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


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This chapter presents a few concluding remarks about the goal of achieving a greater consensus in our judgements of moral status. It argues that adopting a multi-criterial theory of moral status does not make it easy to solve all of the moral problems arising from uncertainties about what we owe to other entities. However, it gives us a more adequate set of tools than any of the uni-criterial theories. On the multi-criterial account there are many types of moral status, and many of these come in varying degrees of strength. Moral agents, sentient human beings who are not moral agents, sentient nonhuman animals, non-sentient living things, and such other elements of the natural world as species and ecosystems — all have legitimate claims to moral consideration. Of all the entities with which we interact, only moral agents have full moral status based solely upon their mental and behavioural capacities. The rest have moral status that is partially determined by their social and other relationships to moral agents, and — in the case of entities that are not sentient human beings — by their roles within terrestrial ecosystems.

Keywords: moral status; multi-criteria theory; moral agents; sentient human beings; living things

Chapter.  712 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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