Argument against extension of ethical consideration to non-human animals Essay
In Tom Regan’s essay The Case for Animal Rights, he argues that the root of the “wrong” is that we treat animals as “resources” in either advancing our intentions, prerogatives, basic instincts (such as hunger), and so on. He then proceeds by arguing for indirect duties which involve animals though not the type of duty directed towards animals themselves. The involvement of animals in human actions, labeled as either morally right or morally wrong, points to the claim that human beings have an indirect duty as well towards these animals. Two arguments are raised in opposition to indirect duties towards animals.
First, animals, in contrast to human beings who have the capacity to arrive at a given array of laws consciously made by them and seek to abide by the given set of rules, appear to have no sense of morality since morality “consists of a set of rules that individuals voluntarily agree to abide by. ” This is in line with contractarianism which primarily focuses on the human capability to secure for themselves and decide sets of standards for a “systematic” morality and firm moral norms. In this case, such presumption excludes the possibility of ever arriving at a morality towards animals for animals can hardly be a part of a moral system.
They do not have the capability to decide on crucial matters which are to define the very system that will ascribe moral worth on their actions and the exploits they receive from external agents (Regan, 1985). Nevertheless, Regan essentially argued for an intrinsic worth of animals in comparison to the intrinsic value of human beings, stressing on the argument that the actual wrong is that of treating animals as mere “renewable resources” which men use in furthering his ends and sustaining his life.
It can be observed in his arguments that he centers on the value of animals regardless of man’s utility of these animals as part of nature. Yet it appears quite dubitable if indeed we are to treat animals under moral circumstances for several reasons. First, man will find it hard to sustain his existence if a major overhaul is to be done with regards to his grasp on resources, specifically that of animals. Since the time when man first learned to utilize the resources available in nature, animals have played a crucial role in his rearing and continued survival.
Stretching back through those years, no sense of morality can be rooted for the reason that nature itself, as a whole, provides the essentials for man to go on with life and that morality on the part of animals is a mere social construct. Though it can be argued on the other hand that man’s morality may also be one socially construed fact, it does not, however, directly deny the instance that animals have no sense of morality and that their moral worth is nothing more than a perception of a few men.
Another argument that must be noted is that, in connection to the previous claim, animals can hardly be described as sentient beings. That is, even though animals display reactions indicative of pain or pleasure, such manifestation of feelings are mere human interpretations on the behavior of animals. This is the part where some of us fail to recognize the fact that more often than not our mere ascriptions of human feelings to the responses of animals, treating both as if they were in exact structure and essence, do not establish the perception that animals are sentient beings as well.
What it does is to simply ascribe human-like functions to that of animals while neglecting the basic fact that men have a far more complex consciousness than that of the other animals. Though it can be argued that man, too, are animals themselves as argued by the theory of evolution, nevertheless they have a wide array of distinctions (Calderwood, 2001). These differences fit the purpose of demarcating human consciousness from mere animal behavior such that the animal consciousness bear little semblance to that of the complexity of man’s consciousness.
Argument for the extension of ethical consideration to ecosystems Aldo Leopold, in his work The Land Ethic, argues that the ethical doctrines set upon by man in consonance to the treatment towards other people should be “extended” to land or, more specifically, to ecosystems. He argues further that, as ethical tenets are so designed so as to control the freedom of individuals which may inflict harm towards other individuals, the ethics of man ought to encompass ecosystems as well in order to prolong their sustainability just like the sustenance of man’s existence (Leopold, 1989).
In fact, the role of ecosystems is of primary significance for the very existence of man can be seen as dependent on nature, and that the abuse of the resources provided for by the natural environment poses a macabre threat to the life of humanity. The imminent consequences of the degradation of ecosystems are real and apparent. Note that throughout the decades of man’s continued industrial improvement whereby the expansion of modern facilities and trade infrastructures have literally displaced ecosystems and have extinguished as well various life forms.
Moreover, contemporary times bear witness to the unrelenting wipe-off of various flora and fauna adding even more to the imminent threat to the survival of humanity. It is for these reasons, above any other else, that an ethical doctrine should be established so as to not only remove the possibility of having a totally-diminished ecosystem and prolong its survival but also to sustain, as a direct consequence, the lives of all men.
One argument is proposed claiming that there ought to be principles which will proscribe certain acts of men towards ecosystems and which will simultaneously prescribe the ethically upright acts. The furthering of such an argument may very well lead to the accumulation of efforts in preserving what little ecosystem the world has left and what little more in the coming years unless several actions are brought under control (Delville, 1997).
One argument which can be raised against the claim for extending the ethical doctrines of man so as to include ecosystems is the contention that it is a difficult task, one which entails not only the method of redefining cultures which hold on to contrasting practices to that of what may be ethically prescribed but also the mode of arriving at a comprehensive law for such an extension of ethical norms.
Setting aside the latter claim which may be very well stand farfetched in the context of our discussion, most of man’s ethical tenets are strongly rooted on cultural grounds which have incessantly developed throughout generations making it difficult to change the cultural beliefs quite easily. Aside from the difficulty of surmounting such a feat, there is no clear method on how one can be able to arrive at such an attempt of extending sturdy ethical beliefs.
Nevertheless, the task itself is being called forth not only because there is a lack of limiting principles on the acts of man which may eventually lead to his own demise but also because there is a lack of protection for the ecosystem in terms of ethical principles. What society barely has are legal measures which do not essentially pin down the heart of the problem. Rather, the measures being proposed by the law are merely written methods that aim at proscribing human actuations in accordance to the laws of man.
What is needed is an ethical extension which will, indeed, guide the acts of humanity in dealing with nature and the various ecosystems which men have been utilizing for millions of years already. Argument for deep ecology One central claim for deep ecology is the belief that nature and man are interrelated with one another whereby every individual ought to transform himself which in turn leads to a collective change. This transformation at both the personal level and the communal degree is at the core of a movement which seeks to address the environmental issued besetting the entire population.
However, there are at least two primary concepts which might rise into conflict with one another—freedom and order. In order that an individual transformation to transpire, there should be at the very least a freedom operating on the basic activities of every man. That is, every individual should function without the apparent hindrances that limit his capabilities in making manifest his earnest desires to support global concerns.
Thus, with freedom, man becomes more flexible and more able of acting in accordance to the collective effort of sustaining the environment. On the other hand, a collective change is also of primary necessity since it serves not only as the sum of individual capabilities in addressing the ecological problems and providing viable solutions to it but also as the embodiment of the general agreement of the individuals. This general agreement is essential for the reason that it makes possible the unified efforts to arrive at consolidated methods.
However, it can be argued that there may eventually dwell the possibility that with freedom comes the unwanted effects. To a certain degree, giving individuals more and more freedom than perhaps what is necessary or in controlled dosages leads to the probability of abuse, of conferring upon the individual the imminent capacity to either misuse or abuse one’s freedom in relegating it to other aspects of life which may consequently bear a harsh effect on the vision being sought by the collective change among the sum of individuals.
Nevertheless, even if there remains the potential abuse of such freedom which may in turn restrain the collective transformation among the sum of individuals in providing a lending hand in tackling ecological concerns the sense of the collective efforts are far more outweigh its potential weaknesses and negative aspects.
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