A Sensible Speciesism?
Keywords:humanism, speciesism, criterialism, bernard williams
In his essay “The Human Prejudice” Bernard Williams presented a sophisticated defense of the moral relevance of the concept “human being”. Here I offer both an analysis of his essay and a defense of his conclusions against criticisms made by Julian Savulescu and Peter Singer. After a discussion of the structure of Williams’s argument, I focus on several complaints from Savulescu: that Williams underestimates the similarities between speciesism and racism or sexism, that Williams relies on a disputable internalism about reasons to make his case, that Williams ignores the arbitrariness of species membership, and (a complaint also made by Singer) that Williams attacks a straw man in considering only negative utilitarianism when criticizing the idea of an Impartial Observer. I defend Williams against these charges and end with a brief discussion of how his alien invasion example illustrates the fundamentally different philosophical sensibility of Bernard Williams in comparison to critics like Savulescu and Singer.
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