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Title: Animals, anthropocentrism, and morality : analysing the discourse of the animal issue
Author: Kohavi, Zohar
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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Abstract:
This dissertation identifies and criticises a fundamental characteristic of the philosophical discourse surrounding the animal issue: the underlying anthropocentric reasoning that informs the accounts of both philosophy of mind and moral philosophy. Such reasoning works from human paradigms as the only possible starting point of the analysis. Accordingly, the aim of my dissertation is to show how anthropocentric reasoning and its implications distort the inquiry of the animal debate. In extracting the erroneous biases from the debate, my project enables an important shift in the starting line of the philosophical inquiry of the animal issue. In chapters one and two, I focus on philosophy of mind. I show how philosophical accounts that are based on anthropocentric a priori reasoning are inattentive to the relevant empirical findings regarding animals' mental capacities. Employing a conceptual line of argument, I demonstrate that starting the analysis from a human paradigm creates a rigid conceptual framework that unjustifiably excludes the possibility of associating the relevant empirical findings in the research. Furthermore, I show how the common approaches to the issue of animals' belief and intentions deny that animals can have these capacities, and I demonstrate how such denials can be avoided. The philosophical discourse that I examine denies intentional mental capacities to animals. Such denials take place, I maintain, because the analysis is anthropocentric: it uses humans' most sophisticated capacities as the only possible benchmark for evaluating animals' mental abilities. A central example of such anthropocentric reasoning is the oft-mentioned view that there is a necessary link between language and intentionality. Such a link indeed characterises humans. Yet the claim that there is no intentionality without language is a problematic framework for analysing the supposed intentionality of non-linguistic and prelinguistic creatures. Employing a standard that applies to normal, adult humans excludes the possibility of animals' intentionality from the outset. It seems, however, that intentionality is a capacity that evolves in stages, and that simple intentional mental states do not require language. At the same time, such an analysis ignores, to a large extent, cases of attributing intentionality to pre-linguistic humans and even normal, adult humans. Thus, I show how the denial that animals may have intentional mental capacities results in a double standard. In chapters three to six, I critically examine the anthropocentric nature of the debate concerning animals' moral status. The anthropocentric reasoning relates to the conditions of moral status in an oversimplified manner. I show that human prototypes, e.g., rational agency and autonomy, have mistakenly served as conditions for either moral status in general or of a particular type. Seemingly, using such conditions excludes from the proffered moral domain not only animals, but also human moral patients. Yet eventually only animals are excluded from the proffered moral domain. I identify and criticise the manoeuvre that enables this outcome. That is, although the proffered conditions are based on individual characteristics of moral agents, they are applied in a collective manner in order to include human moral patients in the moral domain under examination. I also show that when animals are granted moral status, this status appears to be subjugated by human needs and interests, and therefore the very potential to substantiate animal moral status becomes problematic. Significantly, I also criticise arguments in favour of animals' moral status, claiming that they sustain the oversimplified nature of the inquiry, hence reproducing the major problems of the arguments they were originally designed to refute. As part of my critique towards both such arguments and anthropocentric reasoning, I suggest a non-anthropocentric framework that avoids oversimplification with regard to the conditions of moral status. The aspiration of anthropocentric reasoning as well as of pro-animals philosophers is to find a common denominator that is allegedly shared by all members of the moral community as the single foundation of moral status, which consists of individual characteristics. My framework challenges this aspiration by showing that this common denominator cannot account for all cases. The framework that I suggest enables establishing moral statuses upon distinctive foundations, and at the same time, my proposal avoids falling into the trap of speciesism.
Supervisor: Mason, Elinor; Holton, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.566465  DOI: Not available
Keywords: anthropocentric reasoning
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