We recently published a page outlining ACE’s philosophical commitments, which, when taken together, form the foundation of our work. In addition to explaining our commitments, we also explain that we are not committed to certain controversial views that are sometimes attributed to us. For instance, we are not committed as an organization to any particular moral theory, any particular view of consciousness, or any particular political ideology.
We believe our research is valuable to anyone who shares the following three philosophical commitments:
1. No individual should be given less than full moral consideration on the basis of any morally irrelevant feature of their identity, and this includes species membership.
Some people have argued that only humans deserve full moral consideration because humans have some characteristic that all other animals lack. However, we are only able to identify one characteristic that applies to all and only humans: membership in the species Homo sapiens. Species membership—like race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation—is an arbitrary feature of identity on which to place moral importance. Nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of any of these features.
2. All other morally relevant factors being equal, the best (most morally good) action is the one that results in the highest net welfare.
Given the choice between making a $1 donation that results in one life spared or making a $1 donation that results in ten lives spared, it’s better to make the donation that will spare ten lives, all else equal. Given the choice between volunteering an hour of time to make a small improvement in an animal’s welfare or volunteering an hour of time to make a large improvement in an animal’s welfare, it’s better to use the time to make the larger net improvement, all else equal.
3. Empirical research can help us determine which action is best.
Anyone who is determined to help animals as much as possible should use research to guide their actions. Investigating animal welfare is, at least to some extent, an empirical enterprise. To better understand the inner lives of nonhuman animals, we can rely on research from academic fields such as biology, neuroscience, and ethology, among others. Predicting the effects of various actions is also, at least to some extent, an empirical enterprise. Studies on the effects of common animal advocacy interventions can help guide our efforts.
Because ACE is committed to transparency, we feel it is important to describe our philosophical commitments explicitly. We hope that our new page can clarify some of the questions our readers may have about the philosophical assumptions we make during the course of our work.
The full page outlining ACE’s philosophical commitments can be found here.