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Pacifism and Absolute Rights for Animals: a comparison of difficulties
Journal of Applied Philosophy
Vol. 2, No. 1 (1985), pp. 53-61
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24353429
Page Count: 9
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There are many points of similarity between the views of pacifists and those of people who argue that sentient non-human animals have absolute rights. Both positions ultimately rest on the assertion that the consequences of a violent action which is intended to preserve some lives by terminating others are more far-reaching than we generally suppose. When the total net consequences of such actions are considered, it can be seen that an ethic of complete non-violence might turn out to be optimific in the long run. Hence, absolutist moral positions of this sort should not be seen as irrational, or selfserving, and are worthy of respectful consideration even if we finally decide that we ourselves cannot accept them. Until we have firm evidence as to whether non-violence has positive or negative net consequences, the choice between absolute and situationist ethical positions must remain one which depends very largely on personal character. Absolutist positions do serve a valuable 'conscience-pricking' function for the rest of us. They stand most chance of becoming more widely accepted if they are incorporated within a general ethic of positive helpfulness, rather than being presented as purely negative prohibitions.
Journal of Applied Philosophy © 1985 Wiley