Two perspectives on animal morality

Zygon 53 (4):953-970 (2018)
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Are animals moral agents? In this article, a theologian and an anthropologist unite to bring the resources of each field to bear on this question. Alas, not all interdisciplinary conversations end harmoniously, and after much discussion the two authors find themselves in substantial disagreement over the answer. The article is therefore presented in two halves, one for each side of the argument. As well as presenting two different positions, our hope is that this article clarifies the different understandings of morality in our respective fields and will help to offset confusion in interdisciplinary dialogue. In what follows, we each present our case. In the first section, Adam Willows argues that moral activity necessarily involves the use of reason, symbolic thought, and language and is on that basis an exclusively human affair. In the second, Marcus Baynes-Rock discusses his experience of relationality with other creatures; a relationality which, he argues, creates a shared understanding of obligations which are characteristically moral.

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Adam M. Willows
University of Winchester


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