In one sense, moral status can be defined as what it is morally permissible or impermissible to do to some entity. In this sense, rocks may have the moral status of entities to which, just considering them, it is morally permissible to do anything. Christine Korsgaard has argued that some things may be ends in virtue of their intrinsic properties that give them their intrinsic value, but others may be ends in virtue of their extrinsic properties. There is a difference between one's having a duty to do something and having a duty to a specific entity to do it. If only rational beings can, strictly, be the subjects of directed duties or have rights, what shall we say of infants or the severely retarded? Thomas Scanlon's view seems to be that in virtue of their relation to rational beings—that is, they are early or failed members of a type whose norm it is to be rational—they too have some rights.
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