Can Animals Be Moral?

Paperback | March 15, 2015

byMark Rowlands

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From eye-witness accounts of elephants apparently mourning the death of family members to an experiment that showed that hungry rhesus monkeys would not take food if doing so gave another monkey an electric shock, there is much evidence of animals displaying what seem to be moral feelings. Butdespite such suggestive evidence, philosophers steadfastly deny that animals can act morally, and for reasons that virtually everyone has found convincing. In Can Animals be Moral?, philosopher Mark Rowlands examines the reasoning of philosophers and scientists on this question - ranging from Aristotle and Kant to Hume and Darwin - and reveals that their arguments fall far short of compelling. The basic argument against moral behavior in animals isthat humans have capabilities that animals lack. We can reflect on our motivations, formulate abstract principles that allow that allow us to judge right from wrong. For an actor to be moral, he or she must be able scrutinize their motivations and actions. No animal can do these things - no animalis moral. Rowland naturally agrees that humans possess a moral consciousness that no animal can rival, but he argues that it is not necessary for an individual to have the ability to reflect on his or her motives to be moral. Animals can't do all that we can do, but they can act on the basis of somemoral reasons - basic moral reasons involving concern for others. And when they do this, they are doing just what we do when we act on the basis of these reasons: They are acting morally.

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From eye-witness accounts of elephants apparently mourning the death of family members to an experiment that showed that hungry rhesus monkeys would not take food if doing so gave another monkey an electric shock, there is much evidence of animals displaying what seem to be moral feelings. Butdespite such suggestive evidence, philosoph...

Mark Rowlands is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami. He is the author of fourteen books, translated into more than twenty languages. His autobiography, The Philosopher and the Wolf was published in 2008, and became an international bestseller.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:274 pages, 8.39 × 5.51 × 0.79 inPublished:March 15, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019024030X

ISBN - 13:9780190240301

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Table of Contents

1. Can Animals be Moral?2. Attributing Emotions to Animals3. Moral Agents, Patients, and Subjects4. The Reflection Condition: Aristotle and Kant5. The Idiot6. The Phenomenology of Moral Motivation7. Moral Motivation and Meta-Cognition8. Moral Reasons and Practice9. Reconstructing Normativity and Agency10. A Cognitive Ethologist from Mars

Editorial Reviews

"Readers enticed by the title and anticipating an animal rights book for general audiences will be challenged by this closely reasoned work.... Rowlands...has produced both a valuable contribution to animal ethics literature and a fine example of the application of philosophical reasoning to acontroversial topic." --W.P. Hogan, CHOICE