By Carissa Véliz
Originally posted April 14, 2016
Here is an excerpt:
Sentience is important because it warrants moral consideration. Whether we owe any moral consideration to things is controversial; things cannot be hurt, they have no interests, no preferences. Paraphrasing philosopher Thomas Nagel, there is nothing it is like for a thing to be a thing, an inanimate object. In contrast, there is something it is like to be a sentient being. There is a quality to experience; there is a comforting warmth in pleasure and a disagreeable sharpness in pain. There is something it is like to be thirsty, afraid, or joyful. Because sentient beings can feel, they can be hurt, they have an interest in experiencing wellbeing, and therefore we owe them moral consideration. Other things being equal, we ought not to harm them.
It is not easy to determine when an organism is sentient, however. A brief recount of past and present controversies and mistakes makes it clear that human beings are not great at recognizing sentience.
The article is here.