A Grotian Moment for Animal Sociability?

In: Grotiana
Francesca IurlaroMax Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany,

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In this article, I will revert to the categories of ‘fitness’ and ‘sociability’ to ask whether a ‘Grotian moment for animal sociability’ can be conceptualized. Grotius claims that we share a core of fundamental laws with animals. Building upon a passage from Seneca’s De clementia, Grotius calls these laws ‘commune ius animantium’, i.e. the common law of living beings. These shared legal entitlements, based on a shared sense of innate fitness, show that a certain care of maintaining society (‘animal sociability’) is common to all living beings. However, as I will show, humans, as the only beings capable of speech and moral deliberation, remain the only translators and enforcers of this instinct into a language of rights. From this perspective, it can be argued that a ‘Grotian tradition’ of animal rights exists, as Grotius’s reliance on the ‘common law of living beings’ can be interpreted in a progressive manner. However, I will argue that animal sociability qualifies as a ‘non-Grotian moment’: sociability as owed to animals but only in a thin sense, as it requires human judgment to be enforced into strict right. Such a ‘non-Grotian moment’ reveals that the deeply anthropocentric structure of Grotius’ theory is incapable of triggering any paradigm shift, because animals lack the capacity for judgment that is so essential to be a legal person.

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