Kwame Appaiah, Professor of Philosophy poses a question that should be relevant to all of us, cat owners or not: Should you let your (bullying) cat wander? Is his freedom more important than the rights of other cats, to live in peace? This is a question that seems to have become relevant as we discuss a host of issues, including the one about wearing masks.
There are two broad ways of thinking about this issue: the rights-based approach and the utilitarian approach. Speaking of the first one, Appaiah points out “One approach is a rights-based line of reasoning; it would urge you to ensure that you’re not denying the cats of the neighborhood the basic conditions of a good life to which they’re entitled.” This assumes that animals have rights, like humans.
On the other hand, if we take the position that animals have no rights and hence this argument above does not hold, we can take a ‘utilitarian’ approach, whereby “if animals don’t have rights, you might adopt another approach, in which you simply weigh the pleasure that Jasper takes and gives in his outings against the suffering of the cats he bullies,” as Appaiah reminds us.
But cats are not humans and how we decide on whether we let the cat to go out or not depends on how we think of our neighbors. And our obligations as neighbors to them (and their cats). No simple answer there.
However, on the issue of masks, the argument is rather simple. If one to take either of the approaches, whether rights-based or utilitarian, the answer seems to be one of wearing one. One can argue all one wants about one’s freedom to NOT wear a mask – as a lot of people (ill-informed, selfish) are doing, however this impedes with the rights of others to go about their daily business free of fear (of contracting covid-19). Even from a utilitarian perspective, our societies benefit when everyone masks up and is careful in their outings.
The state of CA and others have mandated masks, in public, yet again. Health experts have continued to remind us of the value of wearing masks. So, in any case, please mask up and stop being selfish!