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Ernesto Rodriguez

Philosophy 12: Ethics

Summer 2004


Final Question 4


What is the neuro-ethical argument for vegetarianism as presented by Lane? (Outline the main points/ideas in the article). What is the Utilitarian argument for animal rights as presented by Singer? Are they the same argument or not? When discussing Singer outline his argument for animal rights drawing specifically from the first couple of chapters of his book to illustrate that you read. (you will need to mention and define speciesism and other important ideas)


David Lane’s neuro-ethical argument for vegetarianism posits that as humans, our central nervous system allows us to feel pain. Since we know what it is to feel pain, we find it immoral to inflict pain on each other. Likewise, we find it immoral to inflict pain on certain animals that exhibit higher intelligence, as we tend to believe that animals with greater mental capacities are also more sensitive to pain. For this reason we find it immoral to inflict pain on humans and certain species of animals, and since eating them includes inflicting pain on them, we find it immoral to eat them. But Lane argues that any organism with a central nervous system, regardless of how highly evolved, experiences pain. He argues that if we can survive without having to inflict pain on these creatures then we should choose other means of sustenance. It is, by this logic, immoral to eat anything with a central nervous system.


Singer’s argument for vegetarianism is based on Bentham’s idea that “the capacity for suffering as the vital characteristic that entitles a being to equal consideration” (Singer, 57). From this Utilitarian perspective, Singer argues that the interest of humans is to be considered equal to the interest of animals. Based on this, the small interest that humans have in eating animals is outweighed by the greater interest the animal has in preserving its life. Singer’s ideology dictates that major interests cannot be sacrificed to satisfy minor interests, and so in this case the interest of the animal outweighs the interest of the human, making it unethical by Singer’s standard for the human to eat the animal.


Lane and Singer’s argument share some ideas but cannot be considered the same argument. They agree on the idea that animals should be considered equally as humans. What David Lane points out as our compassion only for ourselves and animals of higher intelligence Singer identifies as “speciesism”. Lane’s argument includes that anything with a central nervous system should not be eaten, he makes no distinction between simple and more complex nervous systems given that they all transmit pain. Similarly, Singer argues that the same logic that establishes equality among humans also establishes equality among all species. According to Singer the ideas behind racism, the interests of one race over another’s, is the same idea behind “speciesism”.