Sentience and the Utilitarian Calculus

Mary Anne Warren

in Moral Status

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198250401
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681295 | DOI:

Series: Issues in Biomedical Ethics

Sentience and the Utilitarian Calculus

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This chapter examines the sentience criterion, which has been defended by such utilitarian theorists as Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer. It argues that a being's capacity to experience pleasure and pain provides a sound reason for recognizing a moral obligation not to kill it, or inflict pain or suffering upon it, without good reason. Nevertheless, sentience is not a sufficient condition for full moral status. There are sound reasons for recognizing stronger obligations towards some sentient beings, such as those that are moral agents, those that are members of our social communities, and those that belong to ecologically important species that are endangered by human activities.

Keywords: moral status; sentience; pleasure; pain; Sentience Plus; Sentience Only; Peter Singer

Chapter.  15609 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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