Although I will be defending a hierarchical approach to animal ethics, I do so with considerable misgivings, for I am afraid that some may come away thinking that my aim is to defend an approach that would justify much or all of our current treatment of animals. […] [N]othing like this is remotely the case. Our treatment of animals is a moral horror of unspeakable proportions, staggering the imagination. Absolutely nothing that I say here is intended to offer any sort of justification for the myriad appalling and utterly unacceptable ways in which we mistreat, abuse, and torture animals. […] [I]t seems to me to be true both that animals count for less than people and yet, for all that, that they still count sufficiently that there is simply no justification whatsoever for anything close to current practices.
Shelly Kagan, How to Count Animals, More or Less, Oxford, 2019, pp. 4–5
[P]retty much everyone believes at least this much: the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain is at least one component of well-being. (It is quite hard to deny this. The value of pleasure and the disvalue of pain seem virtually self-evident to anyone experiencing them.)
Shelly Kagan, Normative Ethics, Boulder, 1998, p. 30
[E]ven though there may be components of well-being that go beyond one’s experiences—and thus can plausibly be thought to come in imperceptible amounts—it seems undeniable that one important component of well-being is indeed the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain.
Shelly Kagan, ‘Do I Make a Difference?’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 39, No. 2 (2011), p. 115
[I]t remains true that there will always be a very small chance of some totally unforeseen disaster resulting from your act. But it seems equally true that there will be a corresponding very small chance of your act resulting in something fantastically wonderful, although totally unforeseen. If there is indeed no reason to expect either, then the two possibilities will cancel each other out as we try to decide how to act.
Shelly Kagan, Normative Ethics, Boulder, 1998, p. 65
Moral ‘interference’ is so unlike political or social interference, e.g., that it is inapprpriate to understand the former as essentially similar to the latter.
Shelly Kagan, The Limits of Morality, Oxford, 1989, pp. 237-238
If well-being is limited in its extent, then it may also be limited in its significance.
Shelly Kagan, ‘The Limits of Well-Being’, Social Philosophy & Policy, vol. 9, no. 2 (Summer, 1992), p. 189
The objection that consequentialism demands too much is accepted uncritically by almost all of us; most moral philosophers introduce permission to perform nonoptimal acts without even a word in its defend. But the mere fact that our intuitions support some moral feature hardly constitutes in itself adequate philosophical justification. If we are to go beyond mere intuition mongering, we must search for deeper foundations. We must display the reasons for limiting the requirement to pursue the good.
Shelly Kagan, ‘Does Consequentialism Demand Too Much?’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 13, no. 3 (1984), p. 239
[T]he demands of morality pervade every aspect and moment of our lives—and we all fail to meet is standards. [F]ew of us believe the claim, and that none of us live I accordance with it. It strikes us as outrageously extreme in its demands[.] The claim is deeply counterintuitive. But it is true.
Shelly Kagan, The Limits of Morality, Oxford, 1989, p. 2
Those readers troubled by the fact that millions of people will die this year, who could have been saved for a few dollars each, might want to consider making a contribution to Oxfam. In the United States, the address is: Oxfam America, P.O. Box 4215, Boston MA 02211-4215.
Shelly Kagan, Normative Ethics, Boulder, 1998, p. 316