ok, here's my predicament. Some peeps in the animal movement are deeply into moral philosophy and ethics and live under the illusion that you can be either a rights advocate or an utilitarian (and sadly lacking on the economic and political analysis of the issues).
I personally get very irritated when i read these texts for some largely unknown reason (well, i have many reasons to get irritated which i can outline later, but lets first hear your opinion) and would love to get some more structured ammo on the issue (i have written some lengthy messages about this issue rejecting both rights and utilitarian approach but based them on just more or less arbitrary thoughts and ramblings).
What is a proper libertarian communist/anarchist take on rights and utilitarian moral philosophy? What is the critique on the bourgeoise rights ethics? What is the response to the calculative utilitarian approach?
oh and revol68, i would love to hear your take on this mate, but try not to call me cunt in your reply, cheers.
Here's one example of a text explaining two main philosophical takes on animal issues outlining rightist and utilitarian approaches:
Richard Ryder. Painism (2001: 21-5).
The new Rights Theorists.
Talk of ‘rights’ goes back to John Locke (1632-1704) in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century the idea of rights became a part of revolutionary thought in France and America. The concept was, however, partially eclipsed in the following centuries by Utilitarianism and Marxism. Locke listed three human rights: to life, liberty and property. The American Declaration of Independence in 1776 substituted ‘happiness’ for ‘property’. Generally, talk of ‘rights’ rather than ‘duties’ is the language of the oppressed. It is victims or moral patients, or those who plead on their behalf, who naturally slip into rights-talk. The language of duties tends to be that of the powerful, of those who can control events. Moral rights should not be confused with legal rights although, as laws proliferate, what were once moral rights may become enshrined in law, and thus become legal rights. A distinction ought also to be made between a right to do something (an active right) and a right to have something done to one (a passive right). Although talk of rights, for historical reasons, not favoured among many British philosophers it is, as Brenda Almond points out, regarded as valid in most societies in the world today. Conventions on human rights are recognised in international law and there is much interest in extending rights to nonhuman animals. Who, then, can have rights? Various categories have been suggested – living things, sentient or conscious things, those who can reason or those who can choose. Rights will sometimes conflict with other rights and various rules of priority have been suggested. Rights, if they apply to everyone equally, tend to put a protective fence around individuals so that the interests of the majority (as in Utilitarianism) do not so easily overrule the rights of the individual. For example, however many people may benefit from her will, it is still quite wrong to murder Aunt Agnes; she is said to have an absolute right (or nearly so) not to be killed against her wishes.
Opposition to the idea of rights comes from both the political Right and Left. The Right suspects that rights-talk is a demand that yet more taxpayer’s money be handed over to the disadvantaged or ‘incompetent’ members of society. Morality, says the Right, should be a question of duties and not of rights. Misquoting Hobbes, the fallacy is often reiterated that in order to have rights one must be able to observe duties (thus, at a sweep, denying rights to infants, the severely disabled and many invalids). On the Left, however, the Marxists also oppose the notion of rights because Marxists receive morality generally as ivory tower speculation and a form of bourgeois special pleading that gets in the way of the class struggle. Moreover, Marxism sees the idea of individual rights as a threat to the power of the state. (It is, however, this individualism of Rights Theory that is, in my opinion, one of its most attractive features).
In the twentieth century attempts were made to make rights the foundation for ethical theory. Robert Nozick [Anarchy, State & Utopia, 1974], for example, argued that we have absolute rights to liberty, life and (legitimately acquired) property and Ronald Dworkin [Taking Rights Seriously, 1978] founded his theory upon a basic right to equal concern and respect, and advocated intervention by the state to protect rights.
Such Rights Theories are rule-based and so reject consequentialist theories such as Utilitarianism which judge actions to be right or wrong on the basis of their consequences alone. Often the two sorts of theories overlap in practice. For example, if Johnnie murders Aunt Agnes then this killing is likely to be wrong according to both types of theory. However, if the consequences of killing Aunt Agnes are that a hundred other lives are saved then, according to some consequentialists, her murder could be justified. Consequentialism has a flexibility that Rights Theory can lack. Utilitarianism is the leading example of consequentialisn.
The new Utilitarians.
Utiltarianism can be divided into sub-types, such as act Utilitarianism and rule Utilitarianism. According to act Utilitarianism it is the consequences of the particular act that count when judging whether it is right or wrong. The main difficulty with this approach is that, in practice, it is often extremely difficult and time-consuming to try to calculate the consequences of an action. If one is trying to calculate in advance of an act then it doubly difficult. Indeed, strictly speaking, it is impossible to predict consequences with certainty… Anyway, ordinary human society itself can be extremely unpredictable – and even benevolent actions may turn out to have unintended consequences in the long term. Rule Utilitarianism gets around some of the problems by laying down rules, the following of which has been generally found to lead to the best consequences. Right actions are those which conform to these rules. The problem with this approach is that circumstances can change. Rules are not always the best way to deal with changing circumstances or unusual cases. A hybrid approach may be, in practice, the best.
On occasions, rule Utilirarianism has been applied to prevent the occurrence of the apparently shocking implications of act Utilitarianism. Today, however, rule Utilitarianism in its pure form has little support and most philosophers regard it with disfavour.
What is called classical or hedonistic Utilitarianism is that which endeavours to maximise happiness or pleasure. As J.S. Mill stated, “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness”. Peter Singer has defined classical Utilitarianism as holding:
That every action is to be judged good or bad according to whether its consequences do more harm than any alternative action to increase – or, if that is impossible, to limit any unavoidable decrease in – the net balance of pleasure over pain in the universe.
In the twentieth century R.M. Hare proposed that universalisable judgements must prescribe what is most in agreement with the preferences of all those affected by an action. What is called preference Utilitarianism stipulates that the rightness of an action depends upon its satisfaction of people’s preferences. Preference is not quite the same as happiness, pleasure or pain. Its advantages, as a concept, appear to the psychologist to be that preference behaviour (i.e., whether or not a subject chooses one thing rather than another) can be directly observed whereas the subjective states of others (such as happiness) cannot be so perceived. Also, ‘preference’ covers both pleasurable and painful experiences. Furthermore, preference behaviour can easily accommodate the masochist who, in certain circumstances, derives a pleasure from experiencing pain that is greater than that pain.
Peter Singer is, perhaps, the best known of all modern Utilitarians. He has played a major role not only in reviving Utilitarianism but Applied Ethics itself. Before Singer, ethics was largely regarded as an abstruse field which had little to say about everyday living. In the twenty-first century, however, it is a subject taught in almost every university and college. The clarity of Singer’s writing and his mastery of all aspects of the subject have made ethics accessible to the ordinary reader in a way not previously achieved by most philosophers. Singer admits that he is best known for his book Animal Liberation, first published in 1975… Singer describes himself as a preference Utilitarian, understanding ‘best consequences’ as ‘that which satisfies the most preferences weighed in accordance with the strength of the preferences’.