A rationally-rooted responsibility toward nonhuman animals

Webber, Matthew J., author
Rollin, Bernard, advisor
Gorin, Moti, committee member
Edwards-Callaway, Lily, committee member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
How should humans treat nonhuman animals? One answer to this question arises from the belief that humans are superior to nonhuman animals, thereby giving humans a right to treat nonhuman animals however humans desire. In this paper, I argue that, while perhaps not superior in all categories, humans can be understood as rationally superior to nonhuman animals. To do this, I rely on Immanuel Kant's definition of practical rationality as the ability for an individual to set for oneself one's own ends or telos. Granting this type of rational superiority to humans, I argue that being rationally superior does not entail that humans have a right to treat nonhuman animals however humans desire, but that humans are limited by certain natural teleological factors. These teleological factors may be general to all animal life—both human and nonhuman as characterized in the Kantian notion of tierheit—or specific to each species and embodied by individuals of a species. Nonhuman animals deserve to be treated accordingly, and treating a nonhuman animal in a manner contrary to the embodied telos not only violates their telos, but is itself unreasonable, irrational, and immoral. I conclude by demonstrating what responsible treatment of nonhuman animals would look like when rooted in human rationality, as well as the motivation behind such morally responsible actions.
2020 Fall.
Includes bibliographical references.
Rights Access
Associated Publications