Philosopher's Walk: Animal Ethics

springer.com © springer.comPhilosophers and great thinkers like the time to contemplate and often walk scenic paths such as the cherry-tree-lined canal in Kyoto. For this edition of the Philosopher's Walk you are guided by Dario Martinelli through the relationship between humanities and animal studies.

All articles are free to access until November 4, 2017. Enjoy & Share!

 

Blog Post: The relation between humanities and animal studies

Philosopher's Walk: Zoo Abbey Road © Dario MartinelliThe relation between humanities (philosophy in particular) and animal studies (animal ethics in particular) is becoming more and more relevant in modern research. In 2012, the New York Times commented on this increasing interest in a very insightful article ("Animal Studies Cross Campus to Lecture Hall"). And, well, if a mass-medium feels it necessary to comment on an “academic trend”, it means that the latter is all over the place and can no longer be ignored.

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Preparing to walk

We may want to warm up by defining some of the very basic concepts that animate the debate on the moral and ontological status of non-human animals. The following four articles discuss the founding notions of this subject. Let us say that it would be difficult to make a "walk" about jazz without having at least a general idea of who Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker were. Our Davis, Coltrane & co. will be speciesism, and by consequence anti-speciesism, animal welfare, animal rights, carnism and veganism.

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Walking out of the cage

Philosopher's Walk: Wild Horses © Dario MartinelliKeywords and nuances in animal ethics

Animal ethics, both as a movement and as a philosophical paradigm, is full of nuances, which are often - and erroneously - employed as synonyms. There is a significant difference between, say, "animal liberation" (a utilitarian approach) and "animal rights" (a deontological approach). In fact, these nuances are much greater in number that the five-only we shall mention here. Nevertheless, they constitute a good starting-kit for "walking out of the cage" (be that a zoo cage, an intensive farm cage, a cosmetic lab cage, or any of the hundreds - material and mental - cages of speciesism).

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WALKING WITH A NEWSPAPER UNDER THE ARMPIT

Animal ethics and the media

It is not rare that animal advocates make the headlines. The increasing popularity of veganism has certainly made this lifestyle, and its ethical implication, a regular feature in the official and unofficial (e.g., social networks) news channels. How do the media represent animal advocates, as individuals and as movement? And how do animal advocate represent themselves? What kind of media discourse does exist around animal ethics?


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WALKING WITH DUCKLINGS

Philosopher's Walk: Black Bird © Dario MartinelliAnimal ethics and natural sciences

During the last few decades, an increasing number of natural scientists, particularly ethologists (and, even more particularly, cognitive ethologists) have discussed the connection between the scientific study of animal behavior and the effect that it may have on our attitude towards other animals. "To know him is to love him": thus went an old 1958 song by Phil Spector. Scientists suggest that improving our knowledge on other animals is an important argument in support of the need to develop an ethical discourse that extends to all species.

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WALKING IN A STREET PROTEST

Putting animals into politics

Is animal ethics political? Most people, at this point in history, would certainly be ready to accept that animals are a matter that transcends the purely ethical level and for instance affects the economic sphere. But what about politics as such? Are "animal rights", "animal liberation" and the likes questions that a politician should address in his/her election campaign to attract more votes? Is political life a social space occupied also by other species?

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WALKING TO A RESTAURANT

A "carnism versus veganism" debate

At the end of this walk, we are certainly a bit hungry, so let us find a cosy restaurant where we can have some nice dinner. Inevitably, if you are sharing your meal with at least one vegan, a conversation about veganism will follow. More likely a debate - in fact, probably, a heated debate. As a consequence, I cannot imagine a better way to discuss carnism and veganism by mentioning one of the many academic disputes between two eminent scholars (Kathryn George and Evelyn Pluhar, in our case). Cut and thrust, counter-cut and counter-thrust. 

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