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Unformatted text preview: A Kantian Case for Animal Rights Christine M. Korsgaard 1. Persons and Things Most legal systems divide the world into persons and property, treating human beings as persons, and pretty much everything else, including non-human animals, as property. Persons are the subjects of both rights and obligations, including the right to own property, while objects of property, being by their very nature for the use of persons, have no rights at all. I will call this the “legal bifurcation.” We might look to Immanuel Kant’s moral and political philosophy to provide a philosophical vindication of the legal bifurcation, for reasons I will lay out in a moment. But in one way, that would be backwards, because Kant, in constructing the metaphysical categories that he used to talk about rights, was following the tradition of Roman law. 1 1 For an account of this, see John Ladd’s introduction to his translation of the first part of Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals , The Metaphysical Elements of Justice (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2 nd edition, 1999), pp. xxiiff. Since Kant believed that morality is grounded in practical reason, he supposed that the concepts of true morality would be found embodied, if imperfectly, in actual human intellectual and normative systems, and he vindicates his account of these concepts by showing how this is so. So for example in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (translated by George di Giovanni in the Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Kant seeks the true rational and moral core of such Christian concepts as grace, salvation, redemption and so on. In his political and legal philosophy, he does the same thing with the concepts of Roman law. A Kantian Case for Animal Rights Christine M. Korsgaard p. 2 Kant divides the moral world into persons and things (G 4:428). 2 A person is an end in herself, to be valued for her own sake, as an object of respect, and never to be used as a mere means to some other person’s ends. A thing is essentially an instrument, suitable to be used as a means to some person’s ends, which therefore has only a derivative value. As an end in himself, a person has an inner worth or dignity , while a thing, by contrast, has only a price (G 4:435). In his moral arguments about the treatment of non-human animals, Kant appeals to these distinctions, arguing that only rational beings or persons are ends in themselves, and so exiling the other animals to the category of mere things. Because they are not ends in 2 Personen and Sachen . Kant’s works are cited in the traditional way, by the volume and page number of the standard German edition , Kants Gesammelte Schriften (edited by the Royal Prussian (later German) Academy of Sciences (Berlin: George Reimer, later Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1900--)), which are found in the margins of most translations. The translations I have used are: C3 = Critique of Judgment , translated by Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, , translated by Werner S....
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This note was uploaded on 03/06/2012 for the course DEBA 101 taught by Professor Bob during the Spring '12 term at Colby-Sawyer.
- Spring '12