Posts by Rainer Ebert

Cosmopolitan, philosopher and activist

Philosopher-activist Tom Regan, preeminent advocate of animal rights, dead at 78

tom-regan-utah-valley-university-1-april-2010-4

Horrified by the tragic loss of innocent human life in the then-ongoing Vietnam War, a young philosopher by the name of Tom Regan went to the university library and buried himself in books on war, violence, and human rights, determined to prove that the American involvement in the war was morally wrong. One day, he picked up Mohandas K. Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Reading it with great care and interest, he must have come across the following lines:

“To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” Continue reading →

Second Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics Special Issue on Animal Ethics published

BBSThe way we think about and treat non-human animals is deeply confused, and scholars are in a unique position to provide some clarity. The Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics hence decided to dedicate two special issues to the relationship between human beings and other animals, and asked me to be the guest editor.

Less than two weeks after the first issue was published, the second special issues has now been published as well, and is available here. My editorial, which includes brief summaries of the articles, is available here, and this is the table of contents:

  • Editorial
  • Bob Fischer (Texas State University, U.S.A.):
    Wild Fish and Expected Utility
  • Akande Michael Aina (Lagos State University, Nigeria) & Ofuasia Emmanuel (Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria):
    The Chicken Fallacy and the Ethics of Cruelty to Non-Human Animals
  • Iván Ortega Rodríguez (Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain):
    Animal Citizenship, Phenomenology, and Ontology: Some reflections on Donaldson’s & Kymlicka’s Zoopolis
  • Rhyddhi Chakraborty (American University of Sovereign Nations, U.S.A.):
    Animal Ethics and India: Understanding the Connection through the Capabilities Approach
  • Robin Attfield (Cardiff University, U.K.) & Rebekah Humphreys (Trinity St. David’s University, U.K.):
    Justice and Non-Human Animals – Part 2

Continue reading →

First Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics Special Issue on Animal Ethics published

BBSLast August, I accepted an invitation to edit a special issue of the Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics, devoted to animal ethics. The interest was so great that one issue became two, the first of which has just been published.

The first special issue is available here, my editorial, which includes brief summaries of the articles, is available here, and this is the table of contents:

  • Editorial
  • Robin Attfield (Cardiff University, U.K.) & Rebekah Humphreys (Trinity St. David’s University, U.K.):
    Justice and Non-Human Animals – Part 1
  • Eric X. Qi (Rice University, U.S.A.):
    Special Relations, Special Obligations, and Speciesism
  • Yamikani Ndasauka & Grivas M. Kayange (University of Malawi, Malawi):
    Existence and Needs: A case for the equal moral considerability of non-human animals
  • Sreetama Chakraborty (Belda College, India):
    Animal Ethics: Beyond Neutrality, Universality, and Consistency
  • Gabriel Vidal Quiñones (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Chile):
    Singerian Vegetarianism and the Limits of Utilitarianism: A path towards a Meaning Ethics

Continue reading →

Zur von Frau Merkel neu entfachten Burka-Debatte

burka

Unter heftigem Beifall hat Angela Merkel letzte Woche beim CDU-Parteitag in Essen ein Verbot der Vollverschleierung gefordert, “wo immer das rechtlich möglich ist.” Diese Forderung wurde dann auch so von der CDU beschlossen.

Abgesehen davon, dass es in Deutschland praktisch keine vollverschleierten Frauen gibt und es sich deshalb um eine reine Symboldebatte handelt, ist die Forderung nach einem Verbot von Burka und Niqab strategisch falsch. Rechtspopulisten wie die AfD bekämpft man mit einem überzeugenden Eintreten für freiheitliche Werte, nicht mit mehr Populismus und dadurch, dass man deren Positionen legitimiert. Sie ist darüber hinaus sachlich unbegründet. Continue reading →

Professor Tom Regan: An Introduction to Animal Rights

This presentation by Professor Tom Regan (North Carolina State University, USA) was recorded at the University of Heidelberg in Germany on May 24, 2006. It is a great resource for the classroom and anybody with an interest in animal ethics.

Abstract. Philosopher Tom Regan begins by contrasting the fact that many people make a firm distinction between the animals they live with (cats and dogs, for example) and other animals. He explains how it is that Animal Rights Advocates (ARAs) extend the same sense of compassion and respect that they feel for companion animals, on the one hand, to the other animals who routinely are turned into food, clothing, and the like, on the other. Not all ARAs, he explains, arrive at this destination in the same way. In particular, some need to be convinced; some need a logical argument. Professor Regan accepts this challenge and invites others to consider the main factual and moral questions whose answers inform the conviction that animals have rights.

South Africa: The Rainbow Nation

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It had been almost three months since we started from my hometown of Adelmannsfelden in Germany, and we had traversed ten countries, when we finally entered the last country on our itinerary on the 30th of July, 2011. Continue reading →

Victoria Falls, and free-roaming lions in Botswana

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Entering Zambia

Entering Zambia

We left Malawi and entered Zambia through the Mchinji border crossing on the 21st of July, and then made a stop in Chipata, the capital of the Eastern Province of Zambia. The city boasts fancy hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls, and an abundance of banks and ATM machines. This was quite a contrast to where we just came from. It is an observation we made throughout our journey, that things suddenly and often surprisingly change as one crosses borders. Continue reading →

“Welcome to Africa!”

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We had just crossed the Kenyan-Tanzanian border at Namanga and were about to enter the town limits of Longido, when suddenly a car rolled onto the highway. The elderly driver saw us, probably panicked, and stopped his car, blocking the narrow highway in its entirety. I had no option but to slam on the brakes, but it was too late. We crashed into the car’s side, were thrown over the car, and hit the asphalt. Continue reading →

Stranded in the Kenyan desert, and a visit to the land of the Maasai

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Ethiopian-Kenyan border at Moyale

Ethiopian-Kenyan border at Moyale

We spent the night of the 20th of June in the border town of Moyale, and headed out for Marsabit in northern Kenya in the morning. As we rode from one country into the other, the asphalt road ended. We did not think much of it at the time. The first 120 kilometers on the dirt road were easy and fun, and brought us to the village of Turbi. But then, as we entered the Dide Galgalu Desert, the troubles began. Continue reading →

The Simien Mountains, and the first hijra in Islam

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The terrain of Sudan is generally flat, and the climate is dry and extremely hot, whereas Ethiopia is mountainous, hence sometimes referred to as the Roof of Africa, making it considerably cooler than other regions around the globe at a similar latitude. Around the border at Gallabat/Metema, that contrast is particularly stark, and experiencing it as we crossed the border was amazing. Within a short distance, the sparse desert landscape turned into a dense collection of abundantly green hills, valleys, and mountains, and the scorching heat gave way to a mild breeze. Continue reading →

An oasis of hospitality in the searing heat of the Nubian Desert

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Lake Nasser (Nubia) ferry

Lake Nasser (Nubia) ferry

Signaling the warming up of relations between Egypt and Sudan, a land border crossing between the two nations was opened in 2014. Three years prior, however, when we did our motorcycle trip through Africa, the only way to get from Egypt to Sudan was by ferry. Continue reading →

Stories of a time long gone, and Egyptian khichuri

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Pyramid of Djoser

Pyramid of Djoser

In the last installment of this series, I wrote about the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza. About a century before its construction, the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world was held by the stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, which is located about 30 kilometers south of Giza. Continue reading →

A millennium of Islamic scholarship, and a revolution yet to be completed

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Last time, we left off at the Egyptian desert highway from Alexandria to Giza. The distance between the two cities is only a little over 200 kilometers, and it did not take us long to reach our destination.

Continue reading →

From Germany to South Africa: The journey begins

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Do you speak African? Well, neither do the more than one billion people living in Africa, where about 2,000 different languages are spoken, none of which is called “African.” Too often, people think of Africa as if it was a single country, defined by disease, poverty, hopelessness, and corruption. This tiring image is at best misleading, and has little to do with reality. In fact, Africa is all but monolithic, and arguably the most diverse continent of all. Africa is home to 15 percent of the world’s population and an incredibly large number of ethnicities and cultures, the second largest continent in terms of both area and population, and consists of at least 54 countries. Three of the ten economies forecasted to be the fastest-growing in 2016 by the Economist Intelligence Unit are located in Africa, and 25 Nobel Laureates were born there.

Continue reading →

The Wrongness of Killing

George Sher & Rainer Ebert

In May 2016, I graduated with a PhD in Philosophy from Rice University. I wrote my dissertation on the wrongness of killing, under the direction of Professor George Sher (pictured above), and this is the abstract:

There are few moral convictions that enjoy the same intuitive plausibility and level of acceptance both within and across nations, cultures, and traditions as the conviction that, normally, it is morally wrong to kill people.

Attempts to provide a philosophical explanation of why that is so broadly fall into three groups: Consequentialists argue that killing is morally wrong, when it is wrong, because of the harm it inflicts on society in general, or the victim in particular, whereas personhood and human dignity accounts see the wrongness of killing people in its typically involving a failure to show due respect for the victim and his or her intrinsic moral worth.

I argue that none of these attempts to explain the wrongness of killing is successful. Consequentialism generates too many moral reasons to kill, cannot account for deeply felt and widely shared intuitions about the comparative wrongness of killing, and gives the wrong kind of explanation of the wrongness of killing. Personhood and human dignity accounts each draw a line that is arbitrary and entirely unremarkable in terms of empirical reality, and hence ill-suited to carry the moral weight of the difference in moral status between the individuals below and above it. Paying close attention to the different ways in which existing accounts fail to convince, I identify a number of conditions that any plausible account of the wrongness of killing must meet. I then go on to propose an account that does.

I suggest that the reason that typically makes killing normal human adults wrong equally applies to atypical human beings and a wide range of non-human animals, and hence challenge the idea that killing a non-human animal is normally easier to justify than killing a human being. This idea has persisted in Western philosophy from Aristotle to the present, and even progressive moral thinkers and animal advocates such as Peter Singer and Tom Regan are committed to it. I conclude by discussing some important practical implications of my account.

You can find a PDF copy of my dissertation here.

Zur Debatte um die Abschiebung ausländischer Sexualstraftäter

sexuelle-belaestigung

Seitdem bekannt wurde, dass auch Asylbewerber an den sexuellen Übergriffen auf Frauen an Silvester in Köln und anderen Städten beteiligt waren, tobt im Internet und spätestens seit Samstag auch auf den Straßen der rechte Mob. Ein gefundenes Fressen für die Fremdenfeinde von AfD, Pegida und NPD. Doch nicht nur von dort kommt nun die lautstarke Forderung, die Ausweisung und Abschiebung ausländischer Straftäter zu erleichtern. Continue reading →

My Germany to South Africa Motorcycle Expedition 2011

motorcycle-kenyaIn 2011, I rode my motorcycle, a BMW R 1150 GS, from my hometown of Adelmannsfelden in Southwest Germany to Cape Town in South Africa. I was accompanied by my friends Marc (on a BMW R 1100 GS) and Cathleen (on a BMW F 650 GS), and my wife Khukie, with whom I shared my motorcycle. We left Adelmannsfelden on the 10th of May, and we reached Cape Town on the 7th of August. We covered a total of approximately 13,000 km, crossing through twelve countries: Germany, Austria, Italy, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. This is a photo/video report of our adventures along the way.

Continue reading →