An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory (The by Alasdair Cochrane

By Alasdair Cochrane

Established round the 5 most crucial faculties inside modern political conception: liberalism, utilitarianism, communitarianism, Marxism and feminism,this is the 1st introductory point textual content to supply an available review at the prestige of animals in modern political conception.

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34 This notion of a social contract was later used in very different ways by such thinkers as John Locke (1632–1704) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1788). While each of their theories is importantly different from Hobbes’s and from each other’s, the use of a contract to determine justice served to exclude animals in the same way. Contract theorists ask what individuals setting up a political community would agree to: what they would give up to that community, and in return for what. For Hobbes, as we have seen, individuals would choose to give up all of their natural freedoms in return for security.

This way of viewing animals is clearly evident in Singer’s writings about merely conscious animals like birds and fish, who he admits are ‘replaceable’, even if only in theory. Regan claims that this way of valuing individual animals is completely wrong. Regan argues that those animals who are ‘subjects-of-a-life’ – those entities with beliefs and desires, perception and memory, the ability to feel pain and pleasure, the ability to initiate action and so on – possess ‘inherent value’: a value which is not reducible to their contribution to utility.

To prioritise the interests of a particular race would be racist, to prioritise the interests of a particular Utilitarianism and Animals 33 gender would be sexist, and to prioritise the interests of a particular species would be speciesist. Of course, it is important to note that Singer’s claim is not that every sentient being should be treated equally; but rather, that every sentient being should be considered equally. Thus, for Singer it would not be wrong to deny pigs the vote, for obviously pigs have no interest in participating in a democratic society; but it would be wrong to disregard pigs’ interest in not suffering, for clearly pigs have a strong interest in avoiding pain, just like us.

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