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TitlePersons, Animals, and Fetuses: An Essay in Practical Ethics
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Founded by Wilfrid S. Sellars and Keith Lehrer


Keith Lehrer, University of Arizona, Tucson

Associate Editor

Stewart Cohen, Arizona State University, Tempe

Board of Consulting Editors

Lynne Rudder Baker, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Allan Gibbard, University of Michigan

Denise Meyerson, University of Cape Town

Ronald D. Milo, University of Arizona, Tucson

Franr;ois Recanati, Ecole Poly technique, Paris

Stuart Silvers, Clemson University

Nicholas D. Smith, Michigan State University

The titles published in this series are listed at the end of this volume.

Page 156


require abandoning the advantages of civilization. On the other hand, there
is much we can do to simplify our existence in order to avoid waste and
pollution, without significantly reducing the quality of our lives. We ought
to be doing these things, if they are necessary for allowing those who will
live after us a chance for making their own happiness. Individuals can
recycle their trash, and walk, car pool, or use public transportation to get
to work. They can control the number of their children. People with a
scientific bent can choose careers in finding new ways to conserve, renew,
or develop alternative resources. Governments can offer financial and
other incentives to encourage such activities. They can pass and enforce
legislation to prevent industries from contaminating the environment and
to protect endangered species and wilderness areas. 16 We should also be
doing what we can to build a prosperous economy with strong health care
and educational systems to ensure the best possible physical and
intellectual development of our children.

In a strict sense, however, we only have obligations to act in the above
ways where law or public opinion now provides sanctions against failure
to do so. Without sanctions there is no obligation. And our remote
descendants will not be able to punish us for what we may have done to
deprive them. On the other hand, if we not only ought to do certain
things, but ought to be compelled to do so, then we are almost as much
morally bound to do them as we would be if sanctions existed.

I say 'almost' for the following reason. Ifthere are no sanctions, there
is probably no clear cut system for carrying out the actions we ought to do.
In such cases, doing these things requires efforts above and beyond what
we can normally expect of people. Let us suppose, for example, that we
ought to be recycling everything we can; yet if there are no centers nearby,
it is unreasonable to blame individuals for not recycling. On the other
hand, if there is a recycling center available with enough public support to
keep it running, then a person who throws out all his cans and newspapers
is not contributing his share to a worthwhile public effort, and surely ought
to be criticized. Ifhe is criticized, then there is a sanction; however, there
wouldn't be a sanction unless there are programs in place to promote

Furthermore, if no one is recycling, one more person's addition to the
heap of junk is not going to make that much difference. Recycling and
other conservation efforts will only be effective if they are cooperative and

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146 CHAPTER 11

involve large numbers of individuals working together. When such
projects are in operation, it would be unfair for some not to help. When
they are not, it is not only not unfair, but not particularly harmful for any
given person not to act. Consequently, it is not usually as bad, morally
speaking, for persons not to do what they ought to do and ought to be
compelled to do when there is neither system nor sanctions. The lack of
a system does not in any way, however, diminish the importance of what
they ought to be doing; it only diminishes their culpability for not doing it.

So far I have concluded that we ought to consider the interests of those
who will live in the future to be just as important as our own. Practically
speaking, however, we cannot do the same things for our descendants that
we can do for our contemporaries. We can, however, and ought to, take
certain steps to protects and enhance resources we expect future people to
need, when these steps do not require sacrificing our own vital interests.

Page 311


28. Terence Penelhum, God and Skepticism. A Study in Skepticism and Fideism. 1983
ISBN 90-277-1550-5

29. James Bogen and James E. McGuire (eds.), How Things Are. Studies in Predication
and the History of Philosophy of Science. 1985 ISBN 90-277-1583-1

30. Clement Dore, Theism. 1984 ISBN 90-277-1683-8
31. Thomas L. Carson, The Status of Morality. 1984 ISBN 90-277-1619-9
32. Michael J. White, Agency and Integrality. Philosophical Themes in the Ancient

Discussions of Determinism and Responsibility. 1985 ISBN 90-277-1968-3
33. Donald F. Gustafson, Intention and Agency. 1986 ISBN 90-277-2009-6
34. Paul K. Moser, EmpiricalJustijication. 1985 ISBN 90-277-2041-X
35. Fred Feldman, Doing the Best We Can. An Essay in Informal Deontic Logic. 1986

ISBN 90-277-2164-5
36. G. W. Fitch, Naming and Believing. 1987 ISBN 90-277-2349-4
37. Terry Penner, The Ascent from Nominalism. Some Existence Arguments in Plato's

Middle Dialogues. 1987 ISBN 90-277-2427-X
38. Robert G. Meyers, The Likelihood of Knowledge. 1988 ISBN 90-277-267 I-X
39. David F. Austin (ed.), Philosophical Analysis. A Defense by Example. 1988

ISBN 90-277-2674-4
40. Stuart Silvers (ed.), Rerepresentation. Essays in the Philosophy of Mental Representa-

tion. 1988 ISBN 0-7923-0045-9
41. Michael P. Levine, Hume and the Problem of Miracles. A Solution. 1979

ISBN 0-7923-0043-2
42. Melvin Dalgarno and Eric Matthews (eds.), The Philosophy of Thomas Reid. 1989

ISBN 0-7923-0190-0
43. Kenneth R. Westphal, Hegel's Epistemological Realism. A Study of the Aim and

Method of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. 1989 ISBN 0-7923-0193-5
44. John W. Bender (ed.), The Current State of the Coherence Theory. Critical Essays on

the Epistemic Theories of Keith Lehrer and Laurence BonJour, with Replies. 1989
ISBN 0-7923-0220-6

45. Roger D. Gallie, Thomas Reid and 'The Way of Ideas'. 1989 ISBN 0-7923-0390-3
46. J-C. Smith (ed.), Historical Foundations of Cognitive Science. 1990

ISBN 0-7923-0451-9
47. John Heil (ed.), Cause, Mind, and Reality. Essays Honoring C. B. Martin. 1989

ISBN 0-7923-0462-4
48. Michael D. Roth and Glenn Ross (eds.), Doubting. Contemporary Perspectives on

Skepticism. 1990 ISBN 0-7923-0576-0
49. Rod Berto1et, What is Said. A Theory ofIndirect Speech Reports. 1990

ISBN 0-7923-0792-5
50. Bruce Russell (ed.), Freedom, Rights and Pornography. A Collection of Papers by

Fred R. Berger. 1991 ISBN 0-7923-1034-9
51. Kevin Mulligan (ed.), Language, Truth and Ontology. 1992 ISBN 0-7923-1509-X
52. Jesus Ezquerro and Jesus M. Larrazabal (eds.), Cognition, Semantics and Philosophy.

Proceedings of the First International Colloquium on Cognitive Science. 1992 <
ISBN 0-7923-1538-3

53. O.H. Green, The Emotions. A Philosophical Theory. 1992 ISBN 0-7923-1549-9
54. Jeffrie G. Murphy, Retribution Reconsidered. More Essays in the Philosophy of Law.

1992 ISBN 0-7923-1815-3

Page 312


55. Phillip Montague, In the Interests of Others. An Essay in Moral Philosophy. 1992
ISBN 0-7923-1856-0

56. Jacques-Paul Dubucs (ed.), Philosophy of Probability. 1993 ISBN 0-7923-2385-8
57. Gary S. Rosenkrantz, Haecceity. An Ontological Essay. 1993 ISBN 0-7923-2438-2
58. Charles Landesman, The Eye and the Mind. Reflections on Perception and the

Problem of Knowledge. 1994 ISBN 0-7923-2586-9
59. Paul Weingartner (ed.), Scientific and Religious Belief 1994 ISBN 0-7923-2595-8
60. Michaelis Michael and John O'Leary-Hawthorne (eds.), Philosophy in Mind. The

Place of Philosophy in the Study of Mind. 1994 ISBN 0-7923-3143-5
61. William H. Shaw, Moore on Right and Wrong. The Normative Ethics of G.E. Moore.

1995 ISBN 0-7923-3223-7
62. T.A. Blackson, Inquiry, Forms, and Substances. A Study in Plato's Metaphysics and

Epistemology. 1995 ISBN 0-7923-3275-X
63. Debra Nails, Agora, Academy, and the Conduct of Philosophy. 1995

ISBN 0-7923-3543-0
64. Warren Shibles, Emotion in Aesthetics. 1995 ISBN 0-7923-3618-6
65. John Biro and Petr Kotatko (eds.), Frege: Sense and Reference One Hundred Years

Later. 1995 ISBN 0-7923-3795-6
66. Mary Gore Forrester, Persons, Animals, and Fetuses. An Essay in Practical Ethics.

1996 ISBN 0-7923-3918-5


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