Author Archives: Maxwell Solasz

Animal Rights

This week, we examine the works of Peter Singer and Tom Regan, both of which focus on animal rights. Singer’s argument is formed through a utilitarian view, while Regan’s is Kantian. Although different, both arguments presented logical justifications for animal rights and had me wavering between my beliefs on the topic. Unfortunately, I found a couple of flaws with each argument and because of this, my stance on animal rights remains the same.


In the “The Animal Liberation Movement,” Peter Singer explains that animals deserve equal consideration of interests, which means that they deserve the same care to their well-being as humans. Essentially, it is immoral to use an animal in such a way that generates any kind of torture or suffering. This idea stems from the utilitarian view that our goal of life is to maximize happiness and minimize pain. To prove why we should give animals equal consideration of interests, Singers asserts that “the capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all”(8).

One issue that I had with Singer’s argument was that as a supporter of utilitarianism, he failed to acknowledge one of Mill’s major points; the distinction between higher and lower pleasures. In utilitarianism there does exist a hierarchy of values, and Singer should have acknowledged this. The next issue that I have with Singer’s argument is his position on equal consideration. If a cat is attacking a child for example, Singer says that we should allow the cat to attack the child if stopping the attack would impose more pain on the cat than the cat’s attack on the child. In my opinion, it would be reasonable to cause more pain on the cat to halt the attack.


In “The Case for Animal Rights,” Tom Regan takes a Kantian approach and believes that like humans, animals should be treated as ends-in-themselves. His position is that any being that is experiencing “subject of a life,” or one who cares about his or her welfare and does not feel as if the purpose of life is to serve for somebody, possesses an inherent value. An inherent value is an unearned respect that every living being has equally. Regan argues that because animals have an inherent value, they shouldn’t be used in order to benefit human lives.

When I had first read Regan’s article, I was almost swayed by his idea of the inherent value, but then later dismissed it. Regan’s “inherent value,” is an arbitrary concept that he created in order to justify the equality of all sentient beings. Although I disagree with this idea, I do believe that there is an intrinsic value that each species possess, making me an advocate of speciesism. This “life value,” is based on our perception of the species. For example, I believe that a dog is more valuable than a cow, not because of their capacities, for they both feelings and preferences, but because they are perceived differently by humans. We value dogs higher because recognize them as more compassionate and loving beings.


Although I do not agree with the positions of Singer and Regan, I do believe animals deserve more consideration, but relative to their “life value.” Many towns in the United States, have an unlawful ban on pit bulls. My father’s best friend is a huge animal rights supporter and is fighting for the pit bulls, comparing the ban to a human genocide. I don’t believe humans should share equal rights with animals, but in certain situations they definitely deserve similar considerations.



Works Cited

Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: U of California, 1983. Print.

Singer, Peter. The Animal Liberation Movement: Its Philosophy, Its Achievements, and    Its Future. Nottingham, England: Old Hammond, 1986. Print.



This week we begin studying Normative Ethics, and more specifically, the theory of Utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill, a very important philosopher in the 19th century, is one of the earliest advocates of Utilitarianism. In his essay, Selections From Utilitarianism, Mill defines what the theory is and provides his responses to common misconceptions people have against it. Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, states that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” (77 Mill). Utilitarianism focuses on the general good of the world over individual pleasure. Although the theory sounds nice, for we all would love world peace, there are a few issues that I have with Mill’s responses that has me questioning the legitimacy of the theory.

Mill explained in his essay that according to Utilitarianism, the moral value of an action relies solely on the outcome of the event, making the theory consequentialist (55, Bennett). Furthermore, he believes that intentions behind actions are insignificant. The only thing that is important is the good deed. The issues that I have with this particular idea is that first, how are people supposed to know what the consequences of their actions are before they do it? A lot of times it is difficult to predict what the result of an action may be, hence why I believe motive is important. I disagree with Mill’s opinion that one’s intentions have little to no importance. Throughout the text, Mill constantly said that one of the most important aspects of utilitarianism is promoting happiness and good deeds. In many cases it is indeed true that when someone sees someone else behaving virtuously, he or she is more inclined to do something good as well. However, there are may scenarios that prove otherwise. In 2008, a crazy man intentionally burned down my family-friend’s company. Instead of giving up, my family friend worked endlessly and eventually made the company better than it was before the fire. Now, just because the result was positive, does not mean that the man’s action was acceptable or moral by any means.

Something I found very interesting was Mill’s view that everyone has some innate utilitarianism sentiment that is developed once people realize that morality lies in general happiness of all people. He believes that any serious problems in society, such as disease and poverty, can be resolved if the society is educated with appropriate values and is committed to their elimination.  Mills claims that this sentiment causes social unification, and would consequently make individuals feel ashamed if they acted against utilitarianism. This whole idea behind sentiments made me wonder whether its possible for an individual to have a good reason to do something even if his beliefs don’t promote doing so?

I think that the biggest issue that I have with Utilitarianism is that it places too much focus on the general amount of happiness of the whole world, and absolutely zero importance on an individual’s happiness. Although I think it is better to help others, sometimes we need to focus on the cultivation and self improvement of ourselves in order to better the community. In my opinion, there needs to be a balance between utilitarian and ethical egoist theories in order to achieve the most utility throughout the globe.



Works Cited

Mill, John Stuart, and Oskar Piest. Utilitarianism. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1957. Print.

Bennett, Christopher. “Chapter 4: Utilitarianism.” What Is This Thing Called Ethics? London: Routledge, 2010. Print.


“Utilitarianism.” UTILITARIANISM by John Stuart Mill. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2014. <>.