As discussed in prior entries, social animals demonstrate empathic behavior.   It is also quite obvious that they have social rules and enforce them.  Does that mean that your dog or cat has a moral compass?  And in turn, does that mean that we have moral obligations to them?  There are many examples of animals demonstrating ostensible compassion or empathy to other animals or humans.  It suggests that they have a sense of right and wrong and that they have “free will” to chose whether they will be good or bad.  An argument against this would be that human morality includes wacky, nonsensical, and arbitrary taboos.  Since animals don’t observe nonsense traditions descending from intellect and culture, it couldn’t be actual morality.  The animals must be responding to instinct.  But, humans instinctively help their children and the instinctiveness of it makes it no less moral.  And the lack of ability to reason out morality doesn’t mean that a 3 year old child won’t make moral choice.  

We could argue that all sentient beings deserve our respect.  Perhaps that begs the question whether it is a good idea to put silly hats on your cat.


Sentience is the ability to feelperceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think ("reason") from the ability to feel ("sentience"). In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences (described by some thinkers as "qualia"). For Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights, because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, which is held to entail certain rights.




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