Meaning in the lives of humans and other animals

Philosophical Studies 175 (2):317-338 (2018)
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Abstract

This paper argues that contemporary philosophical literature on meaning in life has important implications for the debate about our obligations to non-human animals. If animal lives can be meaningful, then practices including factory farming and animal research might be morally worse than ethicists have thought. We argue for two theses about meaning in life: that the best account of meaningful lives must take intentional action to be necessary for meaning—an individual’s life has meaning if and only if the individual acts intentionally in ways that contribute to finally valuable states of affairs; and that this first thesis does not entail that only human lives are meaningful. Because non-human animals can be intentional agents of a certain sort, our account yields the verdict that many animals’ lives can be meaningful. We conclude by considering the moral implications of these theses for common practices involving animals.

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Author Profiles

Nicolas Delon
New College of Florida
Duncan Purves
University of Florida

Citations of this work

Meaningfulness as Sensefulness.Joshua Lewis Thomas - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (5):1555-1577.
Animal Agency, Captivity, and Meaning.Nicolas Delon - 2018 - The Harvard Review of Philosophy 25:127-146.
Animal cognition.Kristin Andrews - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
Transformative Experience.Laurie Ann Paul - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.Marc H. Bornstein - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (2):203-206.

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