Volume 45, Issue 3, Fall 2023
What We Owe to Animals
Recognizing Animals’ Negative Rights by Making Contractualism Inclusive
The author argues non-human, sentient animals have aggregation-trumping rights by explaining why and how they should be included in the scope of Kantian contractualism. He explains that the beings to whom we owe duties—who can be wronged by our treatment—are all those with the capacity for first-person, subjective experience; i.e., all sentient beings. To determine what duties we owe to such beings, we should reflect on the principles for the general regulation of behavior that could be hypothetically justified to their imaginary perfectly reasonable counterparts; i.e., even though animals actually cannot understand or reflect on the reasons we have for treating them in a particular way, burdening them unjustifiably is wrong to them. The author argues this inclusive contractualist theory can explain all the distinctive moral phenomena that T. M. Scanlon’s approach does and so is a more attractive contractualist moral theory.