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Philosophical Ethology: On the Extents of What It Is to Be a Pig

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Answers to the question, “What is a farm animal?” often revolve around genetics, physical attributes, and the animals’ functions in agricultural production. The essential and defining characteristics of farm animals transcend these limited models, however, and require an answer that avoids reductionism and encompasses a de-atomizing point of view. Such an answer should promote recognition of animals as beings with extensive mental and social capabilities that outline the extent of each individual animal’s existence and—at the same time—define the animals as parts of wholes that in themselves are more than the sum of their parts and have ethological as well as ethical relevance. To accomplish this, the concepts of both anthropomorphism and sociobiology will be examined, and the article will show how the possibility of understanding animals and their characteristics deeply affects both ethology and philosophy; that is, it has an important influence on our descriptive knowledge of animals, the concept of what animal welfare is and can be, and any normative ethics that follow such knowledge.

Affiliations: 1: Aarhus University Denmark, Email:


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