Bob Corbett, instructor
Fall 2000: 3:00 - 4:30 PM, Tues. and Thurs.

Below are some of the issues which we will discuss.

In recent years a new movement has swept into the philosophical scene and has made a major impact on the discussion of our relationship with animals. This is the very radical "animal rights" position. This view holds that animals, just as humans, should be granted some fundamental rights, though not the exact same set which humans have. This has thrown the discussion of animals into an uproar. If the animals rights (sometimes called animal liberation) cause wins the day it would seem that there would have to be DRAMATIC revisions of human behavior in regard to animals, including not eating meat, or clothing with animal parts, that zoos might have to cease to exist and pets not be kept and so on. This is radical stuff.

This course will explore many of these issues from the point of view of contemporary philosophical literature.

We will begin with the three main "positions,"

First we will concentrate on getting the over-arching perspectives in mind. Then we will turn our attention to more specific issues such as:

  1. Eating animals.
  2. Processes of raising animals for slaughter.
  3. Processes for slaughtering animals for eating.
  4. Using animals for experimentation for medicines.
  5. Using animals for experimentation for cosmetics or food stuffs.
  6. Using animals for clothing.
  7. The keeping of pets.
  8. The keeping of animals in zoos.
  9. Protecting animals in the wild.
  10. Protecting species or sub-species.
  11. Animal intelligence.

We will also consider the issue of consistency. If we each look to our own treatment of animals I would think that few people act with any great consistency toward animals except, perhaps, those in the first school. Rather, we seem to often be inconsistent, perhaps believing we should interfere to protect animals from being maltreated while at the same time sanctioning the killing of animals to be eaten.

One of the important questions seems to me to be: how consistent ought we be? My initial intuition is that while a carefully considered position toward animals needs to be worked out, and that many of our views on animals seem to come to play from habit, tradition and rather unthinking intuitions, nonetheless, I tend to think that even an adequate analysis will not provide a fully consistent position in relation to these three positions. A philosophical analysis may help in bringing clarity to some of these issues.

Another question we will explore is: Who are the animals?

We use the word "animal" is a rather loose sense. There is one sense in which we would clearly refer to a creature as an "animal" (Dog, cat, bear, horse, lion, elephant). Yet other creatures that are not clearly "animals" in this first sense, come under the concerns of people in any of the three categories above. (Reptiles, birds, insects are examples that come immediately to mind.)

Within this area of confusion there may be differences which will bear on our relationship with them depending upon the status as:

  1. Domestic vs wild.
  2. Farm animals vs pets.
  3. What I will call "mainline" animals and birds.
  4. Mainline animals and reptiles.
  5. Mainline animals and insects.
  6. Zoo animals and wild animals.
  7. Animals for food and clothing vs other animals.

These concerns named above constitute much more than we can ever hope to do in any detail in a mere semester long exploration. However, by operating in a mixture of unified study of text and also having space for private research projects in seminar fasion and sharing some research responsibilities we should be able to touch on many of theses topics in enough detail to bring clarity if not resolution.

My Philosophy Page Webster U. Philosophy Department

Animals Children Critical Thinking Current Semester Education
Existentialism Miscellaneous Topics Moral Philosophy Peace Issues Voluntary Economic Simplicity


Bob Corbett