Peer Reviewed Publications:
2015. Adventures in Moral Consistency: How to Develop an Abortion Ethic from an Animal Rights Framework. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18(1), 145-164.
2014. Assuming Risk: A Critical Analysis of a Soldier’s Duty to Prevent Collateral Damage. Journal of Military Ethics 13(1), pp. 70-93.
2015. Comparing Lives and Epistemic Limitations: A Critique of Regan’s Lifeboat from an Unprivileged Position. Ethics and the Environment 20(1), pp. 1-21.
2016. Higher and Lower Political Animals: A Critical Analysis of Aristotle’s Account of the Political Animal. Journal of Animal Ethics 6(1), pp.54-66.
2016. How to Help when it Hurts: The Problem of Assisting Victims of Injustice. Journal of Social Philosophy 47(2), pp. 142-170.
2014. Nonhuman Animals: Not Necessarily Saints or Sinners. Between the Species 17(1), pp. 1-30.
2015. The Search for Liability in the Defensive Killing of Nonhuman Animals. Social Theory and Practice 41(1), pp. 106-130.
2014. Virtue Ethics and Animals: A Minimally Decent Ethic for Practical Living in a Non-ideal World. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 27(6), pp. 909-929.
Book Chapter: “Compassion and Animals: How we ought to treat animals in a world without justice” in The Moral Psychology of Compassion.
Book Review of “The Future of Meat without Animals.”
2015. University Vs. Prairie Dog. What’s Wrong?(the not quite official blog of cu-boulder’s center for values and social policy)
2016. The Shambled State of Front Range Wildlife Rehabilitation. The Daily Camera.
2016. What about the other 10 billion ‘Beefcakes’? The Daily Camera.
Adventures in Moral Consistency: How to Develop an Abortion Ethic through an Animal Rights Framework
In recent discussions, it has been argued that a theory of animal rights is at odds with a liberal abortion policy. In response, Francione (1995) argues that the principles used in the animal rights discourse do not have implications for the abortion debate. I challenge Francione’s conclusion by illustrating that his own framework of animal rights, supplemented by a relational account of moral obligation, can address the moral issue of abortion. I first demonstrate that Francione’s animal rights position, which grounds moral consideration in sentience, is committed to the claim that a sentient fetus has a right to life. I then illustrate that a fully developed account of animal rights that recognizes the special obligations humans have to assist animals when we cause them to be dependent and vulnerable through our voluntary actions or omissions is committed to the following: a woman also has a special obligation to assist a sentient fetus when she causes it to be dependent and vulnerable through her voluntary actions or omissions. From these considerations, it will become evident that a fully developed and consistent animal rights ethic does in fact have implications for the abortion discussion.
Assuming Risk: A Critical Analysis of a Soldier’s Duty to Prevent Collateral Damage
Recent discussions in the just war literature suggest that soldiers have a duty to assume certain risks in order to protect the lives of all innocent civilians. I challenge this principle of risk by arguing that it is justified neither as a principle that guides the conduct of combat soldiers, nor as a principle that guides commanders in the United States military. I demonstrate that the principle of risk fails on the first account because it requires soldiers to both violate their strict duty of obedience and loyalty and to exceed their special obligations to protect their fellow comrades, the state, the state’s constituents, and other protected civilians. I then illustrate that the principle of risk fails on the second account since it conflicts with the commander’s primary obligation to protect and promote the welfare and lives of his soldiers. I conclude by arguing that we cannot reasonably expect soldiers and commanders to adhere to the principle of risk until there is a radical, institutional-level transformation of militaristic goals, values, strategies, policies, warrior codes, and expectations of service members in the United States Armed Forces.
Comparing Lives and Epistemic Limitations: A Critique of Regan’s Lifeboat from An Unprivileged Position
In The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan argues that although all subjects-of-a-life have equal inherent value, there are often differences in the value of the lives of beings with inherent value. According to him, lives with the highest value are those lives with the opportunity for “impartial, moral satisfaction.” I argue that Regan’s account of comparable value is problematic for two reasons. First, it embodies a masculine idea of what it means to have a morally significant life, while marginalizing the lives of those who use emotion and feeling in moral deliberation. Second, it leads to a hierarchical view of which lives matter, whereby the lives of the privileged will always turn out to have greater value than the lives of the oppressed since the oppressed do not always have equal opportunities for “higher satisfactions.” To avoid such counter-intuitive implications, I suggest that Regan should abandon the idea that we can make comparable judgments about the value of the lives of beings with inherent value.
Higher and Lower Political Animals: A Critical Analysis of Aristotle’s Account of the Political Animal
While Aristotle’s proposition that “Man is by nature a political animal” is often assumed to entail that, according to Aristotle, nonhuman animals are not political, some Aristotelian scholars suggest that Aristotle is only committed to the claim that man is more of a political animal than any other nonhuman animal. I argue that even this thesis is problematic, as contemporary research in cognitive ethology reveals that many social nonhuman mammals have demonstrated that they are, in fact, political in the Aristotelian sense, as they possess a sense of both general and special justice. Keeping this in mind, I conclude that some nonhuman animal communities very well might be identified as highly political communities, leading us to question whether it is really the case that man is more political than socially complex, group-living nonhuman animals.
Nonhuman Animals: Not Necessarily Saints or Sinners
Higher-order thought theories maintain that consciousness involves the having of higher-order thoughts about mental states. In response to these theories of consciousness, an attempt is often made to illustrate that nonhuman animals possess said consciousness, overlooking an alarming consequence: attributing higher-order thought to nonhuman animals might entail that they should be held morally accountable for their actions. I argue that moral responsibility requires more than higher-order thought: moral agency requires a specific higher-order thought which concerns a belief about the rightness or wrongness of affecting another’s mental states. This “moral thought” about the rightness or wrongness is not yet demonstrated in even the most intelligent nonhuman animals, thus we should suspend our judgments about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of their actions while further questioning the recent insistence on developing an animal morality.
The Search for Liability in the Defensive Killing of Nonhuman Animals
While theories of animal rights maintain that nonhuman animals possess prima facie rights, such as the right to life, the dominant philosophies of animal rights permit the killing of nonhuman animals for reasons of self-defense. I argue that the animal rights discourse on defensive killing is problematic because it seems to entail that any nonhuman animal who poses a threat to human beings can be justifiably harmed without question. To avoid this human-privileged conclusion, I argue that the animal rights position needs to both: (1) deploy a new criterion of liability to defensive harm, and (2) seriously consider whether human beings themselves are liable to defensive harm in human-animal conflicts. By shifting the focus to whether humans are liable to defensive harm, we will find that, in many situations of human-animal conflict, human beings are actually the ones liable to be harmed because they are often culpable or, to some degree, morally responsible for posing an unjust threat to nonhuman animals.
Virtues and Animals: A Minimally Decent Ethic for Practical Living in a Non-ideal World
Traditional approaches to animal ethics commonly emerge from one of two influential ethical theories: Tom Regan’s deontology (1983) and Peter Singer’s preference utilitarianism (1975). I argue that both of the theories are unsuccessful at providing adequate protection for animals because they are unable to satisfy the three conditions of a minimally decent theory of animal protection. While Singer’s theory is overly permissive, Regan’s theory is too restrictive. I argue that a minimally decent animal ethic requires a framework that allows for context-dependent considerations of our complex human-animal relationship in a non-ideal world. A plausible theory which exemplifies this new ethic is virtue ethics.