Animal Consciousness and Human Compassion

In: Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research
Donald A. Crosby Department of Philosophy, Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO 80523-1781 USA

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Bernard E. Rollin devoted much of his life to arguing and working for compassionate attitudes toward and appropriate ethical treatments of nonhuman animals. This essay exhibits the close link he insisted on between such attitudes and treatments, on the one hand, and acknowledgment of types and degrees of consciousness in many species of such animals, on the other. Not only are many animals capable of conscious suffering in his view; they are also capable of conscious memory, regret, anticipation, disappointment, affection, delight, and the like. Rollin argues that each species of nonhuman animal has its own distinctive telos or characteristic way of living that should also elicit and demand the respect of human beings. Recognition of and respect for each animal’s way of life and extent of conscious awareness are essential to understanding how empathy and ethics are conjoined and should always be conjoined in the field of animal ethics.

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