Two Problems for Animal Rights Theory

  • John HadleyEmail author


In this chapter, I argue that orthodox analytic animal rights theory faces two metalevel problems: the equivocation problem and the placement problem. The equivocation problem is that the basic animal rights argument commits a fallacy of equivocation. Following Darwin, it is a truism that human and animal mental states differ by degree. While the degree of difference may not have ethical implications, I argue it must have semantic implications for the meaning of the term sentience in the premises of the basic argument for animal rights. The placement problem is a well-known problem in analytic metaphysics that is passed over by orthodox animal rights theorists. If philosophical realism and scientific naturalism are framing assumptions of orthodox animal rights theory, then it is difficult to find a place for the signature concept of animal rights theory, inherent value, in a naturalistic account of the world. The basic criticism is that, at the metaphysical level, animal rights theory has a similar structure to religious ethical theories.


Animal rights Fallacy of equivocation Placement problem Darwin Philosophical realism Supernaturalism Inherent value 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western Sydney UniversityPenrithAustralia

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