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Discourse and Wolves: Science, Society, and Ethics

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Wolves have a special resonance in many human cultures. To appreciate fully the wide variety of views on wolves, we must attend to the scientific, social, and ethical discourses that frame our understanding of wolves themselves, as well as their relationships with people and the natural world. These discourses are a configuration of ideas, language, actions, and institutions that enable or constrain our individual and collective agency with respect to wolves. Scientific discourse is frequently privileged when it comes to wolves, on the assumption that the primary knowledge requirements are matters of ecology, cognitive ethology, and allied disciplines. Social discourse about wolves implicitly challenges this privilege and provides a rich array of social perspectives on human-wolf relations. Ethical discourse has until recently lagged behind the other two. So too, ethicists are increasingly challenging the adequacy of scientific and social discourse. They do so by calling attention to the value-laden character of all discourse, and the unavoidable ethical questions that confront us as we learn to share the landscape with large predators like wolves.

Affiliations: 1: Williams College, Email:


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