Author Archives: Tiffany Ahn

Moral Consistency: Animal Rights and Abortion

In “Adventures in Moral Consistency: How to Develop an Abortion Ethic through an Animal Rights Framework,” Abbate criticizes Francione’s claim that the principles in animal rights and those in the abortion discussion differ in moral predicaments. She proceeds to outline the argument by defining moral status, sentient beings, animal and fetus rights, and then offers responses by Singer and Regan.

Abbate’s main argument is that a “fully developed animal rights theory, which stems from Francione’s account of animal rights, entails a broad set of ethical considerations that have moral implications for the abortion discussion” (Abbate 18). Abbate defines moral status as a characteristic synonymous with the moral considerations attributed to animals in order to maintain moral consistency: “Sentience, i.e. the capacity to experience pain and suffering” (Abbate 3). This is the only characteristic that would establish a fetus having moral status since animal rights activists conclude moral status of non-human animals as well.

Abbate continues to analyze Francione’s philosophy by pointing out that his belief in rights for sentient beings should also extend to fetuses that are considered sentient. In her article, she reports that the general scientific community agrees that fetuses cannot experience pain or pleasure until the 20th week of gestation. However, Francione attributes sentience to lobsters and fish even though they are missing the neocortex, an imperative brain structure that allows conscious awareness of pain. His defense is that these animals display pain behavior in response to “noxious stimuli” and that their functioning brains have “basic neurological structures” although rudimentary (Abbate 7). Therefore, this defense should appropriately be extended to fetuses that are at 8 weeks of gestation because at this point there is neurological evidence that they have a functioning brain and a central nervous system.

One key term that Abbate continuously emphasized throughout the article was the need for moral consistency. Applying basic moral principles to the topic of animal rights makes it more critical for the “doer” or individual to understand the consequences of his/her opinions on the abortion discussion. The “morally significant act or omission is not the sexual intercourse, but rather, the morally significant omission is the choice to not abort the fetus in the first eight weeks gestation (Abbate 16). If one is to support animal rights in the sense that the individual wants to protect the interests of the animal because of its sentience, then the same moral value should be placed on protecting the interests of a sentient fetus.

However, the responses by Singer and Regan are similar in that they are considered theories of moral individualism, meaning that the theories look at the moral consideration of the doer. Singer contends that if you are sentient, then you are also morally considerable for your actions. Regan also disputes that if you are a “subject-of-a-life,” then you are also granted certain rights. Cora Diamond, an analytic and moral philosopher, dismisses moral individualism by claiming that “to argue as Singer and Regan do, is not to give a defence of animals; it is to attack significance in human life” (Diamond 8). She argues that moral individualism places too much emphasis on the difference between animals and humans instead of focusing on the developing relationship between the two.


Works Cited

Abbate, Cheryl E. “Adventures in Moral Consistency: How to Develop an Abortion Ethic through an Animal Rights Framework.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (2014): 1-20.

Diamond, Cora. “Eating meat and eating people.” Philosophy 53.206 (1978): 465-479.

Why Care About Other People?

James Rachels’ essay outlines possible points of arguments for and against the concept of ethical egoism– the theory that humans ought to behave in their own self-interest, and that they have no moral obligation to act otherwise (in a ‘selfless’ manner).

Although ethical egoism supposedly promotes the individuality of each human regarding his or her own goals as described in Rand’s argument, the apparent logical inconsistency makes this theory implausible in the universal realm. For example, if Julie is an ethical egoist, she would want to act in a manner that would best benefit her. However, simultaneously she has to persuade others to act unselfishly in order for her interests to be met. This sort of behavior is not appropriate for society as a whole to advance if the individual is constantly looking out for his or her own welfare first, in a way that would be detrimental to the welfare of others. Ethical egoists are therefore people who do not “care at all about anyone other than themselves” (Rachels 239).

Regarding the morality of ethical egoism, there can be no differentiation between right and wrong of an individual’s actions. Kurt Baier provides a reductio ad absurdum argument that regards the initial premise of egoism being true as false because of a conflict in the interests of two opposing parties (Kalin). What is right for one individual may be considered wrong for the other person. For example, if Connor’s duty is to steal an apple from Eric, but Eric’s duty is to not have his apple stolen from Connor, there lies a conflict of self-interest. Just as ethical relativists believe the concepts of just and unjust vary from individual to individual, so exists a dichotomy between individuals’ self-interest.

One thing that was interesting in the reading was the emphasis on ought in the definition of ethical egoism. What one ought to do could be regarded as the morally right thing to do (Prichard). In Rachel’s essay, he gives an example of Abraham Lincoln’s argument for ethical egoism where supposedly kind acts are ultimately for the benefit of the one who performs the act. If Bill were to help Kelly look for her lost dog, an ethical egoist would argue that perhaps Bill helped Kelly so that he could feel some sort of satisfaction in doing a good deed, not because of an inherent want to assist her. However, Rachels argues that people generally “derive satisfaction” after doing a good deed (235). The skeptical nature of questioning any act as being selfish ironically undermines the value of the human capacity to sympathize (Rachels 239).

Since ethical egoism is essentially an ethical theory, it should be maintained that the egoists are attempting to understand what constitutes what is morally right and wrong.  Ethical relativists believe that an action is right or wrong based on the cultural context of the individual, while ethical egoists conclude that the actions done in an individual’s best interest are what define its morality. Ethical egoists are too naïve in believing that what is best for the individual will maybe coincide with what is best for society. They do not evaluate the fact that their actions will ultimately influence others around them, and consequently that the behavior of others will impact their own pursuit of happiness in a never-ending cycle of interconnectedness.



Kalin, Jesse. “Baier’s Refutation of Ethical Egoism.” Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition. Vol. 22, No. 5/6 (Oct. – Dec., 1971) , pp. 74-78. Springer. <>

Prichard, H. A., 2002, Moral Writings, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rachels, James. “Egoism and Moral Skepticism.” The University of Morality (1971): 233-239. Blackboard. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.