« History & the Arts/Philosophy

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Thinking about our relationship with animals invites us to re-evaluate traditional approaches in both ethics and philosophy itself, and to question many long-standing socio-cultural assumptions. This course will cover attitudes towards animals in the Western intellectual and cultural tradition, the emergence of animal ethics as we know it in the late twentieth century, and current directions and tensions in the field of animal ethics.

Course outline

  • Topic 1: Attitudes towards animals in western thinking.
  • Topic 2: René Descartes and modern scientific thinking.
  • Topic 3: Enlightenment ethics and the idea of compassion.
  • Topic 4: The concept of speciesism; Peter Singer and Tom Regan.
  • Topic 5: The question of non-human sentience.
  • Topic 6: Animal ethics and legal change: Gary Francione and Steven Wise.
  • Topic 7: Jacques Derrida and the continental intellectual tradition; postmodern ethics.
  • Topic 8: Ethics of Care; the question of intersectionality.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should have:

  • an understanding of some key philosophical and ethical concepts
  • an understanding of yourself and your relationship with the world in general and animals in particular.

Who should enrol

This course is open to anyone with an interest in learning more about philosophy.

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