Philosophy 220

Philosophy 220
Moral Status of Non-Human Animals:
Curnutt, “Vegetarianism”
 Curnutt is convinced that moral
arguments for vegetarianism coming
from consequentialism and rights-based
theories are incapable of addressing all
of the issues that have been raised.
 He offers in replacement an argument
grounded in something like the harm
The Old Arguments
 Consequentialists like Matheny will
find it difficult to argue that the moral
value of the consequences of
actions will always require
 Rights talk is so complex and
contentious that even Regan doesn’t
get the job done.
 Review the NEW argument for vegetarianism
as it is presented on (364c1).
 Some Notes:
 Prima Facie: on its face, presumed to be (but can be
 Ultima Facie: on its face, (can't be overridden).
 Animal: vertebrate.
 Clearly, (3), (5) and (6) are the key moves in
the argument.
Killing Animals is Prima Facie Morally
 Harm: something that adversely affects an
individual or entity's interests
Severity of harm dependent on centrality of interests. Welfare interests are those that
are (a) definitive of basic well-being, and (b) because their realization is the
necessary precondition of having interests.
 Killing NHAs harms them, independent of any
consequentialist or rights-based analyses.
 Therefore, assuming harm is prima facie morally
wrong, it is prima facie wrong to kill NHAs.
Animal Eating is Prima Facie Morally
 On the basis of the conclusion that killing NHAs is prima facie
wrong, the conclusion that eating animals is also prima facie
morally wrong follows from the acknowledgment that eating them
requires killing them.
 A possible response comes from the recognition that rarely do
animal eaters actually kill the animals they eat.
 Curnutt rejects this response on the grounds of an analogy with
other forms of transfer (holocaust lamp; stolen stereo).
 Benefitting from a “morally nefarious practice” makes one
complicit in the immorality.
 In some cases, we may have no choice. However, animal eating is
clearly not one of them.
From Prima Facie to Ultima Facie
 The last step of Curnutt’s argument is demonstrating that the Prima Facie
wrongness of animal eating is in fact Ultima Facie wrongness.
 Demonstrating this requires arguments to the effect that the wrongness of
animal eating is not overridden by competing moral concerns.
 Curnutt identifies 4 different claims to overridingness
Traditional/Cultural: many obviously immoral practices have been so
supported, but that doesn’t change our evaluation.
Aesthetic: aesthetic appreciation is not generally regarded as sufficient to
override moral concerns.
Convenience: again, the fact that something is convenient is insufficient to
override its immorality.
Nutrition: NEW is not committed to veganism, just lacto-ovo vegetarianism.
Absent any persuasive claim to overringness, the prima facie
wrongness of animal eating is thus ultima facie.