Please join us on Thurs. Feb. 27th, 7 p.m., room SS 570 (basement), 100 St. George St., to hear a talk by Dr. Zipporah Weisberg: “Back to the Animals Themselves: Phenomenological Illuminations and Animal Ethics“.
In this talk, Dr. Weisberg will argue that existential and ethical phenomenology, especially as articulated by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Levinas respectively, provide a more useful ground for the development of an interspecies ethics than traditional utilitarian, deontological, and justice-based approaches espoused by leading animal ethicists such as Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Martha Nussbaum. Although neither Merleau-Ponty nor Levinas were particularly concerned with the ethics of human-animal relations, she will contend that their conception of subjectivity as inherently embodied and necessarily relational provides the basis for expanding the sphere of ethics beyond the narrow domain of human beings. This potential for an interspecies ethical phenomenology is strengthened by recent developments in ethology–or the non-invasive study of animal behaviour. Ethologists supplement phenomenological insights into intersubjectivity by providing detailed accounts of animals’ rich and multidimensional emotional and social lives, modes of expression, forms of consciousness, needs, and desires. Overall, a phenomenologically and ethologically grounded ethics avoids the chief pitfalls of traditional approaches to animal ethics, including the reliance on a strategic anthropocentrism, an impoverished and reductive account of subjectivity, and in some cases, the endorsement of the ongoing exploitation, harm, and killing of other animals.
Zipporah Weisberg is the Abby Benjamin Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal Ethics in the philosophy department at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Social and Political Thought at York University. She specializes in critical animal studies, critical theory, and Continental philosophy. Zipporah’s notable publications include, “The Broken Promises of Monsters: Haraway, Animals, and the Humanist Legacy” ( Journal for Critical Animal Studies , 2009), and “The Trouble with “Posthumanism: Bacteria Are People Too” a forthcoming chapter contribution to Thinking The Unthinkable: New Readings in Critical Animal Studies, edited by John Sorenson (Canadian Scholar’s Press, in press).