Individuals, Species and Equality. A Critique of McMahan's Intrinsic Potential Account
Forthcoming in The Journal of Value Inquiry
15 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 9, 2015
Jeff McMahan has recently provided a forceful defense of methodological anti-speciesism against speciesists’ claim that species standard is a meaningful criterion to assess the value of lives and the nature of deprivation. In this paper I discuss McMahan’s favored account (the Intrinsic Potential Account) to assess the value of life and the nature of deprivation and challenge its overall ethical and methodological tenability. I level three charges against the Intrinsic Potential Account. I argue, first, that it cannot be consistent with some widely held egalitarian moral intuitions. Second, it is unconvincing in its justification of the idea of equal respect for persons. Third, it is unclear how it can make sense of the value of individual capacities without referring to some species-based standard. Although I remain neutral with respect to the debate between anti-speciesists and speciesists, I argue that anti-speciesists cannot rely on McMahan’s arguments.
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