Against Biospherical Egalitarianism

French, William C.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 17/1 (1995), pages 39-57

Arne Naess and Paul Taylor are two of the most forceful proponents of the principle of species equality. Problematically, both, when adjudicating conflict of interest cases, resort to employing explicit or implicit species-ranking arguments. I examine how Lawrence Johnson’s critical, species-ranking approach helpfully avoids the normative inconsistencies of “biospherical egalitarianism.” Many assume species-ranking schemes are rooted in arrogant, ontological claims about human, primate, or mammalian superiority. Species-ranking, I believe, is best viewed as a justified articulation of moral priorities in response to individuals’
or entities’ relative ranges of vulnerability and need, rooted in their relative ranges of capacities and interests.