The basis of human moral status

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When philosophers consider what moral status human beings have, they tend to find themselves either supporting the idea that not all human beings are rightholders or adopting what Peter Singer calls a 'speciesist' position, where speciesism is defined as morally favoring a particular species-in this case, human beings-over others without sufficient justification. In this paper, I develop what I call the 'genetic basis for moral agency' account of rightholding, and I propose that this account can allow all human beings to be rightholders without being speciesist. While my aim is to set out this account clearly rather than to defend it, I explain how this account is different from a potentiality account and I argue that it is preferable to an actual moral agency account of human moral status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-179
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Moral Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010


  • Moral agency
  • Moral standing
  • Moral status
  • Personhood
  • Sentience
  • Speciesism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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