Kant's Account of Our Moral Obligations Concerning Animals Animals in Kantian Ethics

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Zaid Mir


Immanuel Kant holds that rational agency is a necessary condition to merit direct moral consideration;[1] therefore, he claims that we have no direct duties to animals. Nevertheless, he argues that we still ought to treat animals well, but only because we have duties to protect and develop our own moral character. Thus, what appear to be duties to animals themselves are, according to Kant, only indirect duties to them. However, the substantial challenge here is figuring out whether Kant’s indirect duties can provide a clear and adequate scope of our moral obligations concerning animals. In this paper, I argue that it cannot: if animals matter morally only in relation to our moral development, then our obligations regarding animals would be too vague and inadequate. To make my argument, I will examine some of Kant’s normative claims regarding how we should treat animals, and then demonstrate that what may appear morally enhancing can or may morally desensitize us. By demonstrating that the causes of moral desensitization are not categorical, I will show that it is insufficient to place our moral development as the only basis for our concern regarding animals. Furthermore, Kant’s indirect duties are a corollary of his metaethical commitments; therefore, by revealing problems that result from his indirect duties, I will infer that his metaethics need to be revised. My task in this paper is not to revise Kant’s ethics concerning animals, but to prove that it requires revision.