Next of Kin: Perspectives on Animal Ethics and Biodiversity

School of Consciousness and Transformation PAR 6292 3.00

Ancient spiritual wisdom and contemporary scientific findings both refute Descartes’ assertion that nonhuman animals are automatons devoid of consciousness or feeling. Nonetheless, the view of animals as machines undergirds many of our modern practices, such as factory farming and animal experimentation. Beyond practices that impose harm on particular animals, human misapprehension of interconnection has allowed the reduction of the richness and diversity of other forms of life.  This accelerating biodiversity loss has been identified as a scientific problem of great urgency.   Nonhuman and human life are inextricably interdependent.  Interdependence includes the profound influence of diverse life on human systems of thought, including aesthetics, symbolism, communication, and spirituality.  How can we expand our philosophical frameworks to encompass the interrelationships among humans, animals, and the biosphere? How can we extend frameworks of justice to include nonhuman beings? What is the relationship between sexism, racism, and “speciesism”? How can we better align our spiritual, philosophical, and ecological wisdom with our actual practices toward other species?

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