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John RawlsDebating the Major Questions$
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Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190859213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190859213.001.0001

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Rawls and Animals

Rawls and Animals

A Defense

(p.285) 16 Rawls and Animals
John Rawls

Patrick Taylor Smith

Oxford University Press

This chapter claims that Rawlsians ought to deny that we have direct duties of justice toward animals. The argument proceeds in three steps. First, the chapter shows that animal rights critics of Rawls fail to offer convincing examples where Rawlsians would permit obviously unjust examples of animal cruelty; rather, they argue that even if Rawls would justify the correct policy, he does so for the wrong reasons. I call these “animal-centrality” arguments: the interests of animals must, as a theoretical matter, be central to why we protect them. Second, the chapter demonstrates that the theoretical costs of including animals in our theories of justice is much higher than often thought. Third, the chapter suggests that Rawlsians have significant yet often ignored resources to defend substantial protections for animals on indirect grounds. It thus concludes that the theoretical benefits of including direct duties for animals are significantly outweighed by the theoretical costs and that Rawlsians are justified in rejecting animal-centrality arguments.

Keywords:   John Rawls, animal ethics, environmental ethics, social philosophy, political philosophy, political liberalism, metaethics

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