The Capabilities Approach and Animal Entitlements

Martha Nussbaum

in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371963
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Capabilities Approach and Animal Entitlements

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This article begins with a sketch of current knowledge about animal thinking. It inquires into what this knowledge suggests for ethics and for public policy. It finds that it challenges what has been the most influential approach to the ethics of animal treatment, namely classical utilitarianism. After rejecting this theory, it proposes a theoretical approach that has two non-utilitarian elements as centerpieces. First, the approach has a Kantian element—a fundamental ethical starting point that we must respect each individual sentient being as an end in itself. Second, the approach has a neo-Aristotelian, capabilities-theory element: the Aristotelian idea that each creature has a characteristic set of capabilities, or capacities for functioning, distinctive of that species, and that those more rudimentary capacities need support from the material and social environment if the animal is to flourish in its characteristic way.

Keywords: animal thinking; public policy; ethics; animal treatment; classical utilitarianism; neo-Aristotelian; Kantian element

Article.  12761 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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