Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (4):899-910 (2017)

Oscar Horta
Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
The use of the concept of moral status is commonplace today in debates about the moral consideration of entities lacking certain special capacities, such as nonhuman animals. This concept has been typically used to defend the view that adult human beings have a status higher than all those entities. However, even those who disagree with this claim have often accepted the idea of moral status as if it were part of an undisputed received way of thinking in ethics. This paper argues that the use of this concept, however common, distorts our understanding of how to behave towards different individuals in different circumstances. When moral status is identified with the interest in living or the capacity for well-being, it becomes an arbitrary and irrelevant criterion. When it is used as a synonym of moral consideration or considerability, in a way that is compatible with the principle of equal consideration, it becomes trivial and confusing. When used, instead, to defend the unequal moral consideration of interests of equal weight, it has several implausible implications. In particular, the claim that unequal status is justified because of the value of cognitive capacities implausibly entails that our exercising those capacities should have priority over the promotion of our wellbeing. The idea of full moral status is also problematic as it implies the possibility of status monsters. In addition, its use is based in a misconceived way of what it would really entail to have a full status by virtue of having rational capacities. The paper concludes that we have strong reasons to abandon the concept of moral status altogether.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-017-9829-7
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References found in this work BETA

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Speciesism and Speciescentrism.Frauke Albersmeier - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (2):511-527.

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