The Concept of Moral Standing

  • Peter Singer
Part of the The Hastings Center Series in Ethics book series (HCSE)


What are the limits of the sphere of ethics? Or, as Christopher Stone, the author of Should Trees Have Standing? put it: “What are the requirements for ‘having standing’ in the moral sphere?”1 Stone’s terminology comes, of course, from his legal background; in the courts, to “have standing” is to be able to take legal action, to sue. In current American law, infants may have standing and can sue through guardians, but neither trees nor nonhuman animals can have standing. I am, however, concerned with ethics rather than the law—although ethics may have implications for what the law should be.


Ethical Concern Nonhuman Animal Moral Standing Happy Life Corporate Entity 
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  1. 1.
    Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects ( New York: Avon Books, 1975 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    R. M. Hare, “Ethical Theory and Utilitarianism,” in Contemporary British Philosophy, 4th series, ed. H. D. Lewis (London: Allen & Unwin, 1976), p. 117; see also R. M. Hare, Freedom and Reason ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963 ).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Animal Liberation (New York: New York Review of Books, 1975) Ch. 4.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Immanuel Kant, “Duties to Animals and Spirits,” in Lectures on Ethics, trans. L. Infield ( New York: Harper & Row, 1963 ), p. 239.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The report of the Peel Committee is reprinted as Item 19 of Research on the Fetus: Appendix,the report of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (Washington, D.C.: Department of Health, Education and Welfare, OS 76–128, 1976)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Hastings Center 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Singer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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