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Prospects for an Inclusive Theory of Justice: The Case of Non‐Human Animals

Journal of Applied Philosophy

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In this article, I argue that there are three widely accepted views within contemporary theorising about justice that present barriers to accepting that non‐human animals possess direct entitlements of justice. These views are (1) that the basis of entitlements of justice is either contribution to a cooperative scheme for mutual advantage or the capacity to so contribute; (2) political liberalism, that is, the view that requirements for coercive state action can be justified only by appeal to the ideal of citizens as free and equal and the principles of justice that are entailed by that ideal; and (3) that the principles of justice apply directly to the institutions of what John Rawls calls the ‘basic structure of society’, and not to the conduct of individuals. I then consider several attempts to ground direct entitlements of justice for animals via modest revisions to one or more of these widely accepted views, and argue that they fail, and that, more generally, any such attempt must fail. I claim that any theory that can include direct entitlements for animals must reject (1) and at least one of (2) and (3), and that there are reasons to think that those who are inclined to endorse direct entitlements for animals are unlikely to be satisfied with any view that does not reject all three of the widely accepted views. I conclude by briefly noting some of the important implications of rejecting all of these views.