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Environmental Values

What is an Animal? A Philosophical Reflection on the Possibility of a Moral Relationship with Animals

Hub Zwart

Environmental Values 6(1997): 377-392. doi: 10.3197/096327197776679059

Contemporary ethical discourse on animals is influenced partly by a scientific and partly by an anthropomorphic understanding of them. Apparently, we have deprived ourselves of the possibility of a more profound acquaintance with them. In this contribution it is claimed that all ethical theories or statements regarding the moral significance of animals are grounded in an ontological assessment of the animal's way of being. In the course of history, several answers have been put forward to the question of what animals really and basically are. Three of them (namely the animal as a machine, an organism and a being that dwells in an - apparently - restricted world) are discussed. It is argued that the latter (Heideggerian) answer contains a valuable starting point for an ethical reflection on recent changes in the moral relationship between humans and animals.

KEYWORDS: Animal ethics, ontology and ethics, Heidegger on animals, anthropomorphism, biotechnology

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

The Birth of a Research Animal: Ibsen's The Wild Duck and the Origin of a New Animal Science. H.A.E. Zwart

'Other Animal Ethics' and the Demand for Difference Elisa Aaltola

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