Kant_and_Bentham - Our Duties Toward Animals Historical...

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Our Duties Toward Animals Historical Perspectives
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Descartes and the Early Enlightenment Rene Descartes, the “Father of Modern Philosophy,” thought that animals were like robots. Animals, on his view, could not feel pain—at least not in any real sense—because they do not have the mental capacities humans possess. Descartes practiced vivisection and found nothing to be morally wrong with it. (Vivisection is the performing of a surgical procedure on a living animal— sometimes done while the animal is “awake” and without pain relievers of any kind.)
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Descartes and Other Early Views Today, we know that animals are not mere automata. Animals feel pain in much the same way that we do. Accordingly, we have different ethical standards as regards the treatment of animals. We view certain methods of raising and slaughtering animals as cruel and needless. We also believe that animals must be treated humanely, and they cannot be used as research subjects under some conditions. Nonetheless, it is interesting to examine some historical views of the ethical
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Immanuel Kant Kant thought, like Descartes, that there was a legitimate moral difference between humans and animals. Humans have a rational nature—they are autonomous. This ability to set ends and control one’s actions is the defining characteristic of humanity, and it sets humans as ends in themselves. Animals, on the other hand, lack such an autonomous, rational nature.
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