Towards do them for our respect for moral

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Towards the end of Naess’ article, he discusses two concepts
introduced by Immanuel Kant which he believes are worthy of extensive use “in
the effort to live harmoniously in, for and of nature” (1).  The two concepts are of two contrasting
acts (1).  The first concept is
that of moral acts, which are acts
motivated by the intention to follow morals
laws at whatever cost.  Moral acts also include the idea of
following through in our moral duty
purely out of respect for that duty (1). Naess explains that it seems that we
hate to perform moral acts but do
them for our respect for moral laws
(1).  Kant questioned that if we do
something out of inclination and with pleasure then what is it, as it isn’t a moral act.  This brings us to Kant’s second concept, which is the idea
of beautiful acts (1).  Performing a beautiful act, according to Kant, is when we do what is right
because of position inclination (1).  Naess argues that when it comes to environmental affairs, we
should try to influence people towards beautiful
acts by working on their inclinations and not their morals (1).


 An example of a
beautiful act can be acknowledged in
the Rescue story of Britches – a newborn stumptail macaque monkey who was taken
away from his mother the night he was born and taken to a university lab where
his eyelids were sown shut by experimenters who said the experiment was to see
how blind children function(2).  The video, available on Animal Liberation Front’s Webpage ( I
highly suggest watching it ) at,
explains that unlike a blind child, Britches wasn’t born blind he was made
blind, and he was deprived of the love of his mother, lonely and locked up in a
cage and therefore would never be able to develop like a normal blind child
would(2).  Diane of Animal
Liberation Front explains that when she heard about Britches, she knew
something had to be done(2).  “Early
in the morning on April 20th, 1985, 16 members of The Animal
Liberation Front deactivated the security system at the University and rescued
hundreds of animals including housecats, rabbits, possums (2).” They rescued
cats whose eyes had been sown shut, rabbits that had been starved, and infant
possums who were not only enough to leave the security of their mother, who had
severe eye mutilation(2). And of course, the Animal Liberation front also
rescued Britches(2).  In the video,
Diane says “we wish we didn’t have to break into the lab, but something had to
be done to save the animals from the pain. There are not laws in this country
to protect animals in laboratories, not even laws the require painkillers. We
couldn’t just sit by while we knew Britches and other animals were being cut up
and tormented every single day (2).”


Britches’ rescue was a beautiful
act performed by the Animal Liberation Front.  Even though it is against the law to break and enter, and to
‘steal’ the Animal Liberation Front didn’t hesitate to rescue the animals.  As Diane said, something had to be done
to save the save the animals from the pain, which suggests the Animal
Liberation Front broke in, saved the animals, and did what was right because of
their positive inclination to do so. 
The video doesn’t follow that ‘it is WRONG to do this to animals and
therefore we HAVE to save the animals because it is the RIGHT thing to do”, but
rather follows the idea that they couldn’t just sit by while they knew Britches
and other animals were being tormented which shows that they did it because of
their positive inclination and not because it was their duty.

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Naess thinks that extensive moralizing within the ecological movement has given the public the
false impression that they are asked to sacrifice and show more responsibility,
concern and better morals, and
therefore, the ecological movement should encourage people towards beautiful acts instead (1).  I think the Naess has a valid point,
and that when humans are targeted, lets say in a campaign, to perform beautiful acts they will feel as though
they have more choice and are doing it for reasons which they believe, and not
feel this ecological pressure that they HAVE to do it because it’s the RIGHT
thing to do.   I think when it comes to activism and
getting everyday people involved, it is important to encourage people by
working on their natural human instinct and tendencies, rather than on the idea
of pressuring them to do something because it is their duty to do.


(1) Naess, Arne. 1988. Thinking Like A Mountain: Towards A
Council of All Beings. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers. Pp 19-30.


Categories: Law


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