Rawls and Animal Moral Personality

Animals 2023,13,1238.

12 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2023

See all articles by Guy Baldwin

Guy Baldwin

Department of Law, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester

Date Written: April 3, 2023


The relationship between animal rights and contractarian theories of justice such as that of Rawls has long been vexed. In this article, I contribute to the debate over the possibility of inclusion of animals in Rawls’s theory of justice by critiquing the rationale he gives for their omission: that they do not possess moral personality. Contrary to Rawls’s assumptions, it appears that some animals may possess the moral powers that comprise moral personality, albeit to a lesser extent than most humans. Some animals can act in pursuit of preferences and desires (and communicate them non- verbally), which might be taken as implicitly selecting a conception of the good; further, scientific research demonstrating inequity aversion and social play behaviors suggests that some animals can have a sense of justice relating to their own social groups. I conclude that Rawls’s theory needs to acknowledge any animals that can be considered to meet the threshold of moral personality, while the concept of moral personality as a range property may also require reconsideration.

Keywords: animal rights, John Rawls, moral personality, moral powers, moral status, conception of the good, sense of justice, theory of justice

Suggested Citation

Baldwin, Guy, Rawls and Animal Moral Personality (April 3, 2023). Animals 2023,13,1238., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4490072

Guy Baldwin (Contact Author)

Department of Law, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester ( email )

United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics