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2019.05.23 FEWD Seminar at University of Sofia in cooperation with

Gary Steiner, Presidential Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell University, USA   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Steiner  

Proposal for Public Talks in Central Europe, Summer 2019

Discussion of “Animals and the Limits of Postmodernism” Columbia University Press, 2013) https://cup.columbia.edu/book/animals-and-the-limits-of-postmodernism/9780231153430    

There has been a great deal of interest about animal ethics in recent years, much of it coming from postmodern thinkers. The great advantage of postmodern approaches is that they challenge the traditional assumption of a strict divide between human beings and nonhuman animals, thereby setting the stage for a fundamental rethinking of the moral status of nonhuman animals. More specifically, postmodern approaches help us to recognize the anthropocentric prejudices of the philosophical tradition, which assumed that nonhuman animals are categorically morally inferior to human beings.

But these postmodern approaches, in spite of the good intentions that motivate them, lead us into a realm of complete uncertainty regarding the notion of moral status generally and regarding the moral status of nonhuman animals in particular. By deconstructing the notion of principles, which is central to the notion of moral commitment, postmodern approaches render themselves completely incapable of proclaiming any specific moral duties whatsoever regarding nonhuman (not to mention regarding human) animals. Thus postmodern approaches leave our treatment of nonhuman animals unchanged. For anyone who believes that nonhuman animals should be acknowledged to be beneficiaries of justice, this implication of postmodern thought is absolutely unacceptable. It is vital that we rethink the notion of principles so that we avoid the anthropocentric mistakes of the philosophical tradition, and arrive at a renewed commitment to principles that offers genuine acknowledgment and protection to nonhuman animals. Professor Steiner argues for what he calls "the vegan imperative," a moral principle that acknowledges our duties of justice to all sentient life and that proclaims a strict obligation to practice systematic nonviolence toward sentient beings.

In addition to discussing his book on postmodernism, Professor Steiner is happy to discuss topics examined in his other books on animals:

Animals and the Moral Community: Mental Life, Moral Status, and Kinship, Columbia University Press, 2008: The experiential capacities of nonhuman animals, and a theory of cosmic justice that underwrites the vegan imperative that Professor Steiner develops in Animals and the Limits of Postmodernism.

Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents: The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005: An examination of views concerning the mental capacities and moral status of nonhuman animals in the Western philosophical tradition, from Homer and Hesiod to Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida.




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