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The notion of “animal morality” is paradoxical given that it can be taken either as a tautology or as a contradiction. This notion is sometimes considered to be a tautology because of the so-called “naturality” of morality, whereas it is sometimes seen as a contradiction due to the supposedly “fierceness” of the wild. This paper holds that it is necessary to go beyond this paradoxical representation of animal morality and to examine the question of animal morality as a philosophical problem. Relying on empirical and conceptual works in cognitive ethology, psychology and philosophy, I suggest that animal morality should be considered by taking the perspective of a moral patient as well as by taking the viewpoint of a moral agent. The leading idea is that the concept of “naïve morality” developed in previous works solves some pitfalls and clarifies the discussion about “animal morality” by delineating its scope and limits. We will argue in particular that certain non-human species are endowed with a naïve morality, whereas they do not have a full-fledged morality, or, in other terms, a moral sense. However, the occurrence of naïve morality in certain animals does not necessarily imply the existence of natural rights for animals.

Vanessa Nurock
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