Notes by the speaker, David Sztybel, Ph.D.

January 10, 2013

An introduction to animal ethics is very much like an introduction to ethical theory,
only with the speciesism either removed or cast into doubt

Basic Terms for Understanding Animal Ethics

  • ethics is the study of moral good and bad, right and wrong, justice and injustice, virtue and vice
  • different kinds of good:
    • instrumental good: good because useful, or extrinsically; that is, good because leads to another good the way a tool is useful and leads to various goods such as language leading to understanding, and hammers leading to houses
    • intrinsic good: good in itself; does not need to lead to any other good to be of value; for example, chickens intrinsically value friendship; they like the friendship itself, and show affection as a result; the friendship does not need to lead to any other good, such as when a chicken befriends a little child who does not take care of the bird, and the chicken just enjoys the relationship
    • inherent value is a term that philosopher Tom Regan uses to mean dignity; because animals have inherent value they should have rights, he holds
    • good character refers to someone who has fine character traits – virtues – and not bad character traits – vices
  • rights

    Joel Feinberg: “To have a right is to have a claim to something and against someone, the recognition of which is called for by legal rules or, in the case of moral rights, the principles of an enlightened conscience.”

    • there are moral and legal rights
  • speciesism: oppressive discrimination, like racism or sexism, but on the basis of either species, or species-characteristics, e.g., rationality is often said to be limited to humans; introduced in 1970 by psychologist and philosopher, Richard D. Ryder
  • deep ecology refers to environmental thinking that considers nature to be intrinsically valuable, thinks of the long-term and also subtle effects of environmental decisions; by contrast, shallow ecology considers nature as instrumentally valuable, thinks of the short-term (often profits), and thinks only of effects that seem quite obvious; introduced in 1970 by philosopher Arne Naess
  • moral agent: someone who acts according to moral ideas such as good, bad, right, wrong, etc.
  • moral patient: someone who is not necessarily a moral agent (at least in the human sense), but who is either benefited or harmed by moral agents
  • moral standing: a status pertaining to someone who is entitled to basic practical respect in some form (e.g., has rights, will be considered in utilitarian calculations, will be sympathized or emphathized with)
  • normative ethics versus meta-ethics:
    • a normative ethic is a framework someone might actually live by to guide their moral conduct, or is practical or applied
    • meta-ethics: goes beyond all theories of normative ethics and ascends to the critical level, evaluating moral theories and terms, comparing and contrasting theories, investigating the justification of theories (“meta-” means above or beyond)
  • intuition: a fundamental premise or belief in an ethical view that is said not to need a justification, otherwise it would be based on a more fundamental belief
    • moral bedrock
    • foundation of ethics
    • some say we need to start with intuitions, otherwise we would end up with an infinite chain of beliefs justifying beliefs which in turn justify beliefs, and so on, forever (called an infinite regress)
  • consequentialism: moral right and wrong is judged solely on the basis of consequences
    • three main examples: ethical egoism, ethical particularism, and utilitarianism
    • these theories introduced below
  • nonconsequentialism: moral right and wrong is not based only on consequences
    • primary example: what the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, termed “deontology” (the study of duty, and duty is usually associated with rights because if someone has a right, this creates duties on the part of individuals, or perhaps society)
    • The Stoics, originating from Ancient Greece, used to voice defiance of what we now call consequentialism by indicating: “Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.”
  • empathy: getting a sense of another’s point of view, what they feel, believe, etc.
  • sympathy: being inclined as others are, implying a change in the sympathizer’s own agency
  • ethical nihilism: there is nothing that is really right or wrong, good or bad, just/unjust
  • ethical relativism
    • there are no universal or absolute standards of morality
    • moral terms such as good, bad, etc., are only intelligible in a given cultural context
  • ethical subjectivism
    • there are no universal or absolute standards of morality
    • moral terms such as good, bad, etc., are only intelligible in the context of someone’s views and opinions

Rights Views

  • in general, rights views protect the dignity of individuals
  • by contrast, we will see that utilitarianism is the classic theory upholding good overall which can override the dignity of individuals
  1. Immanuel Kant
    • Kant’s test of moral principles is whether they can be “universalized” as a law of ethics
      • for example, if a shopkeeper proposed to short-change a customer, he should try universalizing that; but he would not accept the principle universalized, for then he would need to accept being short-changed himself
    • Kant also said that if we universalize principles in this fashion we will go according to the principle: Always treat persons as ends in themselves, and never as a means only.
      • someone who uses others as means only, e.g., sweatshop owner treating employee only as a means
    • Kant had absolute rules against lying, promise-breaking, killing innocents, suicide, stealing, adultery, and more
    • Kant’s theory has been extended by philosopher Julian Franklin to nonhuman animals
      • instead of treating rational beings as ends in themselves, and not a means only, Franklin talks about treating sentient beings as ends in themselves, not as a means only
      • Kant wrote in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Moralsthat “rational nature exists as an end in itself”, which is an obscure way of saying he only respects so-called rational beings
      • example of treating animals as mere means: extreme vivisection


  2. John Rawls
    • Rawls asks us to imagine that we are disembodied spirits, not yet born, existing in a place called “the original position”
    • this is a thought experiment that we can meditate on to learn something; Rawls is not advocating that we believe in free-floating spirits who exist before births
    • justice = the principles we would make for when we are born, only we would have a veil of ignorance, so we would not know if we are going to be born strong or weak, light or dark skinned, intelligent or unintelligent, rich or poor, male or female, etc.
    • this would result in justice, without any racism, sexism, classism, etc.
    • Mark Rowlands and Mark Bernstein have extended this to nonhuman animals, e.g., we do not know if we will be born human or not, or rational or not, so we should give moral standing to all sentient beings, who would have rights


  3. Alan Gewirth
    • Gewirth observes that we all need a certain amount of freedom or well-being to pursue any desires at all, which can be illustrated with examples:
      1. we cannot pursue desires in a strait-jacket because we would have little or no freedom to speak of
      2. we cannot pursue desires if we are very ill, because we would be so deficient in well-being
    • everyone should therefore claim rights to freedom and well-being for oneself as an agent, otherwise one cannot even act
    • due to “the principle of generic consistency”, we should extend rights to freedom and well-being to other humans too
    • Evelyn Pluhar has extended Gewirth’s theory to nonhuman animals, because they need freedom and well-being to pursue their own desires too


  4. Intuitionist rights
    • Tom Regan
      • intuits that subjects of a life (those who have a life that
        matters to themselves) have equal inherent value along with other subjects of a life
      • he says we have this “reflective intuition” when we think about whether mentally disabled humans have rights
      • from equal inherent value of subjects of a life, he infers “the
        respect principle”
      • from the respect principle he derives “the harm principle”
      • all subjects of a life, human or not human, have rights including the right to life, and in general the right not to be harmed or treated as mere resources
    • Gary Francione
      • “I argue that the basic right not to be treated as property may be derived directly from the principle of equal consideration and does not require the complicated rights theory upon which Regan relies.” (Introduction to Animal Rights, p. 34)
      • intuition: human beings have an interest in not being considered
      • intuition: the principle of equal consideration of interests
      • intuition: we must respect that nonhuman animals have an interest in avoiding unnecessary suffering, but also in not being treated as property (which also involves unnecessary suffering)
      • from this shared interest in not being considered property, humans and other animals should have the right not to be considered property (not owned, nor considered to be an object, resource/tool/instrument, nor subject to unnecessary suffering)


  5. rights based in compassion:
    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume
    • Buddhist animal rightists often use this, or Joan Dunayer says animal
      rights are based in compassion and justice


  6. rights based in tradition
    • Joseph Raz see rights debate being carried on within the liberal tradition
    • S. F. Sapontzis bases animal liberation (which to him also has utilitarian aspects) on “everyday morality”, which to him embodies:
      1. moral character (including compassion)
      2. reducing suffering and increasing enjoyment
      3. fairly distributing benefits and necessary harms
    • Bernard Rollin:
      • bases ethics in “common sense”
      • says animals only have the right not to be excluded from moral discussion, which is a very weak right
      • says Kant adheres to “Ought implies can.”: can’t have strong rights for animals in our times, so we should not say they ought to be advocated (yet can they not be advocated for the long-term?)


  • direct utilitarianism
    • measure the good in terms of pleasure units, and bad in terms of pain units
    • or measure the good in terms of preference-satisfaction units, and bad in terms of preference-frustration units
    • add up the good units and subtract the bad units
    • that will indicate how much utility the given path for the future will have
    • choose that path with the most overall utility units
  • rule utilitarianism
    • do not try to estimate utility in individual actions, too unstable, unmeasurable, and untrustworthy because many moral agents show they can be violent or exploitive; people may vividly perceive their own interests, not so much others
    • come up with that set of rules that are justified by maximum utility, e.g., Do not kill, lie, steal, etc.
  • indirect utilitarianism
    • forget about being a utilitarian, and just be faithful friends and loves, have a reliable character, be loyal, honour commitments, rights, and so forth, in keeping with common-sense morality
    • this strategy will supposedly maximize utility in the long run

Virtue Ethics

  • concerned with character traits of persons known as virtues and vices
  • Aristotle said we should pursue the “golden mean” between excess and deficiency
    • e.g., courage is an example of a golden mean, but cowardice is deficiency, and foolhardiness
      is excess
  • Zoe Weil, an animal liberationist, lists the ten best qualities of human beings as:
    1. kindness
    2. compassion
    3. honesty and trustworthiness
    4. generosity
    5. courage
    6. perseverence, self-discipline, and restraint
    7. humour and playfulness
    8. wisdom
    9. integrity
    10. willingness to choose and change

Ethical Egoism

  • Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan said life without civilization is “nasty, brutish, and short”
  • in everbody’s “enlightened” self-interest not to have violence, deception, theft, etc., if others agree to the same rules in return
  • associates animal existence with unpleasantness, unlike biologist Jonathan Balcombe, in his book, Pleasurable Kingdom
  • a related concept is ethical particularism, which means favoring some groups such as one’s nation, linguistic community, church, etc., to the exclusion of other groups


  • skeptical about moral absolutes, so goes with what works in society, recognizing we need ethics for the purposes of law and getting on, and it need not all be purely self-interested
  • non-violence is pragmatic for everyone, but most pragmatists are speciesists


  • act for environmental wholes such as the Earth, nature, species, the ecosystem, the biosphere, biodiversity, bioregional narratives, the Land, and so on
  • Aldo Leopold: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.”
  • J. Baird Callicott is a contemporary follower of Leopold
  • deep ecology can be ecoholistic, or have a biocentric view assigning individual inherent worth to all organisms

Feminist Ethic of Care

  • critical of ethics based on universal principles such as rights or utilitarianism
  • bases ethics on caring, compassion, sympathy or empathy
  • not abstract, but concrete; not focused on universals, but particulars; not focused on reason, but affect; not focusing on individuals but relationships

Spiritual Ethics

  • not covered in this lecture

First note to AR class; notes on the paradox of religion and animal rights, and the search for truth

To: everyone who attended or expressed interest in the ‘free university’ course on animal rightsFrom: Paul York, course organizerI was very pleased to see such a great turnout for the first lecture. The level of discussion was very high, and there were many good questions and comments, taking us well beyond the time limit of 9 pm. In future, if we go over time (which may well happen) people are certainly welcome to leave early.I want to thank Paul Jenkins for making vegan cookies, Amy Baron for helping dispense the course readers, Michael Sizer for filming the lecture (hopefully soon to be posted to Youtube), Jayme Dunlap for audio recording it for podcast (now available online: https://soundcloud.com/jaymed-1/first-lecture), and especially David Sztybel for preparing the lecture and for his valuable feedback in terms of preparing the course outline.The next lecture is on Jan. 17, again with David Sztybel, and in the same room: 35 St. George, room 244. It is the second part of the overview of animal rights ethics. David will go over the ethical views he introduced through analysis last time, offering various criticisms – pro and con – for each approach. The readings for the first two weeks are on his website (http://davidsztybel.info/); the links for them are provided in the course outline. Additionally, there is a print version of one of his essays in the course reader.Attached to this email is his powerpoint slide from the first lecture, and his lecture notes (the latter are posted to the blog). If you review the notes, view the powerpoint slides, and listen to the podcast, you can glean the essence of the lecture.As a supplementary reading I have included sections from Regan’s Empty Cages in the course reader; it is a very readable, accessible introduction to some important animal rights issues and themes. I quite enjoyed this book, and hope you will too.
For the third week (Jan. 24th), Daniel Hooley will give us a more in-depth look at Singer and Regan, and the difference between utilitarianism and deontology as it applies to animal ethics. The location of this class will be announced soon.

An essay on Singer, by Julian Franklin, is given in the course reader. On Jan. 17th I will provide some readings on Regan`s theories, and some short selections from Kant, for those who have bought the reader, to help you prepare for the third class.

In the reader you will already find Franklin’s essay on Kant and animal rights.
On Jan. 24th, after Daniel Hooley’s lecture on Singer and Regan, I will present on the Kant essay (which argues that the Formula of Humanity may be applied to nonhuman animals, as well as to humans, based on the criterion of sentience), and on the application of Kant’s thought, more generally.

The readings take time, of course, but they are valuable to gaining a more in-depth understanding of the material. If you do not understand them right away, that’s okay. Persistence is the key. Please do not hesitate to ask questions via email; there is no such thing as a bad question.

The film next week (Jan. 17th) is Peaceable Kingdom, followed by discussion. This is an incredible film if you have not seen it. I consider it _the_ best film on animal rights out there, aside from Earthlings. There are actually two versions of it; I will try to acquire the newer version.

Assignments: at least one person expressed an interest in writing an essay or book review. That is highly encouraged, as it is a great way to learn. If there are several people who do this, we may devote a lecture to some class presentations in which people share with the class what they had learned. Let me know if you are interested in essays or presenting.

Attached is a commentary on the subject of religion and animal rights, in response to a question brought up in class.

Thank you, and see you in class, Thurs. Jan. 17th, same classroom: rm. 244 of 35 St. George.

Sincerely, Paul York


A note on religion and the study of animal rights

by Paul York

Someone at the first lecture asked about “conflicts of interest” with regard to religious affiliation on the part of lecturers. There was also an email inquiry regarding the ambiguity of Buddhism with regard to animal rights. I recently completed teaching a course on religion and animals at U of T, and will be giving many of the lectures on religion and animals for this course, so I will address these points.

The approach taken in this course is not to advance any particular religious perspective, and no one in the course will be doing so. It is a secular academic format.

That having been said, it should be noted that there are several lectures in which we will discuss religion and animal rights, in various ways:

• The lecture on world religions will focus on how they have failed animals and are speciesist, which is a major theme in Paul Waldau’s work. See his book The Specter of Speciesism, on speciesism in early Buddhism and Christianity. The problems he focuses on appear in all the world religious traditions. However, this lecture will also focus on their potential for advancing animal rights, as demonstrated through the works of Andrew Linzey and Dan Cohn-Sherbok, who are Christian and Jewish animal rights theologians. Many traditions – in fact all of them – have elements that could be described as supporting animal welfare. Nonetheless, the question of religion and animals could be described as a paradox, inasmuch as the same traditions support notions of the superiority of humans over nonhumans. We will discuss this paradox.

• The lecture on atheist arguments for animal rights, which is a focus on James Rachel’s book Created from Animals, and also Peter Singer’s perspective on religion. Rachels’ book, if you have not read it, is a brilliant argument against the influence of western religions, and in particular Christianity, insofar as they have contributed to speciesism. We will discuss and assess his work.

• The idea that animal rights activism is itself a “religion” in a very broad sense of the word (both for and against that view). The Tolstoy lecture touches on that in part, and David Sztybel has written an essay in defense of this idea: http://davidsztybel.info/53.html Time permitting we will investigate this claim, based in part on Catherine Bell’s book Ritual Theory and Bron Taylor’s Deep Green Religion. Paul Tillich’s book The Dynamics of Faith can also be used to support the idea.

• Erika Ritter may touch on religion as well, in her presentation, from a critical stance, pointing to the paradox and ambiguity of cultures that purport to care for animals but then violate their rights.

• David Sztybel will also touch on religion through his presentation on ahimsa and Jainism. This is the link to David’s application of the principle to animal rights philosophy: http://davidsztybel.info/7.html

• In the lecture on the meaning of “bearing witness” with activist-scholar Anita Krajnc, we will look at Tolstoy, who was a Christian anarchist, pacifist, and early animal rights philosopher. Toronto Pig Save, although a secular volunteer group, adopts Tolstoy’s philosophy of transformative nonviolence, as well as a Gandhian love-based approach to activism. Toronto Pig Save is also engaged in a project to reach out to religious groups with “vegan mentoring solutions”, such as the Quakers and Mennonites, to persuade them to exercise greater compassion for animals, based on the historical parallel of their abolitionist work against human slavery. The basis for the engagement is not Christian faith, per se, but common belief in the necessity of social justice, which TPS believes should extend to nonhumans.

• In the lecture on art, some ancient cultures will be discussed, and this necessarily involves religion because the separation of religion and culture, as distinct phenomena, is a modern view. For the entirety of human history previous to the Enlightenment, religions and cultures were inseparably connected, and even considered synonymous. Palaeolithic culture, 30,000 years ago, in what is now France, comes to mind. We will examine the reverence this culture had for animals through the lecture on art, and the film preceding it: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, by Werner Herzog.

• I will also bring up religion in the third class, through Kant’s agnostic philosophy of religion, in which he discusses the failure and hypocrisy of historical religions vis-a-vis the moral imperative to create a good society, and the potential of those same traditions to advance that cause. Regarding the Kant lecture: how, you may ask, can religions which have failed animals so badly, help them? Is it even possible, or should we dispense with them entirely, as some very powerful atheist thinkers (e.g. Hume, Freud) have argued? Here is another way of expressing the same problem: some religious traditions have betrayed animals in the worst possible way by legitimizing violence against them, and yet at the same time those same traditions have elements within them that appear to be concerned with animal welfare, and there are individuals and sects within them who are pro-animal. So how do we understand this apparent contradiction?

One answer is provided by Kant’s argument for an interpretation of scriptures that emphasizes “the moral law within” and “thinking for yourself” over blind obedience to authority figures and conformity to what he called “heteronomy.” Stephen Scharper argues that 85 percent of the world’s population has some religious affiliation, so that if we are able to utilize religious traditions in the service of environmental protection or animal rights, we ought to. At the same time, Kant and various atheist thinkers such as Hume provide a framework for the critical assessment of the ethical and rational failure of religious traditions.

A note about the use of the word religion: when we are talking about different religions, it is important to keep in mind that they are not monolithic; they are not one thing. They are diverse and complex, so that it is impossible to correctly make categorical statements about “religion” as a whole (for or against). Thus we can never say that “religion” as a whole is either entirely for or against animals, but rather than both elements exist in almost all traditions, in greater and lesser degrees, and this should be acknowledged and examined in depth. Even Jainism has an anthropocentric element in it, as reflected in the belief in higher and lower rebirths.

Many elements within a given tradition will contradict each other, sometimes quite vehemently. Thus you will find, in Christianity for example, interpretations that legitimize violence against animals, and interpretations that argue for their liberation and greater compassion for them.

The classic example is the divergent interpretations of Genesis 1:26-8, which mentions the world “dominion.” Does it mean a license to dominate nature and animals, or good stewardship and responsibility for the well-being God’s creatures?

Kant is one thinker who provides the depth we need to do a critical assessment of these traditions. He was very critical of the hypocrisy of religious authorities, but also wanted to argue that persons of faith have a responsibility and a duty to act for the common good, and that “ethical communities” help advance this goal. I would count the animal rights community as an ethical community, in the sense that he defines it. Thomas Berry argues something very similar in his books.
Berry also argues (as does David Loy) that capitalism is a kind of religion – a very destructive one. Here is a link to Loy’s essay on this, for those so interested: http://www.religiousconsultation.org/loy.htm.

Overall, I think we present a very fair, open-minded, and critical view of religions and religious cultures in this course: acknowledging their influence (both good and bad), discussing their failures and their potential, and discussing what Waldau calls the “tension” between pro-animal and anti-animal views that exist in almost all of them (Jainism and Buddhism included, which tends to surprise many people).

Time-permitting we may also look at some emerging religions that focus on animals, such as the one started by Supreme Master Ching Hai, and the incorporation of concern for animals into similar spiritual worldviews – but again, from a critical perspective.

We will never endorse a faith tradition uncritically, as that is inconsistent with good academic thought. However, this does not mean that we are committed to become moral agnostics, never taking a firm position on the important issue of animal rights. That tendency is a frequent and discouraging trend among intellectuals in this era of specialization and corporatization of higher education institutions.

After all, as Howard Zinn noted, you cannot be neutral on a moving train – meaning that even if we do take no position on an issue but are part of a violent system you de facto take the side of the oppressor by taking no moral position.

As Noam Chomsky noted, intellectuals have a “responsibility” to take a stand on moral issues of great importance (http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19670223.htm). Thus we can seek to assess traditions using what philosopher James DiCenso calls an “ethical hermeneutics” — which means an interpretative framework that emphasizes an ethical position.

At the same time, if we are committed to the search for the truth, we cannot fixate on a position and advance it uncritically, since that lends itself to ideology and the death of thought. The search for truth is a process.

Notes on Weil’s “paying attention”, Lessing’s “search for truth” and jnana-yoga

In the Hindu tradition, there are three “yogas” or practices for arriving at truth; one of them is Jñāna yoga, or truth through knowledge – which describes the value of study. Another is the path of action (karma yoga); Gandhi described himself in his activism as a karma yogi. Bringing critical thought and action together, in service to the ideal of an inclusive ethical vision – one that includes animals’ well-being – is what animates the conscientious activist-academic.

The idea that we ought to try to glean truth and discern morality through knowledge, even if we do not always succeed in our efforts, is a very old and venerable idea. It is challenged in modern times, of course, by some post-modern ideas, and by cultural relativism.

French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil, in her essay on paying attention in study, argued that there is virtue in study, insofar as it helps us develop the ability to pay attention. The highest form of paying attention, she adds elsewhere, is compassion for those are afflicted in body and soul. Feminist author Carol Adams argues that this particular idea is applicable to animals. I will give you that reading in class. Here is Weil’s commentary on attention in study, which may be uplifting for people who do not grasp a particular study right away:

“. . . the development of the faculty of attention forms the real object and almost the sole interest of studies . . . [students] should never say: “For my part I like mathematics”; “I like French”; “I like Greek.” They should learn to like all these subjects, because all of them develop that faculty of attention . . . If we have no aptitude or natural taste for geometry this does not mean that our faculty for attention will not be developed by wrestling with a problem or studying a theorem. On the contrary it is almost an advantage. It does not even matter much whether we succeed in finding the solution or understanding the proof, although it is important to try really hard to do so. Never in any case whatever is a genuine effort of the attention wasted . . . Students must therefore work without any wish to gain good marks, to pass examinations, to win school successes; without any reference to their natural abilities and tastes; applying themselves equally to all their tasks, with the idea that each one will help to form in them the habit of that attention . . .” – Simone Weil (1942) Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.

In the first lecture David gave us an overview of several ethical theories of animal rights thinkers. If we view them as engaged in the search for truth through knowledge, it is important (as I noted in class) to not make the mistake of becoming a moral relativist (or worse, an ethical nihilist), who believes that all theories are equally valid, and thus all equally invalid.

The nihilistic view would be to say that because no one of them captures the entire truth they must all be false. But this view is wrong, I would argue. Truth and morality can be determined through a rational process of inquiry and study. We can establish that it is wrong to harm animals in some absolute sense, but doing so is a process that requires sincere reflection and a willingness to articulate the ethic in different ways.

Nor can we rest on ideological presuppositions or base ethics on authority, such as the idea that welfarism is always wrong, or that a principle is correct because many people agree with it. For those committed to an ethical vision of truth and justice, the process of articulating and embodying these ideals is a never-ending process that requires us to examine and question cherished beliefs.

I believe we can reconcile an open-minded form of moral absolutism (a conviction, in this case, that harming animal is wrong) with critical inquiry into the ideas and principles we may use to articulate this ideal, recognizing that the latter is a journey, not a final destination.

The thinkers David reviewed are like the proverbial blind men and the elephant: each person touches a small part of the elephant and exclaims to the others “this is the elephant!” when none of them can see the entire animal. The search for truth is something like that: there is an element of truth in what each of them advances, but it can never be the entire truth, which is beyond the scope of any one person to articulate.

The philosopher Lessing said that were he to be offered truth in one hand and the search for truth in the other, he would choose the search. Underlying his statement is the wisdom that “the truth” as a fixed position or ideology cannot in fact be the truth because truth is infinite, never-ending, and cannot be fixed or totalized. It cannot be captured by words, only approximated and symbolized. Philosophy, at its best, is an inquiry into fundamentals; at its worst it is mere intellectual quibbling, full of jargon, and socially irrelevant.

It’s fascinating that universities give such little attention to animal rights philosophy generally. You may be lucky to find a single seminar on it in some of the larger philosophy departments. The Critical Animal Studies program at Brock U. is an important exception. Insofar as we are in the midst of what could be called a “slave-owning society” that views sentient beings as property, the education systems should pay far more attention to it, and not allow this study to be marginalized to one class in one department. Animal issues should be taught in many departments in an interdisciplinary manner.

Sorry for the long-windedness of this commentary. Perhaps we will have a chance to discuss these issues further in one of the classes. I welcome any feedback you may have. And if you have something interesting to share to with the class on animal rights issues, feel free to send it to me.