Utilitarianism and Animals

  • Alasdair Cochrane
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series book series (PMAES)


In the previous chapter we heard how a number of eighteenth and nineteenth century thinkers proposed that justice extends to animals. Thinkers such as Frances Hutcheson, Humphrey Primatt, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill all claimed that political communities owe something to animals, and owe them something on the basis that they are sentient. While such claims were not entirely novel, they had certainly not been heard for some time. The dominant position in medieval times had been that animals are fundamentally different to humans because they lack reason; and such a claim had spilled over into modern times, with many thinkers arguing that animals are owed nothing because of their lack of free will and their inability to participate in a social contract. However, the emergence of utilitarianism as a discrete political theory in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries posed a radical challenge to such views, and allowed the connection between sentience and justice to be made again.


Political Theory Political Community Conscious State Capability Approach Worth Living 
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Copyright information

© Alasdair Cochrane 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alasdair Cochrane
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of EconomicsUK

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