Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


The ethical relationship between humans and other animals is most appropriately considered from the perspective of an organic metaphysics, such as that of A. N. Whitehead. Considerations that are critically examined include: (1) the utilitarian argument, which identifies moral relevance with the characteristic of sentience; (2) arguments based on rights, which justify the affirmation or denial of animal rights according to differing criteria; and (3) environmental ethics, which emphasize a holistic approach to ethical concerns. The utilitarian argument reflects the assumptions of a dualistic metaphysics and lacks relevance for environmental concerns. Rights arguments differ according to the capacities identified as necessary for the possession of rights and result in more, or less inclusive classes of rights holders. Problems arise with the emphasis on individual rights and the requirement for a further standard to resolve conflicting rights. An environmental ethic that asserts the organic interrelationships of the natural world is described and compared to the utilitarian and rights arguments. Finally, the ethical implications of an environmental ethic grounded in an organic metaphysics are examined.


Dr. Eugene Flaherty

Date of Award

Fall 1983

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1983 Janis Thielen Jeffers


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