Of Beasts, Persons, and the Original Position

The Monist 62 (3):368-377 (1979)
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We may think of principles which purport to fairly and reasonably adjudicate conflicting claims among human beings as principles of justice. To identify such principles John Rawls investigates what principles would be chosen by rational, self-interested persons who are ignorant of certain features of themselves which might be taken into account to promote their own advantage. The impartial viewpoint obtained by participants in a modified “original position” might be used, to identify principles which would reasonably and fairly adjudicate conflicting claims among sentient creatures, i.e., human beings and animals. In what follows I attempt to sketch the beginnings of such a strategy, some reasons for exploring it, and conjecture as to a few of its implications for current disputes about the treatment of animals.



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A. Donald VanDeVeer
North Carolina State University

Citations of this work

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