Hans-Johann Glock: Why Animals Matter

Organised by the Royal Institute of Philosophybranch at Oxford Brookes University
in association with the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford& Bloomsbury AcademicWednesday October 16 2013, 6pm
Ashmolean Museum Education Centre (St Giles Entrance)


Non-human animals (henceforth simply ‘animals’) have played a central role within Western thought at least since ancient Greece. The reason is three-fold. First, there is the ethical question of how we should treat animals—the topic of animal welfare. Secondly, there is the anthropological question of whether there are fundamental differences between humans and animals—the topic of the ‘anthropological difference’. Thirdly, there is the question of whether some animals have mental capacities comparable to those of humans? These questions are both complex and vexed. They have exercised philosophers, scientists, theologians, lawyers, politicians artists and laypeople at least since antiquity. At present they treated intensively from a variety of perspectives in subjects ranging from evolutionary biology and neurophysiology through ethology, psychology and linguistics to the philosophy of mind and language. They are also prominent in the wider public sphere, on account of their moral, political and legal implications. I shall try to clarify the issues by discussing the relation between the three questions. On the one hand, both the problem of animal welfare and the problem of the anthropological difference refer to the problem of animal minds. On the other hand, even if the mental differences between us and some higher animals (e.g. apes and dolphins) are not as clear-cut and pronounced as traditionally assumed, there may still be qualitative differences between us and them, and our moral obligations towards other humans may still be of a different order than our moral obligations towards animals.

Hans-Johann Glock is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Zurich (Switzerland), and Visiting Professor at the University of Reading (UK). He previously held positions at Oxford and Reading, as well as visiting professorships and research fellowships in Canada, Germany and South Africa. He is the author ofA Wittgenstein Dictionary (Blackwell 1996), Quine and Davidson on language, thought and reality (CUP 2003), La mente de los animals (KRK 2009) and What is Analytic Philosophy? (CUP 2008). He has edited The Rise of Analytic Philosophy(Blackwell 1997), Wittgenstein: a Critical Reader (Blackwell 2001) and Strawson and Kant (OUP 2003), and co-edited (with Robert L. Arrington) Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (Routledge 1991), Wittgenstein and Quine (Routledge 1996) and (with John Hyman) Wittgenstein and Analytic Philosophy (OUP 2009). He has published numerous articles on the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, the history of analytic philosophy and Wittgenstein. Currently he is working on a book on animal minds.