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what criterion of moral status should we use for animals, and what implications does that have how how we should treat the humans who don’t meet the criteria?

October 11, 2021
Christopher R. Teeple

The issue of animal moral status is important in itself but it also is good as a way to raise questions about moral theories. It is clear that utilitarian approaches that focus on pleasure and pain as the source of what is morally important will tend to include animals in moral calculations since many if not all can experience pleasure and pain. It has tended to be true that Kantian approaches to morality that focus on the dignity of the individual, often deriving from their rationality, give non-humans far less moral worth, on the assumption that humans are far more rational than non-humans.
This raises questions about the value of humans who deviate from the normal — especially those who are less rational. That includes people with major brain damage, people with major dementia, and babies.
So here is the question: what criterion of moral status should we use for animals, and what implications does that have how how we should treat the humans who don’t meet the criteria? Is there a way to argue that humans are more valuable than non-humans without also implying that some humans are more valuable than other humans?
at least 400 words

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