Human Exceptionalism is the latest term to buzz around to describe the phenomenon of human supremacy. It is a clever term I would say, as it doesn’t have the bigot aura that supremacist carries. But in essence it means the same thing even if its users deny it.
Exceptionalism suggests uniqueness. Many animal rights argument seek to downplay human uniqueness and trivialize it in order to boost the moral position of nonhumans. Exceptionalism counters that human uniqueness is real and significant.
I agree. So did Mark Twain.
“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.”
The fact that humans can torture and take pleasure from knowing they are causing others pain and misery and erect stadiums where they observe others committing tortures–that is also an example of human exceptionalism. The gang of youths who tricked their way into someone’s house and forced a mother and son to engage in a sex act and poured toxic chemicals in the son’s eyes, that’s human exceptionalism too. Exceptionalism doesnt necessarily mean superiority but the proponents of human exceptionalism intend it that way.
In the final analysis its the same ol human supremacy belief and can be refuted the same way as every other kind.
So let’s do it!
Any quality you put forth to claim humans are special and deserve a double standard morality has TWO problems.
The first is that no matter how you slice it, that quality is subjective personal opinion and not absolute truth/fact. Nature and or invisible deities cannot be shown to care or make judgements. If humans were truly deserving of special treatment, would not Nature demonstrate this in some fashion? Wouldn’t gravity or the weather exhibit different characteristics towards humans than nonhumans? How in the world could we claim that this superiority is anything other than personal bias when we have no concrete evidence for it any more than we would have for racial exceptionalism or gender exceptionalism or religious exceptionalism?
I am ignoring all the examples where nonhumans are exceptional at qualities humans lack. This is ultimately window dressing and the diehard stubborn thick-headed human supremacist will simply dismiss such things as trivial since it goes against their narrow delusional world view.
The most obvious proof that human supremacy is a fraud and last refuge of an idiot is that humans prey on other humans. Anyone who locks their door at night is not really a human supremacist. They do not trust other humans to respect this so-called superior worth of humans. Deep down we know this is just a fantasy story well tell ourselves to boost confidence or justify exploiting others.
This leads to the second problem.
Since humans do prey on other humans in a regular fashion, and since human supremacy cannot be proven to be anything other than personal opinion, it means that a racial supremacist/exceptionalist or a religious supremacist/exceptionalist or a gender supremacist/exceptionalist or any other kind of supremacist/exceptionalist besides a human supremacist/exceptionalist can justify their favorite type of discrimination/exploitation against humans by using the talking points of…. wait for it…a human supremacist/exceptionalist.
You cannot very well claim that humans are special and deserving of double standard morality as a personal opinion, and then expect other humans who have different personal opinions from yours to tow the line when there is no absolute or objective reason to do so. Even with all the laws and religious teachings in place, humans still find every excuse to steal, attack, rape, kill other humans.
Always have-probably always will!
The reason you have to, MUST acknowledge equal consideration status for nonhumans, if you are too selfish or callous to do so for compassion or respect of an equal, is to close this loophole that would let people you disagree with from justifying their position using your own impossible to prove beliefs.
It’s that simple.
Morality is not perfect. The inability to avoid all harm to nonhumans does not negate the principle. The failure to eliminate homicide or child abuse (or choosing to save the life of a familiar over a stranger in an emergency situation) does not justify concentration camps. The same can be said for farms and vivisection labs. If humans want laws to curb their behavior they must extend this to other beings out of fairness. Only humans require such laws and can be held to them-non humans obviously cannot, and to punish them because they cannot do something you know they cannot do is as fair as expecting a blind man to read a warning sign.
Morality does not follow a human created hierarchy. If human problems always come first then one could further refine and prioritize them based on the importance of race, gender, age, religion etc. That self-predatory human problem hangs on the neck of a human supremacist like the proverbial albatross.
Nonhuman exploitation by humans is due in large part to domestication which requires immense effort to maintain. By contrast, human slavery, child abuse, and homicide have existed as long as humans have, and will likely continue to do so in some form as long as humans can reproduce. The elimination of the former is actually a more realistic hope.