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Research Articles
Published: 2023-09-11

Problems with Sentientist Politics

Our Lady of the Lake University
animal sentience sentientist politics levels of moral status principle of equal consideration of interests


One of the most prominent positions in animal ethics regarding the political status of animals is the sentientist view, according to which all sentient animals have equal moral worth and should be granted political standing within political communities. While there is disagreement regarding how to understand the political incorporation of animals, a prevalent view is that sentience can serve not only as the normative basis for granting animals political status and but also equal moral worth. Here I critique the claim that an undifferentiated, univocal conception of sentience can ground equality of moral standing and equal consideration of interests of all sentient animals. I focus on the conception of sentience employed by Alasdair Cochrane in his influential work Sentientist Politics. I argue that research in animal cognition shows that sentience is a greatly variable capacity, that sentience variability has moral significance, and that recognizing levels of moral status for sentient animals is an important step in feasible attempts to incorporate all sentient animals into political communities.


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