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Animal Ethics: Toward an Ethics of Responsiveness

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The concepts of animal, human, and rights are all part of a philosophical tradition that trades on foreclosing the animal, animality, and animals. Rather than looking to qualities or capacities that make animals the same as or different from humans, I investigate the relationship between the human and the animal. To insist, as animal rights and welfare advocates do, that our ethical obligations to animals are based on their similarities to us reinforces the type of humanism that leads to treating animals—and other people—as subordinates. But, if recent philosophies of difference are any indication, we can acknowledge difference without acknowledging our dependence on animals, or without including animals in ethical considerations. Animal ethics requires rethinking both identity and difference by focusing on relationships and responsivity. My aim is not only to suggest an animal ethics but also to show how ethics itself is transformed by considering animals.

Affiliations: 1: Vanderbilt University

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