James Rachels' Book, "Created From Animals" Is Wonderful!

The late moral philosopher James Rachels wrote a textbook on moral philosophy I used in preparation for my Introduction to Ethics classes called Elements of Moral Philosophy. I highly recommend it. He writes extremely well and makes the scholarly arguments accessible to the educated reader--something I aim to do as well. Rachels' book, Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, is also extremely well written and accessible to the educated reader. It's wonderful!

It was published in 1990 but is still an important work. It can be read online for free right here, but I recommend getting a hard-copy of it since the pdf version is sideways.

In many ways moral philosophers have ignored science. To the degree they do I'm unimpressed. Rachels does it right though, and in doing so he provides a model that moral philosophers should follow.

Chapter one might be considered by some readers to be sort of irrelevant to his argument in the rest of the book because he discusses Darwin's life, how he discovered the principle of natural selection and the ensuing reactions and debates that followed. I found Rachels to be well-informed about these events. He related them very well and the chapter is very informative. For people unacquainted with Darwinism this chapter is essential since it forms the basis for how he will argue later. After all, he wants to begin by showing Darwinism is the case. To the specialist this chapter can probably be skipped.

To see what he aims to do in his book read pages 4-5 in the "Front Matter" pdf, and then the "Recapitulation" found on pages 171-72 in the Chapter 4 pdf (be prepared to turn your head sideways).

In chapter five he wrestles with the implications of Darwinism for morality with specific reference to the treatment of animals in distinction from human beings. Rachels argues that "If we think it is wrong to treat a human in a certain way, because the human has certain characteristics, and a particular non-human animal also has those characteristics, then consistency requires that we also object to treating the non-human in that way" (p. 175). Then he fleshes this out in what follows and answers objections.

Since humans and other animals are not radically different in kind, his new understanding is summarized on page 197 in the Chapter 5 pdf.

It is a highly readable book, full of information, which has definitely advanced our understanding. Get it. Read it. Think about it.

Oh, and did I tell you that Darwinism does away with traditional morality where human beings have a special sort of dignity that other animals don't have?

Yep.

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