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Figdor, Carrie. The Psychological Speciesism of Humanism
2020, Philosophical Studies 178: 1545–1569
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Carrie Figdor
Abstract: Humanists argue for assigning the highest moral status to all humans over any non-humans directly or indirectly on the basis of uniquely superior human cognitive abilities. They may also claim that humanism is the strongest position from which to combat racism, sexism, and other forms of within-species discrimination. I argue that changing conceptual foundations in comparative research and discoveries of advanced cognition in many non-human species reveal humanism’s psychological speciesism and its similarity with common justifications of within-species discrimination.

Comment: This paper argues against the idea that human cognitive capacities justify higher moral status for humans over nonhuman animals. It also argues that this justification for human moral superiority is structurally the same as a common justification for the superiority (moral and otherwise) of some human groups over others (such as in sexism or racism).

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Galgut, Elisa. A Critique of the Cultural Defense of Animal Cruelty
2019, Journal of Animal Ethics 9 (2):184
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Anonymous
Abstract: I argue that cultural practices that harm animals are not morally defensible: Tradition cannot justify cruelty. My conclusion applies to all such practices, including ones that are long-standing, firmly entrenched, or held sacred by their practitioners. Following Mary Midgley, I argue that cultural practices are open to moral scrutiny, even from outsiders. Because animals have moral status, they may not be harmed without good reason. I argue that the importance of religious or cultural rituals to adherents does not count as a sufficiently good reason to harm or kill animals, since rituals are inherently symbolic, and cultures are able to adapt and change, making adherence to cruel traditions unnecessary.

Comment: This paper can be used in a class on animal ethics / rights. It argues that rituals involving harm or cruelty to animals are not justifiable. The paper can be used in a discussion on animal rights issues and multi-culturalism.

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Harman, Elizabeth. The potentiality problem
2003, Philosophical Studies 114 (1-2):173 - 198.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt
Abstract: Many people face a problem about potentiality: their moral beliefs appear to dictate inconsistent views about the signifcance of the potentiality to become a healthy adult. Briefy, the problem arises as follows. Consider the following two claims. First, both human babies and cats have moral status, but harms to babies matter more, morally, than similar harms to cats. Second, early human embryos lack moral status. It appears that the first claim can only be true if human babies have more moral status than cats. Among the properties that determine moral status, human babies have no properties other than their potentiality that could explain their having more moral status than cats. So human babies' potentiality to become adult persons must explain their having more moral status than cats. But then potentiality must raise moral status generally. So early human embryos must have some moral status. It appears that the view that must underlie the first claim implies that the second claim is false.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Purdy, Laura. Are Pregnant Women Fetal Containers?
1990, Bioethics 4(4): 273–291.
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Added by: Carl Fox
Content: Purdy offers a strong argument against overriding the decisions of pregnant women and tries to reconcile the significance of the dependence of the fetus on the mother with the mother's right to control her own body.

Comment: Very useful as introductory or further reading on reproductive rights and/or abortion.

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Steinbock, Bonnie. Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses
1994, Ethics 104 (2):408-410.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt
Abstract: This book provides a coherent framework for addressing bioethical issues in which the moral status of embryos and fetuses is relevant. It is based on the 'interest view,' which ascribes moral standing to beings with interests, and connects the possession of interests with the capacity for conscious awareness or sentience. The theoretical framework is applied to up-to-date ethical and legal topics, including abortion, prenatal torts, wrongful life, the crime of feticide, substance abuse by pregnant women, compulsory cesareans, assisted reproduction, and stem cell research. Along the way, difficult philosophical problems, such as identity and the nonidentity problem are thoroughly explored.

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Warren, Mary Anne. Moral status: obligations to persons and other living things
1997, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Publisher’s Note: Publisher's description: Mary Anne Warren investigates a theoretical question that is at the centre of practical and professional ethics: what are the criteria for having moral status? That is: what does it take to be an entity towards which people have moral considerations? Warren argues that no single property will do as a sole criterion, and puts forward seven basic principles which establish moral status. She then applies these principles to three controversial moral issues: voluntary euthanasia, abortion, and the status of non-human animals.

Comment: Particular chapters are useful in teaching on the applied ethics of abortion, euthanasia and obligations towards non-human animals.

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