ETH 239 - The Moral Status of Humans and Other Animals
There is a general consensus today that all people share a set of basic rights, or what might also be called full moral status. But we are less likely to agree about the moral status of human beings at the edges of life, such as early embryos (may we use them to extract stem cells, or freeze them indefinitely?) and individuals who are permanently unconscious (should they be considered dead?). We also have not reached a consensus about the moral status of various non-human animals: some cultures revere all living things, while others grant non-human animals little or no independent moral status at all. Some contemporary theorists argue that any sentient animals (capable of suffering) deserve to have their interests count in our moral deliberations; among them are many proponents of vegetarianism who regard our treatment of food animals as unnecessarily cruel. A few philosophers go so far as to argue that highly intelligent animals like chimpanzees and dolphins have rights like ours, and should not be kept in zoos or used in biomedical experiments. This course will explore these and other fascinating ethical questions, drawing in part on recent findings in neuroscience and zoology.
Students entering 2012 and after: satisfies the Philosophical and Religious Perspectives distribution requirement.
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