A lot of philosophers only philosophized about humans and how we live, although interested in biology they didn't give too much attention to animals and other beings. (Yes, they philosophized about animals but their philosophy about them was "Animals don't have the capabilities of humans") and in some way, philosophers especially immediately following the Plato era(specifically that era, were just philosophizing about humans and how we should live happily, and didn't draw much attention to other beings...

My question is:

Have philosophers neglected human obligations to other animals ?

  • 1
    I have revised the question because its original wording did not bring out the fact that you are concerned specifically with the (low) moral status, and general ethical neglect, you believe philosophers have accorded to non-human animals.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 13:57
  • Defined "neglected". Without that, it's impossible to say. Also, how could we answer this without consensus on what ethical obligations people have to animals?
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 14:08
  • I'd say you are wrong. Animal rights is an important area of debate, at least now.
    – rus9384
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 15:00
  • "Obligations" are a cultural term, it is not that philosophers of old "neglected" them, it is rather that obligations to animals were not culturally endorsed until recently. Now the situation is different though, and the topic is actively discussed, see SEP's Moral Status of Animals for a survey.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 18:23
  • What you all said is true, and it is my fault for a lot of misunderstanding, but what i meant by Plato's era is that the era exactly after Aristotle when all the schools started rising, I meant the question to be about the fact that philosophers didn't bring up animal rights and basically said that animals are worse than humans.
    – captindfru
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 19:57

2 Answers 2


Have philosophers neglected human obligations to other animals ?

No, not all of them. Which is unsurprising given how many philosophers there have already been and how important animals are to human concerns.

Some notable ones that come to mind:

Jeremy Bentham, back in the late 18th century, somewhat "famously" within the sphere of animal ethics, wrote:

The day has been, I grieve to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk?, but Can they suffer?

Peter Singer, a well known Australian philosopher of ethics and professor at Princeton, wrote Animal Liberation in 1975 and has been a champion of extending ethics robustly to animals, including by adopting a vegan diet.

Tom Regan, who died last year in 2017, was an American philosopher who specialized in animal rights theory.

Rosalind Hursthouse, a British-born New Zealand moral philosopher noted for her work on virtue ethics and who wrote "Applying Virtue Ethics to Our Treatment of the Other Animals".

Gary Francione, currently a professor of law at Rutgers, who approaches these issues informed by his background in law and legal theory, but whose points probably should fall under the category of ethics (and therefore philosophy) is another advocate of animal rights.

Robert Garner, approaching this from his position as a professor of political theory, wrote A Theory of Justice for Animals in 2013.

And, of course, there are many more. Other respondents here may offer up some additional great examples.

  • Well summarised. I would only add Buddha & the Buddhist traditions of philosophy en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animals_in_Buddhism (Jainism also, although in my understanding there is less philosophy, although practical action like animal hospitals since ancient times)
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 15:13
  • Well, even Kant argued people should not treat animals badly. Maybe he is even one of the first western philosophers who argued for this.
    – rus9384
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 15:46
  • @rus9384 Post it as an answer, with maybe a little quote or background?
    – Chelonian
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 15:53
  • @Chelonian It is my entirely my fault, and i sincerely apologize for all this, I didn't mean the whole era after Plato, I meant the era exactly after Aristotle and when the schools started rising, not in the era of philosophers that you mentioned (Now what i meant is that, my question wasn't meant for the new-era of philosophers[Sorry if I use any wrong terms, not the best with English...])
    – captindfru
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 20:00
  • Accepted for the fact that I wrote my question incorrectly and he answered it the way it was written and for that reason I'm accepting it
    – captindfru
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 20:03

There are ideas also between science and philosophy. I am thinking of biophilia, and eusiciality. And the Gaia hypothesis and global systems biology. These are not so much even just regarding humans or animals, but the bigger picture for both.

There are special modern issues to deal with, to do with our now overwhelming impact on the world. Silent Spring was one reaction. The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, pointed to the advent of anthropogenic climate change reaching every corner ofvtge globe, meaning there is no true wild left, we have to step up and consciously take the role we now must have as stewards, as gardeners.

Animal intelligence is a fascinating area. I have never encountered work on actively developing it, and systematically seeking to increase it in any species. It would surely be as interesting as AI, to have other fully sentient communicative animals alongside us - dolphins may only lack the communicative

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