Without a tear: Our tragic relationship with animals [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Value Inquiry 39 (2):273-277 (2005)
Since Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, many philosophers have addressed the ethics of our relations with other animals with skill and insight. By and large, they have argued that something is badly wrong and therefore in need of radical reform, though there have been dissenters, like Peter Carruthers, in The Animals Issue. One feature many such works have had in common is the reliance of their authors upon contentious theoretical stances. There have been utilitarian, Kantian, and contractarian arguments, with theses and arguments in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science called upon for supporting evidence. Such an approach is hazardous to the extent that it makes it appear that persons interested in the issue must first be convinced of one or more complicated and controversial philosophical theories, and must also follow and agree with a further abstruse line of argument supposed to lead from the theories to practical conclusions. Especially in applied ethics, where the aim is, in part, to improve our practice, the heavily theoretical strategy runs the risk of making the discussion academic in the worst sense of the term, something of interest only to specialists. It would be an important gain if the theory-intensive approach to animal ethics could be avoided, without compromising rigor or substantive argument.
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