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The Moral Standing of Insects and the Ethics of Extinction

Jeffrey A. Lockwood
The Florida Entomologist
Vol. 70, No. 1 (Mar., 1987), pp. 70-89
DOI: 10.2307/3495093
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3495093
Page Count: 20
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The Moral Standing of Insects and the Ethics of Extinction
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Abstract

The alteration of environments by human activity has led to recent concern about the condition of nonhuman animals in endangered ecosystems. To ethically treat nonhuman animals differently than we treat people requires a rational demonstration of a relevant moral difference between humans and other animals. Potential differences include metaphysical, contractual, and mental considerations. These factors are examined with regard to their philosophical merits and applicability to insects. The criterion of sentience which includes concepts of pain, consciousness, thought, and awareness appears to provide an intuitively satisfying, empirically approachable, philosophical basis for including a being in our moral considerations. Existing evidence indicates that insects qualify as sentient and their lives ought to be included in moral deliberations. Given sentience as the rational basis for moral consideration, groups of individuals (including species) are not accorded special moral status. An ethic is proposed which states that, we ought to refrain from actions which may be reasonably expected to kill or cause nontrivial pain in insects when avoiding these actions has no, or only trivial, costs to our own welfare. This ethic is applied to some specific cases in the teaching, science, and technology of entomology. /// La alteración del medio ambiente por la actividad humana ha despertado recientemente un interés sobre las condiciones de los animales no-humanos en sistemas ecológicos en peligro. Para tratar éticamente a los animales no-humanos diferentemente a la manera que tratamos a las personas, requiere una demostración racional de relevantes diferencias morales entre humanos y otros animales. Posibles diferencias incluyen consideraciones metafísicas, contractuales y mentales. Se examinan estos factores con respecto a sus méritos filosóficos y su aplicabilidad a insectos. El criterio del estado consciente que incluye los conceptos de dolor, sentido, pensamiento y conocimiento, parece dar una base intuitivamente satisfactoria, alcanzable empíricaamente y filosófica, para incluir a un ser en nuestras consideraciones morales. La evidencias que existe indica que insectos califican como criaturas y sus vidas deben de ser incluidas en deliberaciones morales. Dado el estado consciente como base racional para consideración moral, grupos de individuos (incluyendo especies) no se le otorga un estado moral especial. Se propone una ética que expone que debemos de abstenernos de acciones que puedan ser razonablemente capaces de matar o causar dolor a insectos, mientras que evitando estas acciones tenga poco o sin costo para nuestro bienestar. Esta ética se aplica a algunos casos especficos en la enseñanza, la ciencia y la tecnología de entomología.

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