Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Call to Recognize Nonhuman Sentience in Political and Economic Thought

"The following is a small fantasy expressing the wish for the advent of a heterodox school of economic history and thought that sees economic systems as schemas expressly for creating, regulating, and satisfying the bodily habits of both human and nonhuman animals. Seeing economic systems in this light — as schemas for bringing realities to porches, goods to ports – will make, hopefully surprising, sense if you continue to read." [For the rest of the essay please visit As It Ought To Be]

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Writing Literature to Benefit Nonhumans

On why we should consider literature a force that can also benefit nonhumans:

"The idea that literature should be written to benefit nonhumans is new. We see no hint of this in western letters prior to now. Book X of The Republic maintains that the only permissible literature is that which praises gods and famous men. Aristotle remarks in Book IV of The Poetics that literature’s purview is the imitation of the actions of men and gods. Sidney’s Defence holds that literature’s purpose is to improve the character of a gentleman. Shelley, Lessing, Schiller all declared that the intent of literature should be to improve humanity. In fact it’s been a broadscale and sustained note since the advent of humanism: the project of literature is humanity’s improvement. Full stop.

Writing literature for the improvement and benefit of nonhumans isn’t some boutique issue, especially when we consider how animal farming is altering our climate and damaging our health and environment. Even for those who cannot intrinsically value nonhumans as ends in themselves, they should recognize that our fate is bound up firmly with their well-being. 

A human future that does not acknowledge the injustices done to nonhumans cannot be rosy. Thankfully, a growing body of thinkers, literary and non-literary alike, is increasingly in agreement with political theorist John Sanbonmatsu who writes,

 'A Left or socialist politics which does not place our enslavement of other beings at its center, conceptually and politically, cannot possibly succeed: 'speciesism' is not merely one more 'ism,' but in fact lies at the root of every form of social domination.'"

http://asitoughttobe.com/2014/03/25/sentience-matters-animal-rights-literature/

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

geworfenheit again

The reason for objecting quite generally to an attitude of greater detachment and for commending an embrace of at least some of what lies beyond the sphere of one's will has less to do with a benevolent concern for others than with a view about what, for lack of a better word, might be called psychic health. The desirability of this trait comes partly from its expression of our recognition that we are beings who are thoroughly in the world, in interaction with others whose movements and thoughts we cannot fully control and whom we affect and are affected by accidentally, as well as intentionally, involuntarily, unwittingly, inescapably, as well as voluntarily and deliberately. To form one's attitudes and judgments of oneself and others solely on the basis of their wills and intentions, to draw sharp lines between what one is responsible for and what is up to the rest of the world, to try in this way to extricate oneself and others from the messiness and the irrational contingencies of the world, would be to remove oneself from the ground on which it is possible for beings like ourselves to meet.

- Susan Wolf, "The Moral of Moral Luck"
Setting the Moral Compass: Essays by Women Philosophers (Oxford UP  2004)


We fancy that we are strangers, and not so intimately domesticated in the planet as the wild man and the wild beast and bird. But the exclusion reaches them also; reaches the climbing, flying, gliding, feathered and four-footed man. Fox and woodchuck, hawk and snipe and bittern, when nearly seen, have no more root in the deep world than man, and are just such superficial tenants of the globe.

- RWE, "Experience"

Saturday, July 06, 2013

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

“It is scarcely possible, according to our notions, to commit crimes upon any beings in the world except men. There are no beings in the universe, according to human beings, except themselves. All others are commodities. They are of consequence only because they have flesh and fill up the empty void of the human stomach. Human beings are persons and have souls, and gods, and places to go when they die. But the hundreds of thousands of other races of terrestrial inhabitants are mere animals, mere brutes, and beasts of the field, livestock and vermin. Every crime capable of being perpetrated by one being upon another, is day by day rained upon them and with a calmness that would do honour to the managers of an inferno. Human beings preach as the cardinal rule of humanity — and they never seem to tire of its reiteration — that they should do unto others as they would that others should do unto them, but they hypocritically confine its application to the members of their own crowd, notwithstanding that there are the same reasons identically for extending it to all creatures. The happiness of the human species is assumed to be so much more precious than that of others that the most sacred interests of others are unhesitatingly sacrificed in order that human desires may all be fastidiously catered to. 

“Instead of the highest, man is in some respects the lowest, of the animal kingdom. Man is the most unchaste, the most drunken, the most selfish and conceited, the most miserly, the most hypocritical, and the most bloodthirsty of terrestrial creatures. Even vipers and hyenas do not exterminate for recreation. No animal, except man, habitually seeks wealth purely out of an insane impulse to accumulate. And no animal, except man, gloats over accumulations that are of no possible use to him, that are an injury and an abomination, and in whose acquisition he may have committed irreparable crimes upon others. There are no millionaires—no professional, legalised, lifelong kleptomaniacs — among the birds and quadrupeds. No animal, except man, spends so large a part of his energies striving for superiority — not superiority in usefulness, but that superiority which consists in simply getting on the heads of one’s fellows. And no animal practices common, ordinary morality to the other beings of the world in which he lives so little, compared with the amount he preaches it, as man.” 

 J. Howard Moore, Universal Kinship, 1918

Friday, February 01, 2013

The rugged old Norsemen spoke of death as Heimgang—”home-going.” So the snow-flowers go home when they melt and flow to the sea, and the rock-ferns, after unrolling their fronds to the light and beautifying the rocks, roll them up close again in the autumn and blend with the soil. Myriads of rejoicing living creatures, daily, hourly, perhaps every moment sink into death’s arms, dust to dust, spirit to spirit—waited on, watched over, noticed only by their Maker, each arriving at its own Heaven-dealt destiny. All the merry dwellers of the trees and streams, and the myriad swarms of the air, called into life by the sunbeam of a summer morning, go home through death, wings folded perhaps in the last red rays of sunset of the day they were first tried. Trees towering in the sky, braving storms of centuries, flowers turning faces to the light for a single day or hour, having enjoyed their share of life’s feast—all alike pass on and away under the law of death and love. Yet all are our brothers and they enjoy life as we do, share Heaven’s blessings with us, die and are buried in hallowed ground, come with us out of eternity and return into eternity. “Our lives are rounded with a sleep.” 


John Muir (in The Wilderness World of John Muir, edited by Edwin Way Teale, pp. 322-323 of 1954 edition)