humans, domestication, painless killing)

1.         Clearly explain why Palmer has a problem explaining duties to assist “strange” humans who might be dying at our feet? Why might some argue that, according to Palmer, while we have a duty to save a starving child in Africa and to save our (or the neighbors) drowning dog, we have no duty to save an unrelated drowning child at our feet just as we have no duty to save a wild animal from a natural threat.

2.         How does Palmer respond to the objection in 1 above? Explain in what way Palmer thinks all humans are members in a common group that generates at least weak duties of assistance.

3.         Why might one think Palmer’s move above opens the door to justifications of racism, sexism, or speciesism? How might Palmer argue that it does not?

4.         Is domestication a relation we should not create? Why might one think domestication is problematic?

5.         Is domestication a harm to the individual animal? Does it necessarily cause physical harm? Does it cause humiliation and resentment at being dependent, vulnerable and subordinate? What does Palmer say?

6.         Is the creation of vulnerability and dependence necessarily a bad thing? What is an example of creating vulnerability and dependence that we almost universally think is desirable?

7.         What do you think about the morality of creating a “happy crate pig?” How can live a satisfied/happy life confined in a crate because we have bred out social desires and desires to move?

8.         Is it wrong to create beings with low level of psychological capacities? Consider shell fish.....

9.         Make the argument as strongly as you can that what is wrong with domestication is not the product created (e.g., a being with a diminished well-being or who is vulnerable and dependent), but the relationship that is created.

10.       What is domination? Are most agricultural and lab animals dominated by humans? Why might one argue that domination is a relation that should not be created? What sort of negative traits (vices) might it be argued that people who create relations of domination express or embody? (Consider, arrogance, hubris, lack of humility)

11.       Is it easy to kill something painlessly, according to Palmer?

12.       Why might Palmer’s idea that what matters is experiential well being have trouble with explaining why painless killing is problematic, especially given that one might be able to replace the lost experiential well being with a new being who has such well being.

13.       Evaluate the argument that painless killing is wrong because it frustrates a desire to go on living. What are the four senses of “desire to go on living” that Palmer considers? Which ones require self-awareness and a sophisticated mental life? Why? Evaluate whether or not (some) animals have such a sophisticated mental life.

14.       If the desire to live simply means one has future oriented desires--such as to “eat the bowl of food under one’s nose--why might that suggest painless killing of beings with only these types of desires is not a serious harm.

15.       Consider the argument that painless killing is wrong because it deprives a being of a valuable future it would have had. How might this be used to this justify euthanasia?

16.       Some have argued that this “depriving of a valuable future” argument explains why abortion is wrong. How does Palmer’s discussion of the importance of psychological continuity between the being killed and the being that would have had the valuable future weaken or undermine this argument?

17.       Consider a moment to moment being (that is, a being who has no stable character, no desires that lead into the future, no memories of the past but just lives totally in the moment). How might one argue that painless killing of such a being does not deprive it of a valuable future?

18.       How does this issue of self-identity over time relate to deciding if painless killing of an animal is bad (or how bad).

19.       Does the degree of value in the future of an individual also affect how wrong it is to painlessly kill him/her?

Questions on Palmer, Ch 8: Puzzling Through Some Cases, & Conclusion

1.         Does Palmer think we have obligations to assist polar bears due to climate change? Why or why not? What sort of assistance does she accept, if any? What sort of assistance does she not accept, if any.

2.         Does she think climate change shows that we owe all wild animals assistance? Why or why not?

3.         Contrast Palmer’s views (of the no-contact LFI) about what we should do in the case of a a naturally caused disease that is wiping out a herd of elk unless we kill some to create a buffer zone. How does her view differ from Regan’s view and the utilitarian view? Does Palmer’s view here change if the disease is anthropogenic (human caused/introduced)?

4.         What is Regan’s miniride principle? How is violating the rights of a few rather than violating the rights of the many different from violating the rights of the few in order to assist the many? Use the elk disease case October 18, 2012to explain this distinction.

5.         What does Palmer think about whether or not it is virtuous to assist a suffering wild animal that one immediately encounters? Why does she think this is different from a policy of assisting wild animals who are suffering.

6.         What is Palmer’s view about assistant to a squirrel who hurt himself by falling out of a tree versus a squirrel who was hit by a car?

7.         Describe the “Blue Tit, European Magpie, Cat” example and what Palmer says about the morality of assistance in this case.

8.         Explain what forms of speciesism Palmer claims would reject factor farming and explain why. What form of speciesism would be needed to justify factory farming?