Tom Beauchamp - "Rights Theory and Animal Rights"
4pm in SS 1253
Hosted by the Chair in Business Ethics
About the Talk
In "Rights Theory and Animal Rights," Tom Beauchamp presents a theory of animal rights developed from basic categories in moral and political philosophy about the nature and sources of rights. Though he acknowledges the importance of historically influential rights doctrines, such as that of John Locke, Beauchamp concentrates on aspects of contemporary rights theory that are suited to the analysis and justification of animal rights. He argues that there is a general concept of rights suitable for analysis of both human rights and animal rights: rights are justified claims that individuals, groups, and institutions have the option of making upon others or upon society. If an individual or group possesses a right, others are validly constrained from interfering with the exercise of that right. "Animal rights," then, give an animal or group of animals valid claims against the harm-causing activities of humans. Beauchamp defends the claim that animals have rights, but he does not treat these rights as the remarkable strong protections of animal interests found in some leading theories of animal rights, namely those that prohibit most of the ways in which humans use animals. Beauchamp nonetheless defends a robust theory of animals rights that would significantly alter many current practices. A critical part of his argument is that there is a firm correlativity between rights and obligations: all rights entail obligations and all obligations entail rights. Therefore, if we have any obligations at all to animals (e.g., an obligation to feed a farm animal, an obligation to provide exercise opportunities for zoo animals, and the like), they have correlative rights. Finally, Beauchamp uses his theory to generate what he calls a catalogue of the rights of animals.
About the Speaker
Tom Beauchamp is a Professor of Philosophy and a Senior Research Scholar in Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics. His areas of specialization are in Ethical Theory, Philosophy of Psychology, History of Modern Philosophy, Hume, Professional Ethics, and Bioethics. Beauchamp worked on the staff of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, where he co-wrote the Belmont Report in 1978, an important historical document in the field of medical ethics. He later joined with James Childress to write Principles in Bioethics, the first major American bioethics textbook. Beauchamp is also an expert on the philosophy of David Hume. He is the coeditor of the complete works of Hume published by Oxford University Press.