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Relations and Moral Obligations towards Other Animals

Beril Sözmen

Abstract


Relational accounts acknowledge and emphasise the intersubjective nature of selfhood and argue that focusing solely on the capacities of animals cannot account for all moral obligations towards them. My argument is concerned with the move from the premise of intersubjectivity to differential positive duties. Relationality here functions as a means of differentiating and refining our positive duties towards some animals, but this refinement often also functions as an exclusion of others, e.g. in the differential treatment of domesticated and wild animals. A similar danger lies in diminishing human moral obligation by arguing for accepting some cases of suffering and death as unavoidable tragedies. I argue that the debate about the nature and scope of our relational duties towards other animals can profit from the relational ethics of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. Buber and Levinas develop relational accounts, in which the fundamental ethical element is not knowledge of the capacities of the other but rather the encounter, out of which moral selfhood emerges. By applying Buber and Levinas we can refine the way relationality is used in animal ethics today without dismissing our positive duties towards individual animals, in the wild or otherwise.


Keywords


Buber; Levinas; ethics; animal ethics; responsibility; obligation; suffering; encounter; relational ethics; animals in the wild

Full Text:

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References


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Buber, Martin. 1963. “Antwort.” In Schilpp, P.A., and Friedman, M. Martin Buber, edited by P.A Schilpp and Maurice Friedman. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag.

Buber, Martin. 1970. I and Thou. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

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De Grazia, David. 1999. “Animal Ethics around the Turn of the Twenty-first Century.” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 11: 111-129.

Levinas, Emmanuel. 1988. “The Paradox of Morality: an Interview with Emmanuel Levinas.” In The Provocation of Levinas: Rethinking the Other, edited by Bernasconi, B and Wood, D 168-180. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2015-002-sozm




Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196


Executive Editor: Matteo Andreozzi
Associate Editors: Rod Bennison - Alma Massaro - Kim Stallwood - Jessica Ulrich
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Matthew R. Calarco - Gabriele Cambiotti - Piergiorgio Donatelli - Arianna Ferrari - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Piergiacomo Pagano - Paola Sobbrio - Sabrina Tonutti