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Module 5 Activity

Joshua Hill

The "Miniride" Principle (short for "minimize overriding rights") applies when the harms
that are to ensue are "comparable", which means the same amount of harm or suffering
will result between individuals. An example of comparable harms would be driving a car
without functioning brakes and having to choose between running over a crowd of people
in front of you or one person on each the side of the road. The Miniride Principle would
require you to turn to either side of the road and run over the single person compared to
the crowd.

In situations where the harms are comparable, the Miniride principle holds that we are
required to harm the few rather than the many. As Varner states, “what the Miniride
principle instructs us to do is to minimize the overriding of individuals’ rights… the rights
view advocates harming the few because it respects all individuals equally.” To me this
means that you cannot pick to harm the crowd because it would collectively hinder those
people’s rights as compared to the single person. I think this idea coincides with the
Utilitarian concept of the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

On the other hand, The "Worse-Off" principle applies when the harms that are to ensue
are "incomparable," meaning that an individual’s capacity to form and satisfy desires has
been restricted more than another individual. An example of incomparable harms would
be (as described in the essay) four humans and a dog on a lifeboat, but only enough
supplies for four individuals. Because humans have a higher capacity for desires, the dog
is harmed because the humans would be worse-off because their ability to desire would
be diminished if they were killed.

In situations where the harms are incomparable, the Worse-Off principle holds that it
requires us to avoid harming the worse-off individual. As Varner explains, “death is
always the greatest harm which any individual can suffer, death to a normal human being
in the prime of her life is non-comparably worse than the death to any non-human
animal in the prime of its life, because a normal human being’s capacity to form and
satisfy desires is so much greater.” To me, Varner is saying that humans are superior to
non-humans because of our mental capacity. So, it is required to save human life as much
as possible to protect an individual’s ability to continue on with that mental capacity.

Armed with these two principles, Varner argues that a moral philosopher who was
primarily concerned with the rights of individual animals (like Regan is) would
nevertheless draw conclusions that aligned with those (like Leopold) who were concerned
with the overall health and stability of the whole ecological community. For example, he
explains, an animal rights theorist like Regan might ultimately agree with holistic
environmentalists on the issue of wilderness management hunting, because according to
the Miniride principle, fewer animals would die with therapeutic hunting is used to
manage wildlife populations. So, animal rights theorist would have to view therapeutic
hunting a “morally mandatory expression of respect for animals’ rights.”