Date of Submission

May 2011


Discussions of various connections between human beings and nonhuman animals in moral philosophy, for example in 'animal ethics', are dominated by a certain philosophical approach. This standard approach is characterized by philosophical assumptions about the nature of reason and argument on questions of morality and value. Assumptions like these tend to assimilate good thinking about value to a narrow interpretation of 'reason' which stresses rational argument and justification. This interpretation of what discussions about the value and nature of human and animal life should look like naturally leads to the creation of theories, such as the various theories of animal ethics proposed in utilitarianism, rights theory, and virtue ethics. In the field of animal ethics, three well known philosophers who advocate one or other of these theories are Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Rosalind Hursthouse. It has also been common in the standard debates about animals, from the 1970's onwards, for philosophers to accept that an 'objective' understanding of the mental lives of animals is most comprehensively provided by modern science, including ethology and evolutionary theory. In philosophy, and in significant parts of society, views on the relations between humans and animals have changed over recent decades. There is a greater tendency to take animal life more seriously than in the past. Parts of science and mainstream philosophy have lately tended to the view that human beings and animals differ only in degree and not in kind. Even philosophers who wish to defend the idea that humans are different in kind, often occupy the same ground as their opponents by turning to ethical theory to justify their views about human importance. In another part of philosophy, an alternative approach to these questions has emerged.;Two prominent philosophers in the Wittgensteinian tradition - Cora Diamond and, more recently, Raimond Gaita - have written on the connection between human beings and animals. This approach seriously questions the presuppositions of the philosophers who stand on more mainstream ground. The general position worked out by Diamond and Gaita claims that there is indeed a difference in kind between human beings and animals; but it also offers a means of exploring the question that, far from accepting the assumptions that the mainstream view and many of its critics rely on, has yielded, and promises to continue to yield, new and creative insights....

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


276 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Theology and Philosophy

Included in

Philosophy Commons