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Ulf Hlobil (Concordia University) "The Importance of Being Immoral"


When: May 10, 2017 from 2,05 PM
Where: Philosophical Faculty of UHK, nam. Svobody 331, Room# B9

Recently, some philosophers and biologists have claimed that some non-human animals are not only moral patients but may also be moral subjects (Rowlands), moral agents (Bekoff & Pierce, Shapiro), may possess the building blocks of morality (de Waal), or participate in normative practices (Vincent, Ring & Andrews). The general idea behind these claims is that some non-human animals are “normative creatures.” As a first approximation, “normative creature” here means: a creature that follows, respects, or honors rules, norms, or values. I will argue that, for all we know, non-human animals are not normative creatures, at least not in any interesting and substantive sense. The core of my argument is this: In order to be a normative creature, one must be able to violate norms (rules, etc.) in such a way that what one does constitutes a mistake. Something is a mistakes, in the relevant sense, only if it licenses, at least in principle, certain negative normative attitudes on the part of others. I submit that such normative attitudes are never appropriate with respect to non-human animals. It follows that non-human animals are not normative creatures. Taking the case of morality as an example, my ideas may be put as follows: If you want to establish that animals are moral agents, don’t look for “nice” behavior, look for immoral behavior, i.e. behavior that licenses indignation and similar negative attitudes. Whether you can find it or not is itself a normative question, and one that we should answer negatively, or so I shall argue.

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