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Animal Pragmatism

Rethinking Human-Nonhuman Relationships

Erin McKenna and Andrew Light, eds.

Publication Year: 2004

What does American pragmatism contribute to contemporary debates about human-animal relationships? Does it acknowledge our connections to all living things? Does it bring us closer to an ethical treatment of all animals? What about hunting, vegetarianism, animal experimentation, and the welfare of farm animals? While questions about human relations with animals have been with us for millennia, there has been a marked rise in public awareness about animal issues -- even McDonald's advertises that they use humanely treated animals as food sources. In Animal Pragmatism, 12 lively and provocative essays address concerns at the intersection of pragmatist philosophy and animal welfare. Topics cover a broad range of issues, including moral consideration of animals, the ethics of animal experimentation, institutional animal care, environmental protection of animal habitat, farm animal welfare, animal communication, and animal morals. Readers who interact with animals, whether as pets or on a plate, will find a robust and fascinating exploration of human-nonhuman relationships.

Contributors are James M. Albrecht, Douglas R. Anderson, Steven Fesmire, Glenn Kuehn, Todd Lekan, Andrew Light, John J. McDermott, Erin McKenna, Phillip McReynolds, Ben Minteer, Matthew Pamental, Paul Thompson, and Jennifer Welchman.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Animals indeed! If anyone thinks that the lives and habitat of the animals are not existentially central to the meaning of human life, I urge them to reconsider. At times, the presence of animals is electrifying, as in my witnessing the snarled upper lip of a ferocious leopard who was displeased by my gaze. More telling is an event undergone forty years ago, and yet as sensorially present as if it were...

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pp. xiii

We would like to thank each of our authors for their contributions to this volume. We would also like to thank those whose work was initially to be part of this volume. Because of limitations of space, we were unable to use several very interesting pieces. We would also like to express our appreciation to the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy and to the Summer Institute in...

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Introduction: Pragmatism and the Future of Human-Nonhuman Relationships

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pp. 1-16

Our lives are lived with other animals. It is implausible that anyone would deny this fact. But even given the long history of philosophical reflection on human identity, relationships, and morality, it is only recently that a critical mass of attention has focused on our possible ethical obligations to other animals. Yet this recent attention, which is producing shock waves in the public realm, is...

Part One: Pragmatism Considering Animals

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1. “What Does Rome Know of Rat and Lizard?”: Pragmatic Mandates for Considering Animals in Emerson, James, and Dewey

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pp. 19-42

In their search for intellectual ancestors in the tradition of American transcendentalism, environmentalists have understandably focused not on Ralph Waldo Emerson but on Henry David Thoreau. As Lawrence Buell has argued, Thoreau’s writings evince an emerging interest in “defining nature’s structure, both spiritual and material, for its own sake,” while Emerson’s works, though...

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2. Dewey and Animal Ethics

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pp. 43-62

Animal ethics, which investigates the appropriate ethical relationship between humans and nonhuman animals, emerged in the 1970s as a response to the powerful impact of human practices on other species. As is true of environmental ethics more generally, this investigation has a significant bearing on how we understand ourselves and on what policies we will endorse. The field...

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3. Overlapping Horizons of Meaning: A Deweyan Approach to the Moral Standing of Nonhuman Animals

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pp. 63-85

In this essay I examine the question of the moral standing of nonhuman animals from a pragmatic point of view. Rather than assuming that there is some abstract trait that confers moral standing, as do most approaches, I examine the context in which moral concepts are used and locate their basis in some form of community. I explore John Dewey’s insight that community, communication...

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4. Peirce’s Horse: A Sympathetic and Semeiotic Bond

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pp. 86-94

The systematic philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce is not the first place one might turn to in looking for a description of the relationship between human persons and other animals. The writings of Henry David Thoreau or John Muir might at first blush seem more likely homes for such a story. But Peirce’s work, by his own admission, retains some features of transcendentalism; and one of...

Part Two: Pragmatism, the Environment, Hunting, and Farming

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5. Beyond Considerability: A Deweyan View of the Animal Rights–Environmental Ethics Debate

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pp. 97-118

In environmental ethics, philosophers have made much hay from the deep gulf dividing the moral foundations of animal rights/welfare approaches and the ecologically oriented ethical stances that constitute the mainstream of the field’s discourse.1 Indeed, it is a common practice, especially when introducing students to the main positions and debates in the field, to dwell on this division...

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6. Methodological Pragmatism, Animal Welfare, and Hunting

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pp. 119-139

In 1996 Eric Katz and I published an edited book titled Environmental Pragmatism. We had two aims in mind: first, to bring together a representative sampling of the growing contributions by pragmatists to the field of environmental ethics, and second, to try to push environmental ethicists away from the various meta-ethical debates in which they had become stuck toward a more pluralist...

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7. Getting Pragmatic about Farm Animal Welfare

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pp. 140-159

Philosophical pragmatism presents itself as an alternative to those philosophical schools of thought that descended from the empiricist-rationalist and materialist-idealist debates of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. These schools share a commitment to “foundational” strategies that seek to establish (if only by assumption) a small set of basic methodological and metaphysical...

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8. Pragmatism and the Production of Livestock

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pp. 160-175

These are some of the more abstract philosophical questions that stand behind such questions as, Are we justified in liquefying the eyes of rabbits so we can feel safe using toxic chemicals to clean our homes and beautify our bodies? Should we use our closest living relative, chimpanzees, who share 98.76 percent of our genetic structure, to test nasal sprays and hepatitis vaccines, or to do research...

Part Three: Pragmatism on Animals as Cures, Companions, and Calories

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9. Is Pragmatism Chauvinistic? Dewey on Animal Experimentation

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pp. 179-192

In 1926, John Dewey, one of the founders of American pragmatism, wrote an opinion piece for the Atlantic Monthly, “The Ethics of Animal Experimentation,” in which he decries attempts to regulate animal experimentation, categorically dismissing the suggestion that it is ethically problematic. Dewey does not deny that animals suffer pain nor that cruelty to animals is wrong (98). Yet...

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10. A Pragmatist Case for Animal Advocates on Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees

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pp. 193-209

In our times, scientists who use animals for research and advocates who work for animal welfare organizations seem to live in separate moral worlds. Scientists might think that things should remain this way, but over the long run such a strategy will probably only exacerbate extremist elements on both sides of the debate over whether, and when, animals ought to be used in experiments. I...

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11. Pragmatism and Pets: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Maddie’s FundSM, and No More Homeless Pets in Utah

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pp. 210-227

Deweyan pragmatism is what one might call an “engaged” philosophical approach. For John Dewey it would be better “for philosophy to err in active participation in the living struggles and issues of its own age and time than to maintain an immune monastic impeccability, without relevance or bearing in the generating ideas of its contemporary present” (“Does Reality Possess...

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12. Dining on Fido: Death, Identity, and the Aesthetic Dilemma of Eating Animals

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pp. 228-247

My goal in this chapter is to present an old dilemma in a new context. While concerns about eating animals are not new by any means, the traditional concerns are overwhelmingly ethical in nature. I have very few strictly ethical concerns about eating animals, but I do have strong aesthetic concerns. Two of the categories in which they lie are identity and death. Identity in art is also...


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pp. 249-250


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pp. 251-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110275
E-ISBN-10: 0253110270
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344229

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 1 b&w photos, 1 index
Publication Year: 2004