Christine Korsgaard, Kantian Ethics, Animals, and the Law, 33 O.J.L.S. 629 (2013).
The moral arc of the universe is long. But how long is it? If we measure from the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, it is long enough to bring into the fully human fold whole categories that had once been denied equal moral status: notably slaves, women, and people of color, who had sometimes been regarded as hardly more significant, morally and legally, than (non-human) animals. It may be an exaggeration to say that Roman law adhered to a rigid, exhaustive and mutually exclusive bifurcation between rights-holding persons and non-rights-holding things, but the eminent Kant scholar Christine Korsgaard does not deny that Kant was “consciously following” precisely that view (P. 630, emphasis original). In this superb paper, she takes up the task of showing that Kant’s thought contains elements that undermine what she calls “the legal bifurcation” (P. 629) of the world into persons, on one hand, and things, on the other. That task is instrumental to her aim of showing that Kant might consistently have adopted a more respectful view of the moral status of animals, and that the framework of Kant’s thought indicates an attractive way of understanding what that third status—of neither person nor mere thing—might be.
Working within Kant’s general account of rationality, agency, and personhood, Korsgaard proposes that we recognize a third category of morally significant being: that of creatures who are not mere things, and yet are not persons either. The tantalizing suggestion is that at least some animals populate this third category, and that they are not apt objects of ownership, at least not in the usual sense. This of course is contrary to Kant’s statement in Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View: Continue reading "Animals, Rights, and Legal “Bifurcation” In Kant"