Rights are obviously not universal as you say, however they are an emergent phenomena of the nature of social animals and their cognitive capability to have a sense of fairness, which is adaptive.

“Morality is a broadly adaptive strategy for social living that has evolved in many animal societies other than our own.”


Expand full comment

Do animals have rights? When do human beings gain rights?

Moral agents have rights and obligations. So long as they fulfill their obligations, others should respect their rights. But animals and human infants cannot fulfill social obligations and duties. While infants can’t usually harm anyone else, animals can be dangerous. Members of both categories need a moral agent to take responsibility for them if they are to fit into the human social environment. This raises the question of to what degree this responsibility is general and involuntary and to what degree it is specific and consented to. Is my obligation toward an animal really an obligation to its owners, and my obligation toward infants ultimately and obligation to their parents?

Busybodies want everyone to take collective responsibility for huge categories of beings and things. This can only happen if they succeed in imposing their expectations on others, with no mutual aspect. Nothing I can do will make a lion respect my rights. If a moral agent has accepted responsibility for a moral patient, the mutual aspect is restored. Each knows that the others will respect their rights by fulfilling obligations toward the animals or children in their care.

Moral patients have rights, but limited or no obligations. Moral slaves have obligations but no rights.

Expand full comment