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Environmental Ethics

Volume 43, Issue 4, Winter 2021

Jean-Paul VesselOrcid-ID
Pages 355-377

Desert-Adjusted Utilitarianism, People, and Animals

Recent decades have witnessed a surge in philosophical attention to the moral standing of non-human animals. Kantians, Neo-Kantians, utilitarians, and radical animal rights theorists have staked their claims in the literature. Here Fred Feldman’s desert-adjusted utilitarianism is introduced into the fray. After canvassing the prominent competitors in the dialectic, a conception of an overall moral ranking (relative to a moral choice scenario) consonant with desert-adjusted utilitarianism is developed. Then the conception’s implications regarding the particular locations of individual people and animals in such rankings across various scenarios is explored. Ultimately, it is argued that when it comes to evaluating whether or not some benefit (or burden) morally ought to be bestowed upon some specific person or animal, this new conception of an overall moral ranking is sensitive to a wider range of morally relevant phenomena than its more prominent competitors.