Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents

The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy

Professor Steiner presents an engaging and most accessible historical review of the moral status of nonhuman animals in the Western philosophical tradition. This well-researched and clearly-written book is a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion about the moral significance of animal interests, and it will serve as an important reference work for others working in the area.
Gary L. Francione, Rutgers University

Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents is the first-ever comprehensive examination of views of animals in the history of Western philosophy, from Homeric Greece to the twentieth century.

In recent decades, increased interest in this area has been accompanied by scholars’ willingness to conceive of animal experience in terms of human mental capacities: consciousness, self-awareness, intention, deliberation, and in some instances, at least limited moral agency. This conception has been facilitated by a shift from behavioral to cognitive ethology (the science of animal behavior), and by attempts to affirm the essential similarities between the psychophysical makeup of human beings and animals.

Gary Steiner sketches the terms of the current debates about animals and relates these to their historical antecedents, focusing on both the dominant anthropocentric voices and those recurring voices that instead assert a fundamental kinship relation between human beings and animals. He concludes with a discussion of the problem of balancing the need to recognize a human indebtedness to animals and the natural world with the need to preserve a sense of the uniqueness and dignity of the human individual.

344 Pages, 6.1 x 9.2 in.

September, 2005

isbn : 9780822942696

about the author

Gary Steiner

Gary Steiner is John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy at Bucknell University. He is the author of Animals and the Moral Community: Mental Life, Moral Status, and Kinship, and Descartes as a Moral Thinker: Christianity, Technology, Nihilism. He is also the translator of Prauss’s Knowing and Doing in Heidegger’s “Being and Time” and Lowith’s Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism.

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Gary Steiner