Originally posted April 4, 2019
Here is an excerpt:
The moral circle is a fundamental concept among philosophers, psychologists, activists, and others who think seriously about what motivates people to do good. It was introduced by historian William Lecky in the 1860s and popularized by philosopher Peter Singer in the 1980s.
Now it’s cropping up more often in activist circles as new social movements use it to make the case for granting rights to more and more entities. Animals. Nature. Robots. Should they all get rights similar to the ones you enjoy? For example, you have the right not to be unjustly imprisoned (liberty) and the right not to be experimented on (bodily integrity). Maybe animals should too.
If you’re tempted to dismiss that notion as absurd, ask yourself: How do you decide whether an entity deserves rights?
Many people think that sentience, the ability to feel sensations like pain and pleasure, is the deciding factor. If that’s the case, what degree of sentience is required to make the cut? Maybe you think we should secure legal rights for chimpanzees and elephants — as the Nonhuman Rights Project is aiming to do — but not for, say, shrimp.
Some people think sentience is the wrong litmus test; they argue we should include anything that’s alive or that supports living things. Maybe you think we should secure rights for natural ecosystems, as the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is doing. Lake Erie won legal personhood status in February, and recent years have seen rights granted to rivers and forests in New Zealand, India, and Colombia.
The info is here.