Timothy Sprigge

British philosopher (1932-2007)

Timothy Lauro Squire Sprigge (14 January 193211 July 2007) was a British idealist philosopher who spent the latter portion of his career at the University of Edinburgh, where he was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, and latterly an Emeritus Fellow.



The Animal Welfare Movement and the Foundations of Ethics

in Animals' Rights: A Symposium, edited by David Paterson and Richard D. Ryder, Fontwell: Centaur Press Ltd, 1979, pp. 87–95.
  • How far our position is a minority one will differ from person to person here. If we are against factory farms, we are morally condemning widespread and perfectly legal practices involving perhaps the majority of the human community. If we are vegetarians, we hold a position which is very much a minority one. If we are pretty radical anti-vivisectionists, we also hold what seems to be a minority position, involving as it does a radical criticism of the law and the establishment of this country.
    • p. 87
  • What exactly is the minority moral position for which members of a gathering such as this are likely to be propagandists? It will certainly differ slightly from person to person. There is, however, one rather minimal principle to which I trust that all here would assent, namely that the suffering or frustration of an animal of another species is an evil of the same general sort as is the suffering or frustration of a human being, and that we humans have the same general sort of moral obligation to refrain from causing, and to try actively to prevent, such evil when it concerns animals as when it concerns human beings.
    • p. 89
  • One cannot really believe that an emotion exists outside one's own consciousness without participating in that emotion and making it to some extent one's own. … Similarly, I can't in any serious sense believe that something I am doing is hurting you without my image of that hurt acting on me as the hurt itself would do if I myself experienced it, encouraging me to desist.
    • p. 93
  • If the view outlined here is correct, namely that people cannot really grasp the nature of the suffering which their behaviour creates without wishing to refrain from it, you may ask how do experimenters, factory farmers, cattle transporters, etc., carry on? The answer is, in one way or another, I believe, that they do not really grasp what they are doing. At some level it may be right to say “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”. But the immediate task is to make people realise sufficiently what they, or others on their behalf, are doing, so that it will be done no more.
    • pp. 94-95
  • The restraints we are seeking to impose are ones which can only be opposed by a failure in empathy towards non-human animals which constitutes an irrational blindness to the fact of the basic sameness of suffering in whatever species of animal it occurs; an irrationality incompatible with clear thought about the issue.
    • p. 95
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