Moral patienthood

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Moral patienthood should not be confused with moral agency (see Wikipedia 2021b)2004). For example, we might think that a baby lacks moral agency - it lacks the ability to judge right from wrong, and to act on the basis of reasons - but that it is still a moral patient, in the sense that those with moral agency should care about their well-being.

First, which entities can have well-being? A majority of scientists now agree that many non-human animals, including mammals, birds, and fish, are conscious and capable of feeling pain (Low et al. 2012), but this claim is more contentious in philosophy (Allen & Trestman 2016). This question is vital for assessing the value of interventions aimed at improving farm and/or wild animal welfare. A smaller but growing field of study considers whether artificial intelligences might be conscious in morally relevant ways (Wikipedia 2021a)2003).

Wikipedia (2021a)(2003) Artificial consciousness, Wikipedia, March 13 (updated 24 April 2021‎).

Wikipedia (2021b)(2004) Moral agency, Wikipedia, September 25 (updated 14 November 2020‎).

Low, Philip et al. (2012) The Cambridge declaration on consciousness, Francis Crick Memorial Conference, July 7.
Declares that_ animals are capable of consciousness, from a group of leading scientists._

First, which entities can have well-being? A majority of scientists now agree that many non-human animals, including mammals, birds, and fish, are conscious and capable of feeling pain (Low, Philip(Low et al. 2012), but this claim is more contentious in philosophy (Allen & Trestman 2016). This question is vital for assessing the value of interventions aimed at improving farm and/or wild animal welfare. A smaller but growing field of study considers whether artificial intelligences might be conscious in morally relevant ways (Wikipedia 2021a).

First, which entities can have well-being? A majority of scientists now agree that many non-human animals, including mammals, birds, and fish, are conscious and capable of feeling pain (Francis Crick Memorial Conference(Low, Philip et al. 2012), but this claim is more contentious in philosophy (Allen & Trestman 2016). This question is vital for assessing the value of interventions aimed at improving farm and/or wild animal welfare. A smaller but growing field of study considers whether artificial intelligences might be conscious in morally relevant ways (Wikipedia 2021a).

Second, whose well-being do we care about? Some have argued that future beings have less value, even though they will be just as conscious as today’s beings are now. This reduction could be assessed in the form of a discount rate on future value, so that experiences occurring one year from now are worth, say, 3% less than they do at present. Alternatively, it could be assessed by valuing individuals who do not yet exist less than current beings, for reasons related to the non-identity problem (Robert 2015;2019; see also population ethics). It is contentious whether these approaches are correct. Moreover, in light of the astronomical number of individuals who could potentially exist in the future, assigning some value to future people implies that virtually all value—at least for welfarist theories—will reside in the far future (Bostrom 2009; see also longtermism).

Animal Ethics,Ethics (2017) The relevance of sentience, Animal Ethics, September.

Moral patienthood should not be confused with moral agency (see Wikipedia 2021)2021b). For example, we might think that a baby lacks moral agency - it lacks the ability to judge right from wrong, and to act on the basis of reasons - but that it is still a moral patient, in the sense that those with moral agency should care about their well-being.

If we assume a welfarist theory of the good, the question of patienthood can be divided into two sub-questions: Which entities can have well-being? and Whose well-being is morally relevant?Each question can in turn be broken down into the question of which characteristics or capacities are relevant and the question of which beings have those capacities. 

First, which entities can have well-being? A majority of scientists now agree that many non-human animals, including mammals, birds, and fish, are conscious and capable of feeling pain (Francis Crick Memorial Conference 2012), but this claim is more contentious in philosophy (Allen & Trestman 2016). This question is vital for assessing the value of interventions aimed at improving farm and/or wild animal welfare. A smaller but growing field of study considers whether artificial intelligences might be conscious in morally relevant ways (Wikipedia 2016)2021a). 

Animal Ethics, The relevance of sentience., Animal Ethics, September.

Allen, Colin & Michael Trestman. 2016.Trestman (2016) Animal consciousness. In, in Edward Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Discusses similar questions from a philosophical perspective.

Beckstead, Nick. 2013.Nick (2013) On the overwhelming importance of shaping the far future., doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University Department of Philosophy.
Justifies its importance.

Bostrom, Nick. 2009.Nick (2009) Astronomical waste: the opportunity cost of delayed technological development. , Utilitas 15(3):, pp. 308-314.

Bostrom, Nick & Eliezer Yudkowsky (2013)(2014) The ethics of artificial intelligence, in Keith Frankish & William M. Ramsey (eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Artificial Intelligence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 316–334.

Francis Crick Memorial Conference. 2012.Kagan, Shelly (2019) How to Count Animals, More or Less, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Low, Philip et al. (2012) The Cambridge declaration on consciousness., Francis Crick Memorial Conference, July 7.
Declares that_ animals are capable of consciousness, from a group of leading scientists._

Kagan, Shelly (2019) How to Count Animals, More or Less, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

MacAskill, W. & Meissner, D. 2020.(2020) The Expanding Moral Circleexpanding moral circle. In , in Introduction to Utilitarianism.

Roberts, M. A. 2015.(2019) The nonidentity problem. In, in Edward Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Tomasik, Brian. 2014.Brian (2014) Do artificial reinforcement-learning agents matter morally?., arXiv:1410.8233.

Wikipedia. 2016.Wikipedia (2021a) Artificial consciousness, Wikipedia.

Wikipedia. 2021.Wikipedia (2021b) Moral agency, Wikipedia.

Moral patienthood should not be confused with moral agency.agency (see Wikipedia 2021). For example, we might think that a baby lacks moral agency - it lacks the ability to judge right from wrong, and to act on the basis of reasons - but that it is still a moral patient, in the sense that those with moral agency should care about their well-being.

Wikipedia. 2021. Moral agency.

Moral patienthood is the set of capacities whose possession makes an entity warrant moral concern.

 

If we assume a welfarist theory of the good, the question of patienthood can be divided into two sub-questions: Which entities can have well-being? and Whose well-being is morally relevant?Each question can in turn be broken down into the question of which characteristics or capacities are relevant and the question of which beings have those capacities. 

First, which entities can have well-being? A majority of scientists now agree that many non-human animals, including mammals, birds, and fish, are conscious and capable of feeling pain (Francis Crick Memorial Conference 2012), but this claim is more contentious in philosophy (Allen & Trestman 2016). This question is vital for assessing the value of interventions aimed at improving farm and/or wild animal welfare. A smaller but growing field of study considers whether artificial intelligences might be conscious in morally relevant ways (Wikipedia 2016). 

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