Abstract

In the last 25 years, several philosophers and scientists have challenged the historical consensus that nonhuman animals cannot be moral agents. In this article, I examine this challenge and the debate it has provoked. Advocates of animal moral agency have supported their claims by appealing to non-rationalist accounts of morality and to observations of animal behavior. Critics have focused on the dangers of anthropomorphism and have argued that we cannot know animals’ states of mind with any certainty. Despite the strengths of the arguments for animal moral agency, the critics’ skeptical counter-challenges seem to bring this debate to a stalemate. However, I suggest that recent philosophical work focusing on personal experiences with animals may reveal a way to dissolve skeptical concerns and offer new insights about the role of animals in morality.

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