“The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?”
– Jeremy Bentham (1789)
During this chapter we explore who our moral consideration should include. We focus especially on farmed animals as an important example of this question this week.
Key concepts from this chapter include:
- Impartiality: helping those that need it the most (only discounting people according to location, time, and species if those factors are in fact morally relevant).
- Expected value: We’re often uncertain about how much something will help. In such circumstances, it may make sense to weigh each of the outcomes by the likelihood that they occur and pick the action that looks best in expectation.
- The importance (and difficulty) of considering unusual ideas: Society’s consensus has been wrong about many things over history (e.g. the sun circling the Earth, the morality of slavery). In order to avoid making similar mistakes, we need to be open to considering unusual ideas and moral positions, while still thinking critically about the issues and acting cooperatively with others.