Expand your Moral Circle

Wed, Mar 03

In this class, we'll explore the concept of your "circle of moral concern," the class of beings whose interests you consider in your moral deliberations. We'll ask: who and what should belong to our moral circle? Should we concern ourselves with the plight of strangers on the other side of the world? Animals? Unborn humans? People who will exist in the far future? We'll also critically examine the widespread belief that humans matter more than non-human animals. Is this belief defensible, or is it just another form of unjust discrimination on a par with racism and sexism? By the end of class:

  1. You will reflect on what it means to have "moral status," and who should be included in the "moral community"
  2. You will understand the suffering criterion and the argument for including animals in your moral circle
  3. You will offer your own criteria for membership in the moral community, and defend this against anticipated objections.

Read This:


"All Animals are Equal" (Peter Singer)


"Our Once and Future Sins" (Aeon)

Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • Give your own answer - who should be included in the moral community, and why? How does your argument compare with at least one of the arguments in the readings?
    • If animals should be included, how should our behavior and practices towards animals change? Be specific.

Watch This: