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Pets and PeopleThe Ethics of Companion Animals$
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Christine Overall

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190456085

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190456085.001.0001

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A Two-Level Utilitarian Analysis of Relationships with Pets

A Two-Level Utilitarian Analysis of Relationships with Pets

Chapter:
(p.64) 5 A Two-Level Utilitarian Analysis of Relationships with Pets
Source:
Pets and People
Author(s):

Gary Varner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190456085.003.0005

The two-level utilitarianism of R. M. Hare provides a nuanced perspective on pets that mirrors the complex and varying relationships that people in different positions have to the animals most commonly kept as pets. Hare argued that real-world utilitarians need an “intuitive level” system of rules (“ILS rules”) to guide them in daily life, when explicitly utilitarian thinking would, ironically, tend to lead to decisions that do not maximize aggregate happiness. These ILS rules are selected and amended using explicitly utilitarian reasoning, and they divide into importantly different types that include laws, codes of professional ethics, and common morality. This chapter uses Harean utilitarianism to motivate a distinction among “companion animals,” “domesticated partners,” and “mere pets.” Using that distinction, the chapter then illustrates the different ways that laws, codes of professional ethics, and common morality change over time as explicitly utilitarian reasoning is used to amend them.

Keywords:   utilitarianism, R. M. (Richard Mervyn) Hare, pet, companion animal, professional ethics

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