lawrence cahoone College of the Holy Cross the struggle between the parties bent on inflating humanity's selfconception and those bent on deflating it continues. Mind, consciousness, soul, reason, free will, language, culture, tool-use--all have been invoked as the unique character of the human, some deriving from Judeo-Christian religion, others from classical philosophy and modern anthropology. Opponents, sometimes motivated by ethical concerns about the treatment of animals, and buoyed by scientific advances in animal and especially primate studies, have either deconstructed these traits or ascribed them to nonhumans. Seeking to block human exploitation of nonhuman species, they argue that humans are not "exceptional" and possess no "cognitive module" separating human cognition from that of our closest nonhuman relatives (Booth; Fouts and McKenna; McKenna; Fesmire). The attempt to draw such a distinction is seen as the remnant of a Victorian mentality, its species-ism continuous with human social domination.1 In the opposite corner, any discussion of human animality or Darwinism is taken to be threatening. This is an example of a subtle, complex problem made more intractable by moral and political inflammation. Certainly our conception of nonhumans has implications for how we treat them, just as all our notions of political
The Pluralist – University of Illinois Press
Published: Jul 26, 2013
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