Although there have been dissenters, the history of modern Western thought on nonhuman animals has been strongly influenced by Cartesian Scepticism, so named for 17th Century philosopher Rene Descartes. He influentially argued that, as the only ‘philosophical animal’ or ‘rational animal,’ humans are unique – that other animals are merely biological automatons, incapable of feeling emotions or pain in any ethically or phenomenologically significant manner. We are revisiting this notion of a ‘philosophical animal,’ in light of recent developments in the natural sciences, in philosophy, and social norms.
Brett Buchanan, working with CEEEC Associates Matthew Chrulew and Jeffrey Bussolini, is undertaking a set of translations to bring European research in critical animal studies to English-speaking audiences. Publications to date include special issues of Angelaki dedicated to the work of Vinciane Desperet, Dominique Lestel, and Roberto Marchesini, with a translation of Despret’s What Would Animals Say If We Asked the Right Questions? forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press. Through these translations, introductory essays, and affiliate publications, they are advancing the area of philosophical ethology for a better understanding of human-animal interactions.
Gillian Crozier and CEEEC Associates Letitia Meynell and Andrew Fenton are investigating the ethics of human interactions with nonhuman animals, with particular attention to the impact on science. We focus specifically on chimpanzees because of the special role they hold in science policy, practice, and research. Specifically, as our closest evolutionary relatives, and as a species acknowledged to have social and cognitive capacities comparable to humans, chimpanzees have been designated by science policy makers as holding ‘special interest.’ In practical terms, their ‘special interest’ status means that chimpanzees are often situated rhetorically in science policies at a unique ‘wedge’ position between humans and other animals; thus, chimpanzees sit at the nexus of broader normative questions facing contemporary animal sciences.