Abby Benjamin Postdoctoral Fellowship in Animal Studies

A position in animal ethics and other studies concerning animals will be available next year at Queen’s University, in Canada. The Department of Philosophy at Queen’s University is inviting applications for the Abby Benjamin Postdoctoral Fellowship in Animal Studies, which is a one-year non-renewable 12-month fellowship. The fellowship is one of several new initiatives regarding Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Ethics at Queen’s University. You can find more information here.

Can Nonhuman Animals Have Intentional States?

A new issue on the journal of analytic philosophy Methode: Analytic Perspectives went out this year, on “New perspectives for the Philosophy of Cognitive Science“. It has been edited by Domenica Bruni and Leonardo Caffo.

In it you’ll find a paper on the reasons to claim nonhuman animals can have intentional states, as well as on some related matters. This is the summary of the paper:

According to a set of arguments initially defended by Frey and Davidson, nonhuman animals cannot have intentional states such as beliefs or desires because they lack language and metacognition. In Frey’s preferencialist view, this would entail that nonhuman animals cannot be significantly morally considerable. This paper argues that since not only sentences but also beliefs can be truth tracking, distinguishing truth for falsehood is possible without mastering a language. It also claims that Frey and Davidson’s arguments fail to prove that webs of beliefs and desires cannot be legitimally attributed to nonhuman animals, even if we cannot specify in detail the de dicto content of those intentional states. Finally, it argues that Frey’s version of the preference satisfaction theory is pluralistic and problematic.

The paper is more technical than others that have been posted here, anyway I hope it can be of some interest at least to some of you. Oh, and by the way, please excuse all the linguistic slips I guess it has, which are due to the fact that rush didn’t allow the paper to go through a process of native English-speakers proofreading. You can read the paper here:

Metacognition, Language and the Preference Satisfaction Theory: Can Nonhuman Animals Have Intentional States?

A (quite complex, I must confess) definition of discrimination

In other entries in this blog, such as this one or this one I have pointed out that the key concept in animal ethics is that of speciesism, and that speciesism is the discrimination of those who do not belong to a certain species. But what is discrimination? Sigue leyendo “A (quite complex, I must confess) definition of discrimination”

The moral status of animals in the International Encyclopedia of Ethics

An ambitious collective work on ethics, the International Encyclopedia of Ethics, which has been edited under the supervision of Hugh LaFollette, has been recently published by Wiley. Some of its entries are available online. I have written an entry for this encyclopedia, which you can read and download here:

Moral Status of Animals

The encyclopedia also includes several other entries on issues having to do with nonhuman animals, as well as on other topics closely related.

 

Animal Ethics at the IV Meetings on Ethics and Political Philosophy

On 20-21 May  2013 the fourth Meetings on Ethics and Political Philosophy, which will be held at University of Minho, Braga (Portugal), and is organized by the Political Theory Group of CEHUM of that university. This year, Peter Vallentyne (Klyne Chair, University of Missouri, Columbia), will be the keynote speaker. And, apart from a talk on political philosophy he will deliver a lecture on animal ethics and egalitarianism. In it he will present his paper “Of Mice and Men: Equality and Animals“, originally published in Journal of Ethics, 9, 2005, 403-33. Sigue leyendo “Animal Ethics at the IV Meetings on Ethics and Political Philosophy”

Publications in English on the suffering of animals in the wild and the ways to help them

The suffering and death of animals in nature is an important question in animal ethics. This is a list with several papers and books that have addressed this question. Some of them are in favor of aiding animals in need of help in the wild, while others reject that we should do anything for them. I’ll try to update this list every now and then as new works are published. I hope this will be useful to those interested in this issue.

Publications in English on wild animal suffering and intervention

Debunking the idyllic view of natural processes

I have published a paper which aims at showing the way in which population dynamics increase to shocking levels the suffering and premature death that there is in nature.

Many people think that animal ethics entails respect for natural processes, on the assumption that nonhuman animals are able to live relatively easy and happy lives in the wild. Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong. The reason has to do with population dynamics. The most widespread reproductive strategy in nature is called r-selection. This strategy entails that the overwhelming majority of nonhuman animals die shortly after they come into existence, and they do so in painful ways. They starve or are eaten alive, which means their suffering vastly outweighs their happiness. The amount of harm nonhuman animals endure due to this is just dreadful.

If we think that nonhuman animals are morally considerable individuals there is no way in which we can dismiss this. If there are ways in which we may help them and reduce such a tremendous amount of harm that occurs in nature, we should do it. There are many who may find this conclusion very counter-intuitive at first. However, would we reject it if instead of nonhuman animals, the victims of misery and early death were humans? Hardly so. This entails that this conclusion, even if counter-intuitive, can only be rejected from a speciesist and callous viewpoint which completely disregards the plight of all these animals.

You can download the paper here:

Debunking the Idyllic View of Natural Processes: Population Dynamics and Suffering in the Wild

The paper appeared in the journal Télos, vol. 17, 2010, 73–88, in its special issue on animal ethics. The published version of the paper can be downloaded here.

Animals in Society Conference

On March 10th I will be visiting the UK to attend the conference Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society, which will take place at the University of Exeter. I’m looking forward to it! You can check the whole programme of the event here. So if you can attend this conference, don’t miss the opportunity.

Among other activists, representatives from Animal Equality will be there. I want to thank them since they are the ones who have encouraged and helped me to attend this conference, so thanks for the invite!

You can find below the abstract of the talk I will be giving at this conference:

Disregarding Sentient Beings: Speciesism and Environmentalism

The ethics of antispeciesist animal activism defends the consideration of all sentient beings. Environmentalism, instead, claims that what we should consider are ecosystemic relations and other natural entities, even if they aren’t sentient. For this reason, it approves of sacrificing sentient beings if it benefits environmental balances.

This has significant consequences that are very harmful for nonhuman animals. A clear example of this is the politics of “culling” wild animals that are considered “invasive” or too populous, as encouraged by the Sierra Club and many other groups. Other examples include the support given to “natural” forms of hunting by Greenpeace or the campaign the WWF has ran for years to promote massive animal experimentation to test potentially environmentally harmful chemicals.

Environmentalism also disregards the interests of nonhuman animals when they are in need of help. Environmentalism advocates aiding some animals in nature only when they belong to certain (environmentally interesting) species. But when other animals are involved, they oppose helping them, often claiming that doing so wouldn’t be “natural” (even though intervention to cull or save certain animals is not “natural” either). Antispeciesists disagree with this. Note that, although many people have idyllic views of how nonhuman animals fare in nature, the fact is that they endure severe hardships and often suffer and die in situations in which it might be feasible to help them. Antispeciesist concern for individual animals favours helping them in these situations if doing so doesn’t cause some greater harm to others.

Note that environmentalists don’t favour the massive killing of humans for the sake of biocenotic or ecosystemic processes. Neither do they reject helping humans in need of aid in nature even if that’s not “natural”. But they assume a completely different perspective when nonhuman animals are affected. This is due to their speciesist viewpoint.

Disvalue in nature and intervention

Some time ago I wrote a paper in which I presented the following thought experiment: Suppose there is a rabbit and a fox that is about to capture and eat her. We are witnessing this, and we have two rations of vegan food. We consider what to do. Among the different ways in which we could act there are the following three ones: (1) We eat one of the rations of vegan food and see how the fox catches and eats the rabbit. (2) We give the fox one ration of our vegan food and we kill and eat the rabbit ourselves. (3) We give the fox one ration of our vegan food, we eat the other one and the rabbit runs free to live her life. Sigue leyendo “Disvalue in nature and intervention”

The idea of moral personhood under fire

Next week, on November the 10th and the 11th, there will be a philosophy conference at the FLUP, the Faculty of Arts of the University of Porto (Portugal). You can check the complete program of the conference here. The conference is organized by the Mind Language and Action Group.

I will be speaking at this conference. You can find below an abstract of the talk I will be giving. It’s a long abstract, which presents the main arguments why I think we should get rid of the concept of moral personhood, in particular given the way it’s currently understood.

The idea of moral personhood under fire

The concept of moral personhood plays a central role in a number of ethical theories. It is used to distinguish those entities that have certain capacities that are morally relevant. In these theories, moral persons always have moral status. According to some views, only persons are morally considerable. According to others, they deserve some special consideration other entities are not worthy of.

The capacities that render an entity a moral person are usually believed to be the same ones that make it a person in a metaphysical sense. But these are not the only two meanings of the word ‘person’. The term is also used in the legal realm to refer to those entities that have the capacity to sue. As we all know, it is also used in common language to refer to those beings that belong to the human species.

It is commonly assumed that persons in the metaphysical, legal, moral and common sense meanings coincide, that is, that they are the same entities. The picture that results from this is one in which humans (and only humans) are entities of a certain kind, the kind of beings that are morally considerable or deserve special moral consideration.

This entire picture is untenable.

First, the domain that the term ‘person’ has in common language and in the moral, legal and the metaphysical realms differ significantly. There are legal persons who are not metaphysical ones or moral ones, there are legal, metaphysical and moral persons who are not human beings, and there are humans who are not moral or metaphysical persons.

Second, the division between animals and persons, which is often made in theories of personal identity, is confusing, since it may lead us to think nonhuman animals are not persons. According to this view, animals are somatic entities while persons are psychological ones. But we have every reason to believe that nonhuman animals who have mental states are metaphysical persons.

Third, the capacities that are relevant when deciding who deserves moral consideration are possessed not only by human beings, but also by other conscious animals.

Fourth, the whole idea of moral status should be rejected. If the concept of moral status were simply a synonym of “moral consideration”, it would be a superfluous one. However, it is commonly used in a different way, to claim that those individuals who have certain capacities that grant personhood are to be morally considered in a privileged way. Against this view, what we should take into account is simply the weight of the morally relevant interests different individuals have. This renders the idea of moral personhood either superfluous or unjustified.

Podcast at Animal Rights Zone

Some days ago I was invited by Animal Rights Zone to be a guest at one of their discussion sessions. In it, we discussed a bunch of topics, from animal ethics and the situation of the antispeciesist movement in Spain to the strategies of vegan education and helping animals suffering in nature.

I’m very thankful for this opportunity to the ARZone team, who had already given me before another opportunity to discuss my view in a Live Chat Session (also transcribed here) six months ago.

I hope you find the podcast interesting. You can listen to it here:
Animal Rights Zone Podcast on Anti-Speciesism

Clarifications on “What Is Speciesism?”

In a recent post in Animal Rights Zone, Paul Hansen has presented several objections to the account of speciesism I present in my paper “What Is Speciesism?” (which can be found in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 23 (3), 243-266 and can be read and downloaded here). [*]

I am honored by the attention that Hansen has given to my paper, and want to thank him for his challenging criticisms, which provides me with the opportunity of further clarifying the views expressed in the paper. I am also very thankful to Animal Rights Zone for providing a forum in which these issues can be discussed.

Hansen’s interesting  objections cover several issues, which I will examine and respond to in turn. First, I will examine those objections that are related to my examination of different moral positions. Second, I will examine the objections that have to do with definitions of the concepts I use.

You can also download these clarifications as a pdf file here.

Sigue leyendo “Clarifications on “What Is Speciesism?””

80’s and 90’s numbers of Between the Species and Ethics and Animals available online

Good news for those interested in doing research in animal ethics. The print editions of the journal Between the Species, which appeared between 1985 and 1996, are now available online, hosted by California Polytechnic State University (and thanks to the work of the journal’s current editor, Joe Lynch). You can download them from here: Between the Species

Moreover, they have also uploaded the issues of the journal which anteceded Between the Species, that is, Ethics and Animals, published between 1980 and 1984.  As far as I know, that was the first journal ever published on ethics and animals (so the journal’s name is certainly germane). You can download them from here: Ethics and Animals

Interview for Fuente Vegana translated into German

As I’ve previously written in this blog, Fuente Vegana, which is a great site about veganism and antispeciesism in Spanish, has published an interview with me in their blog. Fuente Vegana has also translated this interview into German. You can read it here:

Interview for Fuente Vegana (German)

You can also read the original interview in Spanish here, and in English here.

Live Chat at Animal Rights Zone

On March 19th I was honored by Animal Rights Zone to be a guest at one of their great Live Chat sessions. We had a terrific time discussing many interesting issues, including speciesism, egalitarianism, the strategies of the antispeciesist movement, the question of whether we should help animals living in the wild, the problem of what are the conditions for being sentient, and many other topics.

You can read the transcript of the chat in the ARZone transcripts site or at the main ARZone site. In order to have access to ARZone main site you need to sign up. I’d like to encourage you to do so. If you’re concerned with animal rights and speciesism and are interested in debating with other people who are also concerned with this, ARZone is an excellent place to do it!

I’d like to thank the amazing team that runs ARZone for this opportunity to discuss so many important issues. I also want to thank all those who (for more than five hours!) attended the chat.

It was a most interesting and pleasing chat session. Thanks so much for your challenging questions!

McMahan on natural evils

Some months ago, ethicist Jeff McMahan published an interesting piece on predation in the NY Times with the title “The Meat Eaters”.

The comments on the paper in the Times were terribly poor and simplistic (many of them by people who had clearly not read the paper, or had not really understood the view presented in it).  However, a very interesting discussion on the paper took place at the web of the On the Human project.

McMahan has also written a response in the Times in which he explains in more detail the kind of view he has been arguing for. Sigue leyendo “McMahan on natural evils”

Interview for Fuente Vegana translated into English

Fuente Vegana is a great site about veganism and antispeciesism in Spanish. In 2009 they published an interview with me there. The questions they made were, in my view, very interesting and challenging. Fuente Vegana has translated this interview into English. You can read it here:

Interview for Fuente Vegana (English)

You can also read the original interview in Spanish here.

Animal Ethics Graduate Student Conference

The Colorado State University Philosophy Department will be hosting an Animal Ethics Graduate Student Conference in 2011. The conference title will be “Ignored Perspectives in Animal Ethics”. Note it is not a conference on animal rights or speciesism, all kinds of views regarding the use of nonhuman animals may be presented there. Papers can be sent before February 15, 2011. You can find more information here:

Call for Papers – 2011 Animal Ethics Graduate Student Conference

 

The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature

Humans often intervene in the wild for anthropocentric or environmental reasons. An example of such interventions is the reintroduction of wolves in places where they no longer live in order to create what has been called an “ecology of fear”, which is being currently discussed in places such as Scotland. I have written a paper in which I discuss the reasons for this measure and argue that they are not compatible with a nonspeciesist approach.

In it I also claim that if we abandon a speciesist viewpoint we should change completely the way in which we should intervene in nature. Rather than intervening for environmental or anthropocentric reasons, we should do it in order to reduce the harms that nonhuman animals suffer. This conflicts significantly with some fundamental environmental ideals whose defence is not compatible with the consideration of the interests of nonhuman animals.

You can read and download the paper here:

The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature

I’m glad the paper has been published in Between the Species, a great journal on animal ethics and other issues related, as its website reads, “to the philosophical examination of the relationship between human beings and other animals”.