1st Edition

What We Owe to Nonhuman Animals The Historical Pretensions of Reason and the Ideal of Felt Kinship

By Gary Steiner Copyright 2024
    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book strongly challenges the Western philosophical tradition’s assertion that humans are superior to nonhuman animals. It makes a case for the full and direct moral status of nonhuman animals.

    The book provides the basis for a radical critique of the entire trajectory of animal studies over the past fifteen years. The key idea explored is that of ‘felt kinship’—a sense of shared fate with and obligations to all sentient life. It will help to inspire some deep rethinking on the part of leading exponents of animal studies. The book’s strong outlook is expressed through an appeal for radical humility on the side of humans rather than a constant reference to the ‘human-animal divide’. Historical figures examined in depth include Aristotle, Seneca, and Kant; contemporary figures examined include Christine Korsgaard and Martha Nussbaum. This book presents an account according to which the tradition has not proceeded on the basis of impartial motivations at all, but instead has made a set of pointedly self-serving assumptions about the proper criteria for assessing moral worth.

    Readers of this book will gain exposure to a wide variety of thinkers in the Western philosophical tradition, historical as well as contemporary. This book is suitable for professionals working in nonhuman animal studies, students, advanced undergraduates, and practitioners working in the fields of philosophy, environmental studies, law, literature, anthropology, and related fields.


    Chapter One: Background Ideals of Living

    1. A Counterintuitive Idea

    2. Background Ideals of Living in the Philosophical Tradition

    3. Anthropocentric Implications of Some Contemporary Approaches

    4. Anthropocentric and Non-Anthropocentric Background Ideals of Living

    Chapter Two: The Essential Role and Pitfalls of Reason in Moral Judgment

    1. Background Ideals of Living and Our Basic Understanding of Reason

    2. Two Early Exponents of Anthropocentric Rationality: Aristotle and Seneca

    3. The Enlightenment's Chief Exponent of Anthropocentric Rationality: Kant

    4. Questioning the Traditional Commitment to the Primacy of Reason

    Chapter Three: Historical Idealism and the Process of Critical Reflection

    1. Rationality: Rethink or Reject?

    2. Rorty's Challenge to Reason and Criteria

    3. The Ideal of Critical Detachment Revisited

    4. Ortega's Turn to Historical Reason

    5. Miller's Actualism and the Problem of Universals

    6. A Concluding Thought

    Chapter Four: The Affective Dimension of Moral Commitment

    1. Background Ideals of Living and the Putative Autonomy of Reason

    2. A Positive Path Beyond the Limits of Reason?

    3. Reclaiming a Guiding Place for the Emotions

    4. Pre-Predicative Meaning and Affective Engagement

    5. The Moral Community is Neither Exclusively Nor Primarily Human

    Chapter Five: Felt Kinship: The Essential Tension Between Local and Global Commitments

    1. The Power and Essential Limits of Reason

    2. The Power and Essential Limits of Feeling or Emotion

    3. Toward a Dialectical Conception of the Reason-Emotion Dichotomy

    4. Toward a Well-Tempered Humanism



    Gary Steiner is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Bucknell University.