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Environmental Ethics

Volume 40, Issue 3, Fall 2018

Lisa Kretz
Pages 195-214
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics201840320

The Oppression of Nonhuman Life
An Analysis Using the Lens of Karen Warren’s Work

Karen Warren’s work has helped to transform the landscape of environmental philosophy, contributing theoretical grounding for Western ecofeminism and opening the range of theoretical perspectives one can adopt when doing Western environmental ethics. Although her work is laudable, there are substantive worries about how potential subjects of oppression are characterized in her later work. Warren’s work and relevant secondary literature can be used as a foil to illuminate inadequate justification for the failure to include all living entities as potential subjects of the harm of oppression. The failure to provide conceptual room to include all entities that can rightfully be the potential subjects of oppression limits our understanding of oppression and the multiple ways in which it functions. Additionally, failure to attend to all potential subjects of oppression limits practical opportunities for anti-oppressive solidarity in political action. If oppression is correctly described as the harm of particular group members by others, and the class of living entities can be subjected to harm, then nonhuman living entities can potentially be subjects of oppression. The aim here is to provide conceptual support for the possibility that nonhuman life can be oppressed.