- Steve Sapontzis is professor of philosophy on the Hayward campus of the California State University. He is a co-founder and co-editor of the journal Between the Species, which publishes articles on ethics and our relations with nonhuman animals. In his book Morals, Reason and Animals, and in many articles, he has carefully explored a wide range of arguments about the moral status of animals.
- His role in this volume is, as he himself notes, that of the gadfly. He questions a premise shared by many of the other contributors to this book: that the special intellectual capacities of the great apes should entitle them to a higher moral status than other beings with interests.
- On reviewing the preliminary list of eminent contributors to this volume, I had to wonder what I might add that would not be merely redundant. When I was originally contacted by Paola Cavalieri for a little article on chimpanzees and ‘human rights’ for Etica & Animali, the concept of personhood1 had a prominent place in her concerns, as it does in much of moral philosophy. That concept is not employed in the Declaration on Great Apes, but I would still like to say a few words about it.
- Discussing personhood will lead us to a presumption - a kind of intellectual bias - which underlies this focus on great apes and which I find morally objectionable. Naturally, I will want to say a few words about that - every volume needs a bit of the gadfly.
- Next, I have a few thoughts, of a ‘yes-and-no’ nature, to contribute to the discussion of whether our relations with nonhuman great apes should be governed by the same basic moral principles or rights as govern our relations with human beings.
- Having laboured these theoretical points, I will, of course, want to change gear and conclude with a few political comments.
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