Departmental Colloquium: Kristin Andrews (York U)

Thursday January 14, 2021
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Queen's University, Zoom
Event category

Title: Are Animals Moral?  

Abstract: It might seem like the simplest sort of question; you define your terms, do some science, and there you have it. However, as we begin to reflect on the question, it becomes clear that the nature of morality is quite muddied. Morality is the subject of this investigation. I will rely on a familiar distinction between ethics and morality, such that ethics is the academic study of morality. When I ask whether animals are moral, I am using this distinction and asking whether some animal behavior should be included as the proper subject of ethics. We cannot answer that question by appealing to ethical theory. I aim to show that we can answer the question of animal morality affirmatively, in the following way: if we can agree that morality is found across human cultures, then we must conclude that some animals are moral. Appealing to work in anthropology and cross-cultural psychology, I will consider accounts that conceive of morality in terms of cooperative practices and in terms of responsibility practices. I will defend responsibility practices as a conception of morality, and briefly describe some responsibility practices that are seen in many nonhuman species. The conclusion challenges the dichotomous thinking that tries to neatly separate humans from other animals.

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