Consciousness, Rationality, and Rights

Consciousness and rationality are rival candidates to be phenomena that generate rights in human beings and in non-human animals. I adjudicate their claims. First, I describe the difference between consciousness and rationality in respect of their capacity to generate rights. I qualify this by considering the sorts of reasoning we may engage in with regard to rational creatures with rights. I then attempt to explain exactly why and how it is that rationality generates rights, but consciousness does not. I show how the account I give is not threatened by certain cases of human beings lacking rational capacity. After that, I turn to consider the appeal to essences, which lies in the background, of grounding rights and other moral properties in properties of our mental life, such as consciousness or rationality, before considering value of consciousness or rationality as a factor in generating rights.