Scope And “Might Makes Right”

If you ground your defense of exploiting nonhuman animals on the principle “might makes right,” you must answer the question: Does this extend to our interactions with human animals? The question is begged in light of other ethical principles we view as axiomatic, a prohibition on human slavery, for example, and impartiality in ethical reasoning. The conclusion – We can cite “might” as justification for our actions in regard to animals, other than human – seems to be assumed in the premise, accept this is precisely the proposition in need of a defense.

“Might” doesn’t capture what could be called a second-tier of ethical reasoning; below the abstract, contextualized morality. In our interactions with others don’t we abhor force, at least in the spirit of how we think Ethics? The “fairer sex” is platitudinous – false and self-serving platitudes – however, it implies a truth: care and empathy have moral worth. We recognize this as such and our moral code has evolved to acknowledge it. Perhaps the code has evolved in this way because it’s in our self-interest to accept, in principle, these constraints. However, it is a part of what we believe is “moral action” — consider the “Prince of Peace,” or giving aid and comfort to (not exploiting because you can) the weak.

Circumventing this problem by qualifying the principle – Might makes right accept in the case of human-human interactions – is a departure from, not an embrace of, Ethics because there doesn’t seem to be a characteristic that can be rationally cited that is unique to all human animals and therefore we would be excluded from the reach of this principle. Quite the contrary: “weakness” and “strongness” are certainly apparent within our species.

What is required then is a sub-principle that separates the members of the species Homo sapiens from all other species of animal. However, these are either going to be fallacies or unsound given their self-serving or illogical nature.

Crossposted @ That Vegan Girl

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