Criticizes the common belief that we are entitled to exploit animals for our benefit because they are not as rational as people

Morals, Reason, and Animals

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S. F. Sapontzis

"Direct and highly readable.... Sapontzis tries to show that certain differences between humans and animals, including differences in reason, even if they have moral import, do not make the case against animals that many people think they do and do not underwrite many facets of our present treatment of animals."
R. G. Frey, Ethics

This book criticizes the common belief that we are entitled to exploit animals for our benefit because they are not as rational as people. After discussing the moral (in)significance of reason in general, the author proceeds to develop a clear, commonsensical conception of what "animal rights" is about and why everyday morality points toward the liberation of animals as the next logical step in Western moral progress. The book evaluates criticisms of animal rights that have appeared in recent philosophical literature and explains the consequences of animal liberation for our diet, science, and treatment of the environment.

The issue of animal rights has become of increasing philosophical and popular importance over the past decade. Morals. Reason, and Animals is the first extensive, second-generation contribution to this debate. Focusing exclusively on the fundamental philosophical issues, Sapontzis both undermines the arguments that have been raised against animal rights and constructs a rebuttal that avoids the pitfalls encountered by earlier defenses.



Read an excerpt from Part I (pdf).



"In my opinion only five authors have made a significant philosophical contribution to the endeavor of placing animals in ethical theory: Singer, Frey, Regan, Mary Midgley, and S. F. Sapontzis. [Morals, Reason, and Animals is] an excellent, underappreciated work."
David DeGrazia, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal

"Sapontzis presents a strong case for including animals in the moral community, and his work is an important and unique contribution to animal rights literature."
The Animals' Agenda

"Sapontzis advances a bold and provocative defense for the liberation of animals, arguing that the requirement of rationality—in its morally relevant sense—does not rule out the possibility of extending moral rights to animals.... The views articulated here are original and, at points, controversial...making this an important book. Moreover, the style is extremely clear and readable. Highly recommended."

"In this work, Sapontzis provides a philosophically sophisticated and far-ranging contribution to the current debate on animal liberation.... Given the wide range of arguments, authors, and topics discussed, [this] may be the most comprehensive work to date on animal liberation."

"This is an excellent contribution to the animal rights movement. The authorís clear, simple, readable, and often witty style makes the book quite accessible to anyone with serious interest in the field.... Morals, Reason, and Animals is a highly original, creative, and important book."
Bernard Rollin, Colorado State University

"This book offers a number of fresh perspectives and stimulating new arguments in a subject area that is dauntingly dense with articles and books [Sapontzis] has managed to present a broad variety of subtle philosophical issues in a clear and forceful manner...."
Thomas Benson, Academic Dean, St. Andrews Presbyterian College




Part I: The Moral (In)Significance of Reason

1. Why Should I Be Rational?
"Rationality" and Its Alternatives • The Methodological Counterattack • The Moral of the Story

2. Where Reason Enters In—and Where It Doesnít
Incidentally Good Actions • Ulterior Motives • Acting Out of Context • Moral Agents, Philosophers, and Judges • Summary and Conclusion

3. Being Rational and Acting Morally
What "Rational" Refers To • Can Only Rational Beings Be Moral Agents? • Acting for the Right Reason • Acting on Principle and Acting Morally • The Free, the Rational, and the Moral • Everyday Freedom • Pursuing Ideals vs. the Value of Virtue

4. People and Persons
Metaphysical vs. Moral Persons • The Humanist Principle • The Logico-linguistic Defense of Humanism • The Phenomenological Defense of Humanism • The Transcendental Defense of Humanism • The Consequential Defense of Humanism • Conclusion

Part II: "Animal Rights"?

5. What Liberating Animals Is and Isnít About
The Moral Sense of "Animal" • Applying the Rhetoric of Liberation to Animals • Applying the Concept of Equality to Animals • Applying the Rhetoric of Rights to Animals • Is Animal Liberation an Affront to Human Liberation? • Summary

6. Three Reasons for Liberating Animals
Liberating Animals and Developing Moral Character • Liberating Animals and Making the World a Happier Place • Liberating Animals and Being Fair • Conclusion

Part III: Answering Some Objections to Liberating Animals

7. Can Animals Have Interests?
Language and Interests • "Having an Interest" • Language and Desire • Language and Belief • The Psychological (In)Significance of Grammar • Language and Truth • Language and Self-Consciousness • Conclusion • Reason and the Moral Significance of Interests • Being Rational and Having Interests • Having Interests and Moral Standing

8. Moral Community and Animal Rights
The Reciprocity Requirement • The Agency Requirement • The Relations Requirement • The Humanist Requirement • Conclusion

9. The Misfortune of Death
Why (Supposedly) Only Rational Beings Can Have a Right to Life • Having vs. Taking an Interest in Life • Having Interests and Having Rights • Having an Interest in Life and the Right to Life • Suffering a Loss and the Awareness of Loss • Summary and Conclusion

10. The Replacement Argument
The (In)Significance of the Replacement Argument • Six Ways of Evaluating Moral Standing • Describing the Six Ways • Six Evaluations of the Replacement Argument • Total Population vs. Prior Existence Utilitarianism • Prior Existence Utilitarianism and Obligations to Future Generations • Summary

Part IV: A Few Consequences

11. Vegetarianism
The Simple Answer • Exploiting, Slaughtering, and Harvesting • Exploiting, Killing, and Scavenging • Starvation

12. Whither Animal Research?
Can Animals Consent to Researchí? • Should Research Be Done Only with Those Who Consent? • Are Humans a Superior Form of Life? • Should Superiors Exploit Their Inferiors? • Summary and Conclusion

13. Saving the Rabbit from the Fox
The Variety of Absurdity • Ought Implies Can • "Avoidable" Suffering • Conclusion

14. Plants and Things
Environmental Ethics and Inherent Value • Environmental Crisis and the (Supposed) Necessity of Inherent Value • The Variety of Goodness and the (Supposed) Necessity of Inherent Value • Conclusion • Environmental Ethics and Ecological Holism • The Biotic "Community" vs. Animal Liberation • The Arbitrariness of Total Holism • Environmental Ethics vs. Personal Preferences • Morality and the Affirmation of Life • Summary • The Good of Nonsentient Things • The Environmental Ethics of Animal Liberation



About the Author(s)

S. F. Sapontzis is Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Hayward.

Subject Categories

Philosophy and Ethics
Animals and Society



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