Can Animals Be Moral?

Mark Rowlands, Author
Mark Rowlands. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-19-984200-1
Reviewed on: 11/12/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
Paperback - 274 pages - 978-0-19-024030-1
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In an undertaking that is far more philosophical than scientific, Rowlands (The Philosopher and the Wolf) argues that animals are moral subjects as opposed to moral agents—that is, they can act morally but are not responsible for their actions. But, he further argues, animals can be worthy of "moral respect." Though Rowlands, a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami, draws on behavioral studies of chimpanzees, elephants, and wolves to illustrate his claim that animals can act morally, this is virtually all the reader has to go on, until the conclusion, as Rowlands engages in drawn-out philosophical discussions of arcane subjects such as "the phenomenology of moral motivation." His tackling of some of philosophy's greats (Aristotle; Kant) and at-times highly developed reasoning will interest those already knowledgeable in and accustomed to the writing style of philosophical texts. This book will prove a tougher read, however, for the ‘unschooled' or those for whom the morality of animals is of genuine interest, but for whom case studies provide stronger evidence than complex distinctions between acting morally and being responsible for those actions. (Nov.)
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