So, there are a number of things I am actually after with this, but to try to encapsulate the concern briefly: which thinkers or writers might comment on the relationship between animals and human beings?

In particular, I am concerned about the meaning of a certain "non-relation" that our habitual relations with animals tends towards, a gap between animals and human beings; perhaps particularly within the context of the history of philosophy.

I have been reading and enjoying the recently translated Two Lessons on Animal and Man by Gilbert Simondon; I am also planning on working through Derrida's The Beast and the Sovereign. (I have also been considering trying to read Agamben's Homo Sacer, and perhaps Guattari's Three Ecologies, alongside these.)

While I would be interested in finding out about any works that might help supplement the study, anything from critical animal studies to deconstructionist/schizoanalytic approaches to the general question, I would definitely love to discover a robust critical study of the animal-human relation in Western thought/letters.

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    Definitely look into Peter Singer. Feb 20, 2012 at 5:49
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    Part of the problem is that the Abrahamic religious traditions in the West sees humans with souls, but animals without; in the East animals have souls also. There is a book called "The Geography of Thought" that came out about 12 years ago and examined how people think across different cultures. One of the things pointed out is that Westerners listen to animals with the same part of the brain as they listen to noise (there is another part that listens to languages). Japanese listen to animals with the same part of the brain as they listen to languages, not the noise part. Jul 17, 2015 at 10:13

2 Answers 2

  • Gary Francione is a strong critic of the idea that humans can own animals - a master-slave relationship that you may want to read about in his works.

  • Animal Rights and Wrongs, by Roger Scruton, approaches the idea from a legal (social contract) point of view.

  • In his Discourses, Descartes established the idea that animals are automatons; this was perhaps the first time that the relationship between humans and animals was considered, with Descartes' asserting that humans are superior because of their emotions.

  • Readings in Animal Cognition, by Marc Bekoff and Dale Jamieson, offers 24 different essays, many with philosophical approaches.

  • The Human-Animal Relationship, by Francien Henriëtte de Jonge and Ruud van den Bos, analyzes many different cultures.

  • Ethics, Humans and Other Animals, by Rosalind Hursthouse, is a useful analytic work, although perhaps a bit low-level.


Here's a selection I've enjoyed that covers the breadth of the field (most generally, "Animal rights"):

  • All Animals Are Equal by Peter Singer
  • The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan
  • Moral Vegetarianism and the Argument from Pain and Suffering by R. G. Frey
  • The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research by Carl Cohen
  • Human and Animal Rights Compared by Mary Anne Warren

My book on Social Ethics also provides a solid additional readings list.

The Animal Ethics Reader, Susan J Armstrong and Richard G. Botzler
Animal Rights: A Very Short Introduction, David DeGrazia
The Ethics of Animal Research, David DeGrazia
The Philosophy of Vegetarianism, Daniel Dombrowski
Deep Vegetarianism, Michael Allen Fox
Interests and Rights, R. G. Frey
Ethical Vegetarianism Is Unfair to Women and Children, Kathryn George
Animal Rights and Human Obligations, Tom Regan and Peter Singer
The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Bernard E. Rollin
Animal Liberation, Peter Singer

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