Animals and the Moral Community: Mental Life, Moral Status, by Gary Steiner

By Gary Steiner

Gary Steiner argues that ethologists and philosophers within the analytic and continental traditions have principally did not improve an enough clarification of animal habit. seriously attractive the positions of Marc Hauser, Daniel Dennett, Donald Davidson, John Searle, Martin Heidegger, and Hans-Georg Gadamer, between others, Steiner exhibits how the Western philosophical culture has pressured animals into human experiential different types with a view to make feel in their cognitive skills and ethical prestige and the way desperately we'd like a brand new method of animal rights.

Steiner rejects the normal assumption loss of formal rationality confers an inferior ethical prestige on animals vis-à-vis humans. as a substitute, he deals an associationist view of animal cognition during which animals seize and adapt to their environments with out making use of strategies or intentionality. Steiner demanding situations the normal assumption of liberal individualism in keeping with which people haven't any responsibilities of justice towards animals. as a substitute, he advocates a "cosmic holism" that attributes an ethical prestige to animals such as that of individuals. Arguing for a dating of justice among people and nature, Steiner emphasizes our kinship with animals and the elemental ethical responsibilities entailed by way of this kinship.

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To have a concept of X where the specification of X is not exhausted by a perceptual characterization, it is not enough just to have the ability to discriminate X’s from non-X’s. ”26 Simply to distinguish, say, blue from red does not require having a concept. To form a concept, one must abstract away from the properties that distinguish different members of a certain class and produce a mental representation of what the members of the class have in common. 27 One can imagine a dog being able to discriminate between bones and non-bones, or between tasty and non-tasty food, without having the concept of bone, food, or tasty.

Even though few if any contemporary philosophers or ethologists maintain that animals are simply biological machines, a number of these thinkers still adhere to the Cartesian view that animals are incapable of rationality. Bernard Williams argues that we can ascribe beliefs “to non-language-using animals… in the course of explaining a great deal of [their] behavior,” but that animals cannot really have beliefs because they lack the requisite concepts. 35 On Williams’s view, animals completely lack what Searle calls intrinsic intentionality; our attribution of concepts and beliefs to the animal simply reflects our own intentionality and our own proclivities in explaining animal behavior.

To see a squirrel in a tree, a dog does not need any concepts. 29 To have any kind of belief about a squirrel, at the very least the dog would need a mental representation of squirrel-ness that transcends all the particular experiences of squirrels that the dog has had, and on the basis of which the dog would be able to predicate certain properties of this particular squirrel (such as that it is in this tree). Moreover, this concept would derive some of its meaning from the ways in which it is related to other concepts that the dog possesses.

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