More Notes on Humans and Animals

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

ScreenHunter_48 Nov. 24 13.14I am growing increasingly convinced that people who believe we have an absolute moral duty to see to the well-being of all other human beings, to install water-purifying equipment in villages on the other side of the world, etc., and who, at the same time, happily contribute to the ongoing mass slaughter of animals, are really just picking and choosing their causes. There simply is no compelling reason why I, or anyone, should suppose that all and only human beings are the worthy targets of moral concern. This is not to say that you should care about animals. It is only to say that there is nothing natural or obvious or conclusive about your belief that you should care about all and only human beings. Your belief is a prejudice, characteristic of a time and place, and not the final say about where the reach of moral community ends.

We have an extremely peculiar ontology, from which we suppose our moral commitments flow. It is unlike anything in human experience prior to the rise of the modern West. In all other places and times, since the appearance of the human species, there has been a presumption of some sort of shared socio-natural community that extends well beyond the boundaries of the species. This sounds like an exaggeration, and it attributes to many groups of people views they have left no explicit record of having supported. But from the explicit record, anyway, there is not a shred of evidence of any culture ever supposing, prior to our own, that moral community is defined by the boundaries of our species.

More here.