Regan, Tom [Thomas Howard] (1938 – ) American Philosopher and Animal Rights Activist

views updated

Tom [Thomas Howard] Regan (1938 )
American philosopher and animal rights activist

Regan is a well-known figure in the animal liberation movement. His The Case for Animal Rights (1983) is a systematic and scholarly defense of the controversial claim that animals have rights that humans are morally obligated to recognize and respect. Arguing against the views of earlier philosophers like René Descartes, who claimed that animals are machinelike and incapable of having mental states such as consciousness or feelings of pleasure or pain, Regan attempts to show that such a view is misguided, muddled, or incorrect.

Regan was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended Thiel College and the University of Virginia, where he earned his doctorate in philosophy. Before publishing The Case for Animal Rights, Regan also edited Animal Rights and Human Obligations (1976) and Matters of Life and Death (1980).

Within the animal rights movement, Regan disagrees with certain philosophical arguments advanced in defense of animal liberation by, most notably, the nineteenth-century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham and the twentieth-century Australian philosopher Peter Singer . Both Bentham and Singer are utilitarians who believe that morality requires the pleasures of all sentient creatureshuman and nonhuman alikebe maximized and their pain minimized. From a utilitarian perspective, most discussions about rights are unnecessary. Regan disagrees, arguing that sentiencethe ability to feel pleasure and painis an inadequate basis on which to build a case for animal rights and against such practices as meat-eating, factory farming, fur trapping , and the use of animals in laboratory experiments.

Regan is currently a professor at North Carolina State University where he set up the National Bioethics Institute in 1999. He was also the recipient of the 2000 Holladay Medal. Regan views the case for animal rights as an integral part of a broader and more inclusive environmental ethic. He predicts and participates in the coming of a new kind of revolutiona revolution of gentility and concernmade not by a self-centered me-generation but by an emerging thee generation of caring and concerned people from every political party, religion, and socioeconomic class. Among the indications of this forthcoming revolution is the growing popularity of and financial support for the various groups and organizations that comprise the more broadly based environmental and animal rights movements.

[Terence Ball ]



Regan, Tom. All That Dwell Therein: Essays on Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

, and Carl Cohen. The Animal Rights Debate. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

. The Thee Generation: Reflections on the Coming Revolution. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.

About this article

Regan, Tom [Thomas Howard] (1938 – ) American Philosopher and Animal Rights Activist

Updated About content Print Article