Surface    |    Backfill    |    About    |    Contact


Kantian Cruelty

I recently came back across the extreme anthropocentric argument against animal cruelty (used by Kant, among others) -- that cruelty to animals makes its perpetrators more susceptible to hurting humans. Empirical concerns can be raised against this argument -- cruelty to animals may just be a symptom of a more generalized cruelty, or may even vent an urge for crulety that would otherwise be directed against humans. But what interested me was a sort of philosophical inconsistency between the argument's purported goals and the empirical mechanism it employs.

The extreme anthropocentric argument charges that a more traditional or straightforward argument against cruelty to animals -- it's wrong because it hurts animals -- improperly treats animals like humans. Extreme anthropocentrists argue that humans and animals are fundamentally different, and so we can't extend our moral notions about the rightness of inflicting harm on humans to animals.

Yet the mechanism by which cruelty to animals breeds cruelty to humans depends on that very blurring of the huamn-animal line. We don't ban cutting bread on the theory that it would lead to cutting humans, because we recognize that bread and humans are such radically different things that our brains would never connect the two sets of behavior. So cruelty to animals produces cruelty to humans only when the perpetrator sees humans and animals as basically the same sort of beings. Extreme anthropocentrists are essentially arguing that conflating animals and people is morally mistaken, yet it's also unavoidable. However, a truly committed anthropocentrist ought to be able to be as cruel as they like, because they're able to maintain that distinction.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home