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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.
Added by: Rochelle DuFord
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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