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Animals, Relations, and the Laissez-Faire Intuition

Trevor Hedberg

Environmental Values 25 (2016): 427-442. doi: 10.3197/096327116X14661540759197

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In Animal Ethics in Context, Clare Palmer tries to harmonise two competing approaches to animal ethics. One focuses on the morally relevant capacities that animals possess. The other is the Laissez-Faire Intuition (LFI): the claim that we have duties to assist domesticated animals but should (at least generally) leave wild animals alone. In this paper, I critique the arguments that Palmer offers in favour of the No-Contact LFI – the view that we have (prima facie) duties not to harm wild animals but no duties to assist them. I argue that Palmer’s endorsement of the No-Contact LFI is unwarranted. Her arguments actually provide strong reasons to endorse what I call the Gradient View – a position that posits weak presumptive duties to assist wild animals that become stronger as our relations with the animals grow stronger.


Animals, animal ethics, laissez-faire intuition, duties of assistance

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Editorial: Letting Nature Take its Course. Simon P. James

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