Deprivation as Un-Experienced Harm?

A Critical Analysis of Tom Regan’s Principle of Harm

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Department of Philosophy, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
  • 2 Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark
  • 3 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

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Abstract

Tom Regan encapsulated his principle of harm as a prima facie direct duty not to harm experiencing subjects of a life. However, his consideration of harm as deprivation, one example of which is loss of freedom, can easily be interpreted as a harm, which may not be experienced by its subject. This creates a gap between Regan’s criterion for moral status and his account of what our duties are. However, in comparison with three basic paradigms of welfare known in nonhuman animal welfare science, Regan’s understanding coheres with a modified version of a feelings-based paradigm: not only the immediate feelings of satisfaction, but also future opportunities to have such feelings, must be taken into account. Such an interpretation is compatible with Regan’s understanding of harm as deprivation. The potential source of confusion, however, lies in Regan’s own possible argumentative mistakes.

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