Pets, People, and Pragmatism
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Series: American Philosophy
Title Page, Series Information, Copyright, Dedication
How does a vegetarian animal advocate justify “owning” three dogs, two horses, and living with two indoor cats? Worse yet, how does she justify training the dogs, herding sheep with the dogs, and training and competing with the horses? How does she object to factory farming but participate in stabling horses? Isn’t it just a difference in degree of...
1. Understanding Domestication and Various Philosophical Views: The Legacy with Which We Live
As philosopher Mary Midgley says, “Man does not naturally exist in species isolation.” Human beings live in multiple-species communities and one of our special powers “is to draw in, domesticate and live with a great variety of other creatures” (“The Significance of Species” 135). This may even be a need. She says, “The point is not just that most human beings have in fact been acquainted with other creatures early ...
2. Horses: Respecting Power and Personality
While not the most common pet in the United States (only 4 percent of the population owns a horse), horses play an important role in how human beings understand themselves and their relationships with other animal beings. Long used as a source of power and transportation, the domesticated horse very literally transformed human society Mounted societies were considered fierce, bold, aggressive, proud, ....
3. American Pragmatism: The Continuity of Critters
Now that we have seen the kind of discussion that might occur if we used American Pragmatism to guide the discussion of the relations among humans and other animal beings I turn to a longer discussion of the philosophical perspective itself. Many readers may never have heard of the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism. For those who know something about American Pragmatism (or neo-pragmatism), it ...
4. Dogs: Respecting Perception and Personality
Now I turn to animal beings with whom many people have relation-ships. One estimate says that there are almost as many cats and dogs in households as televisions (Serpell, Company of Animals 19). In 1986 there were an estimated 48 million dogs in the United States, and today that number is roughly 74.8 million (xxi 9). As they do with horses, some animal advocates see human relationships with dogs as a kind of slavery. ...
5. Cats: Respecting Playfulness and Personality
Cats have a complicated history. They have been vilified as instruments of the devil, been blamed for the plague, and been considered in many superstitious beliefs as harbingers of bad luck. Yet, they are popular pets. In the United States in particular, cats have gone from being a witch’s companion to being the most numerous pet. Nevertheless, their past still haunts them. Shelters report that it is harder to find homes for ...
Conclusion: Making Things Better
So far I have examined a variety of relationships between human beings and some other animal beings commonly considered as pets. I have examined some practices and activities that can be harmful for these other animal beings. This harm is very real and very possible for individual horses, dogs, and cats. They have some legal protections, but they are ultimately dependent on the good will of the humans with whom they ...
Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 15 b/w
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: American Philosophy
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