Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I think that Buddhism should and would endorse the philosophy of “Sentiocentrism.” I particularly like the passage cited from a work of Jeremy Bentham. Most (if not all) Buddhist philosophers would perhaps agree that the capacity of a sentient being to feel pain is what makes a deliberate infliction of pain on that sentient being ethically and morally wrong. What is sentiocentrism? The Wikipedia (s.v. Sentiocentrism) provides the following explanation:

“Sentiocentrism or sentio-centrism describes the philosophy that sentient individuals are the center of moral concern. The philosophy posits that all and only sentient beings (animals that feel, including humans) have intrinsic value and moral standing; the rest of the natural world has instrumental value. Both humans and other sentient animals have rights and/or interests that must be considered. The sentiocentrists consider that the discrimination of sentient beings of other species is speciesism, an arbitrary discrimination. Therefore, the coherent sentiocentrism means taking into consideration and respect all sentient animals. The utilitarian criterion of moral standing is, therefore, all and only sentient beings (sentiocentrism). The 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham compiled Enlightenment beliefs in Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (second edition, 1823, chapter 17, footnote), and he included his own reasoning in a comparison between slavery and sadism toward animals: 

The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor [see Louis XIV’s Code Noir]... What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

Peter Singer, in A Utilitarian Defense of Animal Liberation (pp. 73–82); Tom Regan, in The Radical Egalitarian Case for Animal Rights (pp. 82–90) and Warren, in A Critique of Regan’s Animal Rights Theory (pp. 90–97) they talk about sentiocentrism. Sentiocentrism is a term contained in the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, edited by Marc Bekoff.”

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