By Alasdair Cochrane
Structured round the 5 most vital faculties inside modern political idea: liberalism, utilitarianism, communitarianism, Marxism and feminism,this is the 1st introductory point textual content to supply an obtainable assessment at the prestige of animals in modern political theory.
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Additional resources for An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory
While some contemporary thinkers have attempted to reconcile contractarianism with the extension of justice to animals, the legacy of contract-based political theory for animals has primarily been exclusion. Of course, the reason why animals cannot participate in the formation of any contract is not so much because they cannot reason at all, but rather, that they cannot perform a particular type of reasoning. 37 And it is surely the capacity for ethical reﬂection and choice – or ‘autonomy’ – which seems crucial for the formation of a contract.
However, the thinker most famously associated with the prizing of autonomy is not Rousseau, but rather the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Kant claimed that human beings possess dignity. They possess dignity, he argued, because they are autonomous beings, or ends-in-themselves: self-determining entities who can exercise moral judgement and free will. Because they are endsin-themselves, Kant argued that possessors of dignity should always be treated as ends, and never solely as a means. Essentially this means that individuals should be free as far as possible to reﬂect on, decide and pursue their own goals in life.
And it remains important for animals too, quite simply because it excludes them. 39 But in spite of the thoughts and legacies of Descartes, contract theorists and Kant, it would be quite wrong to conclude that all strands of modern political thought have served to exclude animals from justice. An extremely important line of thought in modern political theory emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which was very sympathetic to the plight of animals. Utilitarianism, which has the maximisation of welfare as its primary concern, re-emphasised the link between sentience and justice.
An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory by Alasdair Cochrane