Do non-sentient entities have moral consideration or standing?

Essay by ebg00University, Bachelor'sA-, May 2005

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Moral standing is the fact that a being be ethically considered for its own sake. When we say that some beings have moral standing we say in a moral matter context that their well-being must be given some consideration. To clarify it, an individual has moral standing for us if when making moral decisions, we feel we ought to take that individual's welfare into account for the individual's own sake and not for our benefit or someone else's benefit. For example a doctor who seeks the physical welfare of his patients and believes that it would be morally wrong to treat them in an improper way. If he believes this, not because of any benefits he will get if he takes care of them, but only because he's concern in his patients' well-being. His patients have moral standing for him. On the other hand, a farmer who looks after the welfare of his tree and believes that a morally wrong action would be to stop irrigating it or not taking care of it.

If he believes this only because mistreating the tree would decrease its fruit production where this latter is an essential source of nourishment and income for his family. This farmer considers his trees' welfare only for the sake of his family and not for the sake of the tree itself. The tree has no moral standing for the farmer. In opposite direction, the tree would have moral standing for the farmer if he considers the trees' welfare for the sake of the tree i.e. takes care of it preventing it from dying. Many arguments could be adopted to consider if non-sentient entities have moral standing or not. Feinberg considered that only beings that have interests can be represented, so as a fact only being that has interests...

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