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Gruen, Lori, , . Ethics and Animals: An Introduction
2011, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Back Matter: In this fresh and comprehensive introduction to animal ethics, Lori Gruen weaves together poignant and provocative case studies with discussions of ethical theory, urging readers to engage critically and empathetically reflect on our treatment of other animals. In clear and accessible language, Gruen provides a survey of the issues central to human-animal relations and a reasoned new perspective on current key debates in the field. She analyses and explains a range of theoretical positions and poses challenging questions that directly encourage readers to hone their ethical reasoning skills and to develop a defensible position about their own practices. Her book will be an invaluable resource for students in a wide range of disciplines including ethics, environmental studies, veterinary science, women’s studies, and the emerging field of animal studies and is an engaging account of the subject for general readers with no prior background in philosophy.

Comment: This book is a comprehensive introduction to ethical problems involving non-human animals. It could be the main text for a course on animal ethics, but would also make a nice addition to a unit of a course on environmental ethics or contemporary ethical problems.

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Korsgaard, Christine M., , . Facing the Animal You See in the Mirror
2009, The Harvard Review of Philosophy 16(1): 4-9.
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Introduction: What does it mean to be an animal? About 600 million years ago, certain organic life forms on this planet began to wake up, and to become aware of their surroundings. They found themselves to be hungry, and to be the target of unwelcome interest on the part of others who were hungry. And for both of these reasons, they had to work to take care of themselves. To prod them to do that, nature made many of them capable of pain, and of terror. But some of them were also capable of the opposite feelings of pleasure and security. And out of these various feelings grew feelings of interest and boredom, of grief and joy, of family attachment and hostility to outsiders. These life forms are constructed in such a way that they cannot help but struggle to stay alive, and perhaps even to care about their lives. And a few of them know themselves to be, in spite of that, ephemeral beings. The organic life forms sharing this strange evolutionary adventure are the animals, and you and I are among them. This gives rise to a moral question: How should we interact with the others?

Comment: A useful introduction to the idea of human exceptionalism and logocentrism. Korsgaard presents a clear and accessible argument by analogy for respecting/caring for non-human animals based on degrees of self-consciousness. This would make a good introductory text in any class that covers the relationship of humans to non-human animals.

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Midgley, Mary, , . Individualism and the Concept of Gaia
2001, Science and Poetry, chapter 17. Routledge.
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Abstract: The idea of Gaia—of life on earth as a self-sustaining natural system—is not a gratuitous, semi-mystical fantasy. It is a really useful idea, a cure for distortions that spoil our current world-view. Its most obvious use is, of course, in suggesting practical solutions to environmental problems. But, more widely, it also attacks deeper tangles which now block our thinking. Some of these are puzzles about the reasons why the fate of our planet should concern us. We are bewildered by the thought that we might have a duty to something so clearly non-human. But more centrally, too, we are puzzled about how we should view ourselves. Current ways of thought still tend to trap us in the narrow, atomistic, seventeenth-century image of social life which grounds today’s crude and arid individualism, though there are currently signs that we are beginning to move away from it. A more realistic view of the earth can give us a more realistic view of ourselves as its inhabitants.

Comment: This is an easy text to read and so would be fine for less experienced philosophers. Midgley argues that Lovelock’s Gaia constitutes a way of seeing the world (or myth) that has important consequences for multiple aspects of our lives (social, political, moral, etc.) by combating the unhelpful individualism she sees as stemming from the social contract myth. Whilst this text is easy to read, there is a lot going on under the surface which arguably conflicts with standard assumptions about philosophical practice (in particular, Midgley’s pluralism and account of myths). As such, it is a great text for bringing these things to the fore and exploring a different view of what philosophy is for. It would be suitable for courses pertaining to environmental ethics, animal ethics or interdisciplinary discussions regarding the environment and ecology.

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Midgley, Mary, , . The Concept of Beastliness: Philosophy, Ethics and Animal Behaviour
1973, Philosophy 48 (184):111-135
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Introduction: Every age has its pet contradictions. Thirty years ago, we used to accept Marx and Freud together, and then wonder, like the chameleon on the tartan, why life was so confusing. Today there is similar trouble over the question whether there is, or is not, something called Human Nature. On the one hand, there has been an explosion of animal behaviour studies, and comparisons between animals and men have become immensely popular. People use evidence from animals to decide whether man is naturally aggressive, or naturally territorial; even whether he has an Aggressive or Territorial Instinct. On the other hand, many sociologists and psychologists still seem to hold the Behaviourist view that man is a creature entirely without instincts, and so do existentialist philosophers. If so, all comparison with animals must be irrelevant. On that view, man is entirely the product of his culture. He starts off infinitely plastic, and is formed completely by the society in which he grows up.

Comment: This text offers a relatively accessible and vibrant discussion of the concept of human nature as well as what can be learned philosophically about humanity by examining it in relation to the surrounding environment. It would be suitable for political theory classes – especially in relation to discussions on the State of Nature, Animal Ethics or Environmental ethics. Background knowledge of existing theories on human nature would be helpful though are not necessary in order to access the text.

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Nussbaum, Martha, , . Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership
2006, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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Publisher: Theories of social justice are necessarily abstract, reaching beyond the particular and the immediate to the general and the timeless. Yet such theories, addressing the world and its problems, must respond to the real and changing dilemmas of the day. A brilliant work of practical philosophy, Frontiers of Justice is dedicated to this proposition. Taking up three urgent problems of social justice neglected by current theories and thus harder to tackle in practical terms and everyday life, Martha Nussbaum seeks a theory of social justice that can guide us to a richer, more responsive approach to social cooperation. The idea of the social contract–especially as developed in the work of John Rawls–is one of the most powerful approaches to social justice in the Western tradition. But as Nussbaum demonstrates, even Rawls’s theory, suggesting a contract for mutual advantage among approximate equals, cannot address questions of social justice posed by unequal parties. How, for instance, can we extend the equal rights of citizenship–education, health care, political rights and liberties–to those with physical and mental disabilities? How can we extend justice and dignified life conditions to all citizens of the world? And how, finally, can we bring our treatment of nonhuman animals into our notions of social justice? Exploring the limitations of the social contract in these three areas, Nussbaum devises an alternative theory based on the idea of capabilities. She helps us to think more clearly about the purposes of political cooperation and the nature of political principles–and to look to a future of greater justice for all.

Comment: This excellent book is valuable in teaching for two main reasons: (1) it extends and expands on the application of the capability approach to non-human animals, the disabled and the global poor; and (2) it offers a valuable critique of Rawls’ theory of justice.

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Sorge, Carmen, , . The Relationship Between Bonding with Nonhuman Animals and Students’ Attitude Towards Science
2008, Society and Animals 16 (2): 171-184
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Abstract: This paper examines the relationship of bonding with nonhuman animals during an interactive, animal-in-the-wild science program and the science attitudes of 358 young children between the ages of 8 and 14 Talking Talons utilizes typically wild animals such as raptors, reptiles, and bats in a school-based educational science curriculum. Qualitative data from interviews with students in the program indicated that ‘bonding with animals’ and the educators within the program were related to increased positive attitudes toward science. The program used quantitative methods to examine these dual relationships – with animals and with educators- on student attitude toward science. The program performed a step-wise multiple regression with ‘Attitude toward Science’ as the dependent variable and ‘Gender,’ ‘Age,’ and ‘Bonding with Animals’ as independent variables. Both ‘Bonding with Animals’ and ‘Bonding with the Educator’ contributed significantly to prediction of the participants’ science attitudes. Altogether 28% of the variance in ‘Science Attitude’ was predicted by both ‘Gender’ and ‘Age’ , ‘Bonding with Animals’ and ‘Bonding with Educator’. Bonding with the animals had a large quantifiable relationship with student attitudes toward science.

Comment: This article is about the theme of ‘bonding with animals’ during a science programme. It is highly recommended for intermediate readers who have some knowledge about the main topic of the article.

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