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The Moral Menagerie

The Moral Menagerie: Philosophy and Animal Rights

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Moral Menagerie
    Book Description:

    The Moral Menagerie offers a broad philosophical analysis of the recent debate over animal rights. Marc Fellenz locates the debate in its historical and social contexts, traces its roots in the history of Western philosophy, and analyzes the most important arguments that have been offered on both sides. _x000B__x000B_Fellenz argues that the debate has been philosophically valuable for focusing attention on fundamental problems in ethics and other areas of philosophy, and for raising issues ofconcern to both Anglo-American and continental thinkers. More provocatively, he also argues that the form the debate often takes--attempting to extend our traditional human-centered moral categories to cover other animals--is ultimately inadequate. Making use of the critical perspectives found in environmentalism, feminism, and postmodernism, he concludes that taking animals seriously requires a more radical reassessment of our moral framework than the concept of animal rights? implies.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09118-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Suppose you are walking through the woods on a path familiar to you. You come to a point where the path forks, yielding two routes that you know to be equally convenient for your purposes: both are wide enough for you to pass, neither is out of the way of your ultimate destination, and so on. For no particular reason you begin to head toward the left route, when you see that the trees at its entrance hold an elaborate spider’s web that you will surely destroy if you try to pass. Assumingceteris paribus(no mortal danger will present...


    • 1 Why Care about Animals?
      (pp. 11-32)

      As outlined in the Introduction, this work is an analysis of the attention Western philosophy has paid to the issue of the moral standing of animals. In this chapter, I address the question of why the nature of animals and their possible claim to our moral attention constitute a topic worthy of philosophical exploration. The path to answering this question begins with an intriguing thought experiment proposed by medievalist Dorothy Yamamoto: “Suppose (in a parallel universe)Homo sapienswas the only animate species on a planet. What sense of their ‘humanity’ would the people on that planet have?”¹

      Yamamoto’s query...

    • 2 Broader Philosophical Considerations
      (pp. 33-54)

      In the previous chapter I addressed the question: Why now?—that is, what accounts for the recent attention, paid by ethicists and laypersons alike, to the moral standing of animals? Let us here begin with the obverse and ask: Why not before? What positive forces may have prevented this recent attention from materializing sooner? Two possibilities deserve mention. First, there are powerful psychological and political factors that make moral attention to animals problematic. Whether or not it is ultimately defensible, it seems undeniable that a thread of anthropocentrism runs through Western culture, and some have argued that it may be...


    • 3 Utilitarian Arguments: The Value of Animal Experience
      (pp. 57-72)

      Notwithstanding the protests of vegetarians, few of us will deny that a well-prepared piece of meat offers an abundance of sensory pleasures. The mere thought of the aroma of a seared steak can excite the appetite. The chewy texture of animal flesh offers a resistance that our teeth seem to have been designed to overcome, and the jaw muscles relish the triumph of every bite. And, of course, there is the simple pleasure of taste, and the sensuous flood of organic juices that overwhelms the mouth as it chews an excellent piece of meat. Still, the human carnivore may be...

    • 4 Deontological Arguments: Do Animals Have Natural Rights?
      (pp. 73-88)

      The difficulties attending the utilitarian analysis of our treatment of nonhumans do not by themselves preclude the development of a workable animal ethic. Those who are persuaded by the critique of consequentialist ethics outlined in the previous chapter have various non-consequentialist or deontological models to explore. These alternatives are attractive, for if the deontologist can establish that the moral worth of human actions rests with a duty other than to maximize the goods of consciousness, then moral deliberation may be a much simpler matter than it is under utilitarianism. If consequentialist calculations are not necessary to know what is right,...

    • 5 Aristotelian Arguments: Animal Telos and Human Aretē
      (pp. 89-103)

      Because utilitarianism and deontology form the core of modern Western ethical thought, many treatments of the recent debate over animals have proceeded as if Peter Singer’s and Tom Regan’s arguments frame the discussion in its entirety. However, other forms of moral argument have been introduced in the debate, and have delivered some of its more perceptive insights. In this chapter, I discuss arguments that have been inspired by Aristotelian ethics, an approach that at first glance has much to recommend it. First, frustration with modern ethics’ quest for an elusive precision concerning the rightness or wrongness of specificactions—a...

    • 6 Contractarian Arguments: Animals outside the State of Nature
      (pp. 104-118)

      Annette Baier’s praise of the virtue approach to ethics, cited at the conclusion of the previous chapter, is offered in her search for a complement to the final school of moral thought I will discuss: contractarianism. Such a search appears to be necessary for the would-be contractarian animal advocate, because this school is prima facie animal-exclusive. Contractarians hold that principles of justice and considerations of moral right and wrong are mechanisms that emerge from agreements reached among rational, self-interested agents, and animals—as was noted in Chapter 4—cannot be informed parties to such agreements. We may feel compassion for...


    • 7 Extensionism and Its Limits
      (pp. 121-137)

      In Part I, I offered various reasons why we should expect an adequate moral theory to clarify the moral standing of animals. In sum, I argued that none of the traditional arguments for excluding the animal from direct moral concern is insurmountable, and that questions of the nature and extent of our moral duties to nonhumans raise pressing issues that ethics should address. In Part II, I explored how the four major ethical theories in the tradition of Western philosophy have been used in the recent debate to try to produce a new animal ethic. While utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics,...

    • 8 The Call and the Circle: The Animal in Postmodern Thought
      (pp. 138-157)

      The uncertainty cast in the previous chapter upon the plausibility of traditional ethics is hardly novel. Whether it is possible for any ethical theory to provide adequate ground for our moral judgments is a perennial concern for ethicists and logicians, and whether human reason can indeed deliver the clarity and certainty we desire in our practical lives is a weight that all moral agents must bear. These concerns have been made especially pressing of late, following from the cultural selfdoubt that Scholtmeijer describes as characterizing post-Freudian—we may add: post-Darwinian, post-Marxian, post-Nietzschean, post-Holocaust, post–Cold War—civilization. The effects of...

    • 9 Ecophilosophy: Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism
      (pp. 158-186)

      The recent debate over animals—with its emphasis on extending traditional ethical models to include nonhumans—may serve to legitimize the animal’s claim to moral attention; however, by translating the value of animal reality into terms assimilable to human culture, it also completes a form of intellectual domestication. Posttraditional thought locates the value of the animal in its extra-cultural objectivity, in that which evades domestication; however, such a segregation of animal and culture casts doubt on whether any viable cultural institutions can articulate a valuation of nonhuman life without humanizing it in the process. In this chapter, I explore the...


    • 10 Sacrifice and Self-Overcoming
      (pp. 189-210)

      The present analysis of the moral status of animals might have ended with the conclusion of the previous chapter. The arguments reviewed up to that point lead toward some substantial and perhaps unexpected conclusions. While there are solid philosophical grounds for rethinking the animal’s traditional exclusion from moral considerations, recent attempts to extend traditional ethical categories to include the animal have yielded incomplete results. The consideration of the moral status of animals seems to require not only the extension of traditional ethical categories to animals, but also a deeper reflection on those categories themselves. The animal embodies a reality that...

    • 11 The Child, the Hunter, and the Artist
      (pp. 211-232)

      In his search for an alternative to the prosthetics of domesticated civilization, Livingston argues that what is needed to ensure our healthy functioning is a model for reestablishing the “comfortably shifting experiential balance” between nature and nurture, biology and culture.¹ We might add: between the Dionysian and the Apollonian. InThe Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche interpreted the need for both of these principles in Greek tragic culture as arising out of an aesthetic urge, on the model of dissonance in music. Despite that so much of his subsequent rhetoric would focus on the creative will to destruction raised to the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 233-236)

    Having tracked the animal through the woods of philosophical ethics, we find that the spoor has led back to ourselves. The analysis of the debate over animals compels us to explore not only their nature but our own, and the various ways in which human cultures have interpreted our own animality. That projecting our models of rights and duties upon the animal illuminates the difficulties of those models and of our existence as moral beings—the reflexive dimension to our reflecting on the animal—is one of many finds we may not have anticipated when this journey began. Indeed, having...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 237-284)
    (pp. 285-290)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 291-301)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 302-302)