Volume 22, Issue 3, Fall 2000
Who Speaks for the Animals?
Heidegger and the Question of Animal Welfare
I address the ethical treatment of animals from a Heideggerian perspective. My argument proceeds in two stages. First, it is necessary to develop a nonanthropocentric concept of freedom which extends beyond the sphere of human interests. Second, it is essential to show that our capacity to speak must serve the diverse ends of “dwelling,” and hence can be properly exercised only by balancing the interests of animals with those of our own. Rather than point to naturalistic similarities between humans and animals (e.g., the capacity to feel pain), or even ontological ones (e.g., the shared dimension of “care” [Sorge]), the better strategy lies in expanding the scope of moral agency in a way which allows the differences between humans and animals to suggest guidelines as to why the former should exhibit benevolence toward the latter. In this way, I show that the basic percepts of Heidegger’s philosophy support an ethic which can attend to, and speak in behalf of, the welfare of animals.