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Animals and the Moral Community: Mental Life, Moral Status, and Kinship


Animals and the Moral Community: Mental Life, Moral Status, and Kinship Cover

ISBN13: 9780231142342
ISBN10: 023114234x
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Gary Steiner argues that ethologists and philosophers in the analytic and continental traditions have largely failed to advance an adequate explanation of animal behavior. Critically engaging the positions of Marc Hauser, Daniel Dennett, Donald Davidson, John Searle, Martin Heidegger, and Hans-Georg Gadamer, among others, Steiner shows how the Western philosophical tradition has forced animals into human experiential categories in order to make sense of their cognitive abilities and moral status and how desperately we need a new approach to animal rights.

Steiner rejects the traditional assumption that a lack of formal rationality confers an inferior moral status on animals vis-?-vis human beings. Instead, he offers an associationist view of animal cognition in which animals grasp and adapt to their environments without employing concepts or intentionality. Steiner challenges the standard assumption of liberal individualism according to which humans have no obligations of justice toward animals. Instead, he advocates a cosmic holism that attributes a moral status to animals equivalent to that of people. Arguing for a relationship of justice between humans and nature, Steiner emphasizes our kinship with animals and the fundamental moral obligations entailed by this kinship.

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Michael Cox, April 27, 2013 (view all comments by Michael Cox)
Certainly one can attribute behaviours to our pets, as well as other animals, as being human-like in their motives, but are animals intentional, do they have beliefs, can they operate on something more than the mechanistic, Cartesian "mechanical" model of stimulus and response? Steiner and others think so, but it is a slippery slope, one that the author treads very cautiously, not willing to make a bold pronouncement about animal intelligence when it cannot be supported by evidence, or at least by solid philsophical underpinnings. This book is one of a set of Steiner's treatises on animals and morality.

"The time has come,the Walrus said, to speak of many things," happens to be one of my favourite lines of poetry (and, sadly, one of the few I remember). Having had a dog and then two cats, all of whom are now gone, and about to set forth summer 2013 to make a documentary film about cats and people, I have been reding Steiner and others (see Oliver: Animal Lessons; DeMello: Animals and Society; Gross: Animals and the Human Imagination) in preparation for conducting interviews and writing the narration for the film.

At times I struggled with words and concepts in Steiner's book, even though his writing is clear, his sentences not convoluted "Philo-speak" as I call it, impenetrable to all but the select rarefied minds (often stuck way up their backsides) of other philosophers. No, I can read this, understand it, but I have had to resort to the dictionary or even the dictionary of philosophy a few times. Still, I recommend this, and as a reasonably slim volume, it is digestible without indigestion.
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Product Details

Steiner, Gary
Columbia University Press
Animal welfare
Animal psychology
Animal Rights
Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Consciousness in animals
Outdoors-Conservation and Animal Rights
Publication Date:
8.30x5.70x1.00 in. .80 lbs.

Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Humanities » Philosophy » Ethics
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Animal Rights
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Animal Rights
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Zoology
Sports and Outdoors » Outdoors » Conservation and Animal Rights

Animals and the Moral Community: Mental Life, Moral Status, and Kinship New Hardcover
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Product details 212 pages Columbia University Press - English 9780231142342 Reviews:
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