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Sentiocentrism or sentio-centrism describes the theory that sentient individuals are the center of moral concern. 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.
History of term
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 (pags. 73-82); Tom Regan, in The Radical Egalitarian Case for Animal Rights (pags. 82-90) and Warren, in A Critique of Regan’s Animal Rights Theory (pags. 90-97) they talk about sentiocentrism.
- MacClellan, Joel P (2012) "Minding Nature: A Defense of a Sentiocentric Approach to Environmental Ethics" University of Tennessee.