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I have interest in a wide variety of topics in contemporary political and moral philosophy. I am particularly interested in questions of moral status, moral equality and basic rights, particularly the rights of nonhuman animals. I follow the debates in environmental justice, animal ethics, ideal/real-world theory, social justice, feminism, racism, anarchism, meta-ethics, human rights and theories of knowledge.

My PhD research is supervised by Dr Liam Shields and Dr Richard Child. At the University of British Colombia my host supervisor was Prof Kimberley Brownlee.

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Works in Progress

PhD Thesis: Human Rights Beyond the Human?


Do animals have rights? And if so, are those rights similar to or fundamentally different from our own? In order to answer these questions, I start by investigating the notion that Human Rights are grounded in “Human Dignity”. I argue that if we understand Dignity to be a signifier for moral status, then there is no justification for a distinctly human dignity. From this, I argue that a recharacterization of Dignity as the grounds of basic rights is required and offer that recharacterization in terms of the capacity to value. Since this is possessed by humans and nonhumans alike, it constitutes a grounds for “human” rights that extend beyond the human.

In chapter 1, I argue that Dignity cannot be restricted to all and only humans when understood as moral status. If it is restricted to humans, it fails to fulfil two essential criteria for a plausible account of Dignity: (a) Dignity should be grounded in intrinsically valuable external properties and (b) offer an independently plausible explanation for why beings who are moral patients can be wronged. In chapters 2 and 3, I develop an account of Dignity which can apply beyond the human. This account argues that what explains a being's possession of Dignity is their capacity to value (grounded in their capacity for teleological interests, and their capacity to experience of modifiable mental states). In chapter 2 I elucidate and defend this account. I argue that this account of Dignity captures the intuitive force of sentientist accounts and overcomes objections surrounding underinclusivity. In chapter 3 I then argue that it is not only a basis for moral status, but it is the only basis for the moral status relevant to ‘what we owe to one another’. To do so, I explain why the capacity to value is a property with intrinsic value, and why this property grounds the derivative value of other properties some might think also have intrinsic value (on a Pluralist account).

In chapters 4 and 5, I use this account of the basis of moral status to provide a revisionary account of basic “human” rights which apply beyond the human. To do so, in chapter 4 I first assume that interests ground rights in some sense, in order to defend the idea that all moral patients possess the same moral status, and are therefore one another’s moral equals because they have the same number and an equal stringency of fundamental rights. This is because, according to my argument, they all possess a single right of absolute stringency: the right to the opportunity to achieve what they value. Subsequently, in chapter 5, I turn to the question of how the interest in achieving what one values grounds the right to the opportunity to achieve what one values. I address this question second because the reflections in chapter 4 allow me to simultaneously provide a framework for a theory of basic rights: I argue that this grounds, together with a Dignitarian strategy of interpretation and contextual specification, allows us to specific the instances of these rights and the deontic relations they embody. I thus conclude that not only does dignity apply beyond the human, but so do rights – and those rights are not fundamentally different, no matter the kind of moral patient who possesses them.

Papers (Some titles removed for Blind-Review)

  • "The Brightside of Human Rights - Beyond the Human!"

  • "Ameliorating "The Animal""

  • "Removing the Constraints from Ought Implies Can"

  • "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"

  • A paper on Human Dignity and it's application to nonhuman animals (link to a talk I gave on this)

  • A paper on the grounds of moral status and why there are not multiple bases for it

  • A paper on degrees of moral status which argues against the view that there are several different ranks of moral status and instead defends the claim that there is only one moral status, held equally by all moral patients.

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