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Can Animals Be Moral?

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  • The Talk

    Can Animals Be Moral?

    Philosophers have said almost universally that animals cannot be moral. Mark Rowlands, author of the internationally bestselling memoir The Philosopher and the Wolf makes the case for the defence.

    "Remarkable" Financial Times

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David Silverman on 30/08/2013 11:28pm

I'm not sure about this alleged regress problem. Kantians think that to be moral you must be able to modulate your behaviour by reflecting on it rationally. This requires the ability to use concepts, a capacity which non-human animals, as far as we know, lack. There doesn't need to be any further account to show that you can control your patterns of rational thought; it is enough that your behaviour is motivated by the relevant moral concepts in the first place. Mark is right that it seems silly to deny that animals possess sympathy or "morality" in some weaker sense; but this is not at all the same thing as human morality. Instead of casting it as a binary choice between deflating human morality and underrating the capacities of animals, wouldn't it be better just to acknowledge that each species has its own distinctive capacities?

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