Skepticism, Empathy, and Animal Suffering

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 10 (4):457-467 (2013)
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Abstract

The suffering of nonhuman animals has become a noted factor in deciding public policy and legislative change. Yet, despite this growing concern, skepticism toward such suffering is still surprisingly common. This paper analyzes the merits of the skeptical approach, both in its moderate and extreme forms. In the first part it is claimed that the type of criterion for verification concerning the mental states of other animals posed by skepticism is overly (and, in the case of extreme skepticism, illogically) demanding. Resting on Wittgenstein and Husserl, it is argued that skepticism relies on a misguided epistemology and, thus, that key questions posed by it face the risk of absurdity. In the second part of the paper it is suggested that, instead of skepticism, empathy together with intersubjectivity be adopted. Edith Stein’s take on empathy, along with contemporary findings, are explored, and the claim is made that it is only via these two methods of understanding that the suffering of nonhuman animals can be perceived.

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Citations of this work

Empirical Methods in Animal Ethics.Kirsten Persson & David Shaw - 2015 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28 (5):853-866.
Bioethics and Nonhuman Animals.Rob Irvine, Chris Degeling & Ian Kerridge - 2013 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 10 (4):435-440.
Hume, Humans and Animals.Michael-John Turp - 2020 - The Journal of Ethics 24 (1):119-136.

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