Delimiting Justice: Animal, Vegetable, Ecosystem?

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This paper attempts to bring some clarity to the debate among
sentientists, biocentrists, and ecocentrists on the issue of who or what
can count as a candidate recipient of justice. I begin by examining the
concept of justice and argue that the character of duties and
entitlements of justice sets constraints on the types of entities that can
be recipients of justice. Specifically, I contend that in order to be a
recipient of justice, one must be the bearer of enforceable moral claim
rights. I then suggest that this has important implications for the
dispute among sentientists, biocentrists, and ecocentrists. In brief, I
show that sentientists cannot exclude nonsentient entities from the
domain of justice merely by denying that they have “the right kind of
interests,” and biocentrists and ecocentrists cannot move seamlessly
from some feature of living things or ecosystems to entitlements of
justice. I further argue that ultimately this disagreement on the bounds
of justice bottoms out in a normative disagreement about which
entities possess moral claim rights, and that the case for biotic or
ecosystem rights has yet to be convincingly established.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-230
Number of pages20
JournalLes ateliers de l'ethique/The ethics forum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2018


  • Justice
  • Sentience
  • Biocentrism
  • Ecocentrism
  • Duties
  • Rights

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