Series Title: Fellow Creatures: The Moral and Legal Standing of Animals
How should we human beings treat the other animals? What do we owe to them, if anything? These are not only questions that we have to address at the legal and political level, but also questions that we all make personal decisions about every day of our lives. We make them when we decide what to eat, what to wear, what products to use, what medications to take, and how to use land. In these lectures Professor Korsgaard will raise some fundamental questions about the moral and legal standing of the other animals: about the basis of our moral obligations to them, and what those obligations are, and about whether it makes sense to think that animals might have legal rights.
Lecture Two: The Moral Standing of Animals
Human attitudes towards the other animals exhibit a curious instability. Nearly everyone thinks we have some obligations with respect to the other animals – that whenever possible, we should treat them “humanely.” Yet human beings have traditionally regarded nearly any reason we might have for overriding this obligation, short of malicious enjoyment of their suffering, as a sufficient reason. We kill or hurt animals in order to eat them, in order to make useful or desirable products out of them, because we can learn from experimenting on them, because they are interfering with our own agricultural projects, or even for sport. Could it really be true that animals have moral standing, but that it never has any force against human interests? In this lecture Professor Korsgaard will present an account of why animals have moral standing, based in Kant’s moral philosophy, according to which the answer to this question is no. Our duties to animals are more stringent than our current practices reflect.
Christine M. Korsgaard is Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. She received her BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana and her PhD from Harvard, where she studied with John Rawls. After working at Yale, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago, she returned to Harvard in 1991. She works in moral philosophy and its history, the theory of practical reason, the philosophy of action, and personal identity. She is the author of The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge 1996), an expansion of her 1992 Tanner Lectures on the grounds of obligation; Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge 1996), a collection of papers on Kant’s moral philosophy and Kantian approaches to issues in contemporary philosophy; The Constitution of Agency (Oxford 2008), a collection of papers on practical reason and moral psychology, and Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity (Oxford 2009), an account of practical reason and obligation that grounds them in the nature of agency. She is currently working on The Natural History of the Good, a book about the place of value in nature.