The aim of this article is to revisit and redefine the scope of a Kantian rights-based theory to include non-human animals. Generally, rights-based theories are predicated on a Kantian deontology that excludes all but rational subjects from possessing of basic rights. Historically, non-human animals—once thought to act on impulse and desire alone—have been excluded from rights-based considerations. However, more recent literature from emotions theorist Martha Nussbaum suggests an alternative picture for non-human animals. Cognitivist theories like Nussbaum’s, alongside intensive scientific research, support the notion that non-human animals show signs of intentionality and possess the capacity to emote. If Nussbaum’s theory is correct that emotions are indeed intelligent, potentially rational, evaluative judgments, then non-human animals are in fact rational agents. Therefore, non-human animals should be granted limited protections under a deontological moral framework. Ultimately, I shall detail what these limited protections might look like.
"Wildlife Emotions: Animal Rights As Examined Through A Cognitivist Lens,"
The Hilltop Review: Vol. 12:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/hilltopreview/vol12/iss1/4