Volume 41, Issue 3, Fall 2019
Inter-Continental Dialogues I
Taxonomic Chauvinism, No More!
Antidotes from Hume, Darwin, and Biocultural Ethics
The culture of global society commonly associates the word animal with vertebrates. Paradoxically, most of animal diversity is composed of small organisms that remain invisible in the global culture and are underrepresented in philosophy, science, and education. Twenty-first century science has revealed that many invertebrates have consciousness and the capacity to feel pain. These discoveries urge animal ethicists to be more inclusive and to reevaluate the participation of invertebrates in the moral community. Science also has warned of the disappearance of small animal co-inhabitants that is occurring in the midst of the sixth mass extinction. This “invisible extinction” compels environmental philosophers to make visible invertebrates, whose existence is precious in itself and for the functioning of ecosystems on which biodiversity and human societies depend. With a biocultural approach that integrates the biophysical and cultural dimensions of biodiversity, I investigate the roots of taxonomic chauvinism associated with the under-representation and subordination of invertebrates in modern philosophy and science. The bad news is the confirmation of a marked vertebratism in animal imagery. The good news is that David Hume, Charles Darwin, and biocultural ethics provide conceptual foundations for cultivating an appreciation of the small co-inhabitants with whom we share our local habitats and the global biosphere.