Dewey and Animal Ethics

In Erin McKenna & Andrew Light (eds.), Animal Pragmatism: Rethinking Human Nonhuman Relationships. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. pp. 43-61 (2004)
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Animal ethics, which investigates the appropriate ethical relationship between humans and nonhuman animals, is a field that was until recently ignored by most contemporary philosophers working in the classical pragmatist tradition. There are several reasons for this neglect. For example, one who sidesteps a confrontation over the relative merits of the utilitarian maxim or the Kantian practical imperative as supreme moral principles is not likely to quibble over anthropocentric versus sentientist variations of these principles. An unfortunate result is that pragmatism has been silent in one of the most conceptually rich and practically significant fields of contemporary ethics. After a detailed study of John Dewey’s deeply entrenched and systematic biases toward other animals, this chapter underscores Dewey-inspired pragmatism’s virtue as a pluralistic yet nonrelativistic framework within which to listen to and incorporate the insights of divergent theoretical perspectives.
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