The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Utilitarianism must recognize animal's happiness.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/22/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 11 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 242 times Debate No: 82920
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)





"Though there are many varieties of the view discussed, utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. There are many ways to spell out this general claim. One thing to note is that the theory is a form of consequentialism: the right action is understood entirely in terms of consequences produced." [1].

Utilitarianism must recognize animal's happiness.


Last debate Con made the argument that Utilitarianism is an inanimate concept that is incapable of recognition. This is purely semantics and disallowed for this debate. [2].





I am assuming the first round is acceptance. This seems like an intriguing point of discussion, and I look forward to Pro's argument.
Debate Round No. 1


In both pleasure and preference utilitarianism animals are important. "Classical utilitarians (hedonists) believe that happiness/pleasure should be maximized, while preference utilitarians believe that preferences, i.e interests, should be maximized." [2].

Since animals are capable of happiness, clearly animals should be included in hedonist utility calculations. Because animals are sentient, their desires or preferences are clear. Anyone who has ever had a pet dog or cat will known this. When a pet wants food, the pet lets the human know very clearly. There has been many cartoons illustrating this.

Animals prefer freedom to confinement. Well fed to hungry and so forth. Thanks for the debate. Vote Pro.



Thank you, Pro.

There are two ways in which this resolution could be seen in Pro's favour. The first being that the basic premises of Utilitarian ideologies necessitate the consideration of animal suffering. The second being that utilitarianism which considers animal suffering to be a more valid ideology than that which does not.

In Pro's argument, they seem to have solely addressed the former. My opponent argues that utilitarianism recognizes animal suffering by definition:

"In both pleasure and preference utilitarianism animals are important. "Classical utilitarians (hedonists) believe that happiness/pleasure should be maximized, while preference utilitarians believe that preferences, i.e interests, should be maximized.""

Since it is obvious that animals possess the traits mentioned above, Pro makes the conclusion that all varieties of utilitarianism are ones that, if followed, consider either the pleasure or the preferences of animals.

This conclusion is simply untrue. There are varieties of utilitarianism that do not focus on animals at all, and they have various criteria that demonstrates this. One of the earliest utilitarian philosophers, John Gay, did not judge pleasure as positive due to its own intrinsic value. Instead of simply suggesting that the greatest amount of pleasure is good, he suggested that we humans must maximize our own pleasure. The reason for the maximization of human pleasure was due to it being in according with the wishes of God. Another philosopher, G. E Moore, considered beauty as the ideal by which utilitarianism worked. Within such a framework, Pro's argument falls flat.

Unfortunately, since Pro did not address the second meaning of the resolution, there is no way for me to criticize their argument any further.

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 2


" The reason for the maximization of human pleasure was due to it being in according with the wishes of God.' Con

There are religions in which animals are important. For example all life is considered sacred under Hindu religion. "Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, noninjury, in thought, word and deed." [3].

John Gay would need to prove his religion was right and all the others wrong. John Gay's theory also relies upon a supreme being.

"Another philosopher, G. E Moore , considered beauty as the ideal by which utilitarianism worked." Con

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. By Moore's theories an animal's perception of beauty is just as valid as a human. Since perceiving beauty tends to make a human or animal happy, its hard to separate beauty and happiness. An animal lover's version of beauty is to see a happy animal.

Now to explain why all models of utilitarianism need to take animal's happiness into account. "Like Bentham, Mill sought to use utilitarianism to inform law and social policy. The aim of increasing happiness underlies his arguments for women's suffrage and free speech." [1].

As a person can see above, utilitarianism has been used to help women. Moving away from the self centered and self serving patriarchal views. If the jump from patriarchal to women's rights can be made, so can the jump from women's rights to animal rights and happiness.

Finally in an attempt to destroy Con's rebuttal. Human's get much happiness out of being nice to animals. How can the happiness of hugging an animal be compared to the pleasure gained from shooting a pigeon? It can't. The hugging of the animal will win. Even seen from solely a maximizing human happiness point of view, humans get pleasure and see beauty in happy animals.

Watch the bear video with 1.5 million views and tell me humans don't get happiness from watching happy animals. [4].



Thank you, Pro.

My opponent struggles, in this round, to differentiate between the two meanings of the word "must". In the first contention, Pro suggests that John Gay's version of utilitarianism is not justified, and therefore does not prove the resolution false. This contends with the lack of an argument for utilitarianism which does recognize the happiness of animals. Pro simply never gives any proof for why utilitarianism which considers animal happiness is valid. Instead, all other arguments have been centered on whether or not utilitarianism which does not consider animals are self-consistent.

John Gay's utilitarianism is entirely theologically based, and it is based on a from of Christianity. He simply did not have to prove the existence of his God or that his theory was true for the idea to be self-consistent. He was a utilitarian, and his brand of the normative ethics did not need to consider the happiness of animals.

"For example, he believed that "beauty" was an intrinsic good. A beautiful object had value independent of any pleasure it might generate in a viewer" [1]. G.E Moore disagreed with the idea that beauty was subjective. The viewers of beauty, including animals, did not contribute to the ideal. This is another example of a self-consistent utilitarian ideology that does not need to consider the happiness of animals.

What I suspect may be an argument for the brand of utilitarianism my opponent is suggesting, is the example of patriarchal views, My opponent suggests that since men learned to treat women as their equals, humans can learn to treat animals as our equals; thus my opponent suggests that women are to men as animals are to women. What this achieves, is to suggest that holding animal's happiness as less than animal's happiness is simply unjustified. My opponent gives no evidence for this idea, but the conclusion nonetheless remains irrelevant. The two brands of utilitarianism which I covered earlier do not become any less consistent with this assumption. Gay's reason for promoting human happiness was specifically due to his position on God's relationship to humankind. Moore's ideology promoted beauty completely independently from the pleasure that it caused.

Pro's attempt to "destroy" my argument falls flat in more ways than one. The first being that beauty remains independent from happiness. The second being that it is an attempt to misconstrue the resolution. Utilitarianism "must recognize animal's happiness" in so far as its core beliefs are applied to animals. What the resolution suggests, is that the "greatest happiness for the greatest number" refers to the happiness of animals. Saying that the animals have an indirect role in that is not relevant. Consider my opponent's rule, as well as the rest of the debate so far: Semantic arguments are not allowed, and the entirety of the debate suggests that this argument is no more than that. Considering the happiness of animals clearly refers to accepting animals as a part of that greatest "number". I urge the floor to simply disregard this rebuttal.

In conclusion, Utilitarianism does not need to take into account the happiness of animals. It is true that most varieties must, but the argument supporting the claim that all have to is borderline nonexistent. The argument supporting the claim that only the varieties that consider animals are correct is similarly nonexistent.

Thank you for the lovely debate.

Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by toretorden 11 months ago
I may be ignorant, but I thought utilitarianism already widely accepted that the happiness / suffering of animals is important. To a utilitarian, how deserving any one being is of moral concern ties (not exclusively) to the capacity that being has for feeling happiness or suffering.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Zarroette 11 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's burden of proof was near absolutist, in that Pro must defend *all* Ultilitarianism, in regards to the resolution. The initial contention, by way of Con's John Gay line of Ultilatrianism, was not accurately handled by Pro, in that saying Gay's argument needs to prove things does not render its existence void (as Con pointed-out). Since the brand of Utilitarianism did exist, and it did not recognise animal's happiness, Con negates the resolution. However, I must say that the debate was not a complete walkover, and that if Pro had provided a far less burdensome resolution, the debate would have been closer, if not in Pro's favour.