Moral hierarchy discussed
It's helpful to look at the three categories in more detail.
Sentient organisms that are self-aware
Sentient organisms that are aware of their own existence and would prefer to continue to exist deserve full moral consideration because:
- They experience pain and pleasure
- They are aware of their own existence and context
- They prefer to experience pleasurable lives
- They prefer to stay alive
This group includes most human beings and the higher animals. Using this criterion leads to a conclusion that would shock most people.
Sentient organisms that are not self-aware
Sentient organisms that are not self-aware and don't have any idea of continuing to exist in the future deserve some moral consideration because:
- They can feel pain and pleasure
- They prefer to avoid pain
- They prefer to experience pleasure
- It is wrong to cause pain to members of this group
- Killing and replacing individuals in this group is not significant
- because one individual is not significantly different from another
This group includes animals like fish and rodents.
Inanimate objects and insentient organisms
These deserve no moral consideration because it doesn't make sense to talk of treating them badly or well. This is because:
- They can't feel
- Nothing can matter to them
This group includes insects and simple animals, plants and inanimate objects.