The Harvard Review of Philosophy


published on October 5, 2018

Dale Jamieson

Animal Agency

The rise of physicalism and naturalism, the development of cognitive science, and the explosion and popularization of knowledge about animal behavior has brought us to see that most of the properties that were once thought to distinguish humans from other animals are shared with other animals. Many people now see properties that are morally relevant to how it is permissible to treat animals, such as sentience, as widely distributed. Agency, however, is one area in which the retreat from human uniqueness is halting. In this essay I suggest that we should feel the same pressure to bring together accounts of human and animal agency that we feel with respect to sentience and other such characteristics. I go on to diagnose the resistance, and briefly sketch how things might look if we were to see agency as continuous.