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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Schopenhauer on the Rights of Animals

Torture to get that lovely gait of a Tennessee Walking Horse
I argue that Schopenhauer’s description of (moral) rights to animals flows naturally from his distinctive analysis of the concept of a right. In contrast to those who regard rights as fundamental and then cast wrongdoing as a matter of violating rights, he takes wrong (Unrecht) to be the more fundamental notion and defines the concept of a right (Recht) in its terms. He then offers an account of wrongdoing which makes it plausible to suppose that at least many animals can be wronged and thus, by extension, have rights. The result, I argue, is a perspective on the nature of moral rights in general, and the idea of animal rights in particular, that constitutes an important and plausible alternative to the more familiar views advanced by philosophers in recent decades - Puryear LINK here.

Puryear has a prose style that is elegant, simple and so readable you won't be able to stop. He has zeroed in on Schopenhauer's impeccable thinking. Instead of advocating and arguing for the "rights of animals" he has tied rights to its negative WRONGDOING. We are used to thinking of our inalienable rights from our Constitution but it is so easy to spin them away as other "rights" have been spun -  not to mention the destruction of Planet Earth.

To take a concept such as RIGHTS and invert it, turn it on its head is a thought game Einstein often played. So this is what Schopenhauer does with The Rights of Animals.

He ties it to WRONGDOING. If an animal can be wronged, then that is what gives rights. 

Again. IF I can wrong you, that means you have rights. 

And Schopenhauer goes on to indelibly imprint it on your thinking that animals can be wronged and that ensures that they have rights. Tied to this is The WILL. If the will can be stopped, perverted, thwarted, that is a violation of rights. It is WRONGDOING. 

The next question to come up is, Do animals have will? And Puryear carefully details Schopenhauer's thinking. The conclusion is inescapable unless you are determined to be indifferent and dense about this subject. As Foucault might say that the plight of animals has become problematized in the western world.

How great an extension is it to ask about WRONGDOING to rivers, streams, salmon, mountains, et al. 

In the Ancient World rivers, oceans were anthropomorphically perceived as belonging to the world of a particular God. Poseidon/Neptune ruled the waves, Apollo the Sun, Diana the Moon, and each was angered if her world was disturbed or changed in any way not initiated by herself. 

The jump to perceiving rivers, et all, as capable of being WRONGED (poisoned, damned, made dead, etc) is a concept that feels perfectly true to many of us.

as anyone who knows a river intimately - or a stream - can testify to.
Thwarting the WILL of the river, stream is WRONGDOING!

This is inline with Schopenhauer's thinking from animals.

Can we extend it?

The Colorado River is now in court. WRONGDOING to The Colorado River is being presented in court. But on what foundation are its rights being protected, defended, its ruination continuing, etc. IF Schopenhauer's reasoning is not cemented into the court case Deep Green Resistance is bringing, then we may not win the verdict we want.

By the way Schopenhauer adds that these animal rights are independent of legal rights and do not depend on them.

I would demand a jury trial for The Colorado River which I think with inspired testimony could win, set a precedent, and begin a reversal of corporate and government compliance in the destruction of the Planet.