Can animals be moral? 

Avoiding cross-talk and unproductive debates (and maybe stop talking about “morality”?)

Simon Fitzpatrick

In previous work (Fitzpatrick, 2017; 2020), I have argued that the terms “morality” and “moral” have been the source of so much confusion and miscommunication in the animal morality debate that research in this field would be better off avoiding using these terms altogether. Rather than focusing on questions such as, “Can animals be moral?”, does “morality exist in animals?”, the debate should focus on whether or not particular nonhuman species possess a variety of more narrowly defined psychological and/or behavioural capacities and what ethical implications may follow from such attributions. I will rehearse the arguments for this claim and respond to some criticisms. I will point to some examples of recent work in the field and show that the substantive claims of this work can be understood without loss and with greater clarity along the lines I have suggested.

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