Dignity and Animals. Does it Make Sense to Apply the Concept of Dignity to All Sentient Beings?
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Forthcoming
29 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2016 Last revised: 14 Jul 2016
Date Written: February 3, 2016
Although the idea of dignity has always been applied to human beings and although its role is far from being uncontroversial, some recent works in animal ethics have tried to apply the idea of dignity to animals. The aim of this paper is to discuss critically whether these attempts are convincing and sensible. In order to assess these proposals, I put forward two formal conditions that any conception of dignity must meet (non-redundancy and normative determinacy) and outline three main approaches which might justify the application of dignity to animals: the species-based approach, moral individualism and the relational approach. Discussing in particular works by Martha Nussbaum and Michael Meyer I argue that no approach can convincingly justify the extension of dignity to animals because all fail to meet the formal conditions and do not provide an appropriate basis for animal dignity. I conclude by arguing that the recognition of the moral importance of animals and their defense should appeal to other normative concepts which are more appropriate than dignity.
Keywords: animal ethics, human dignity, dignity, moral status, moral individualism
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