International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 22, Issue 2, Fall 2008

Maurice Hamington
Pages 177-188

Learning Ethics From Our Relationships with Animals
Moral Imagination

The majority of animal advocacy discourse is unidirectional: Humans are regarded as stewards of animal welfare, and humans control the bestowal of rights and protections upon animals. This article offers a reversal of the typical moral reflection used in animal advocacy. I suggest that our relationship with animals participates in the development of moral faculties requisite for ethical behavior. In other words, we have a lot to learn from animals, not in this instance by documenting their behavior, but from having meaningful relationships with particular animals. Quality interactions with animals can stimulate the imaginative basis for the care and empathy that are crucial for social morality. To accomplish this task, I describe “embodied care” as an extension of feminist care ethics that addresses the body’s role in morality, and argue that our relationships with animals can provide the imaginative foundation for improving human-to-human morality.