Interspecies Ethics explores animals' vast capacity for agency, justice, solidarity, humor, and communication across species. The social bonds diverse animals form provide a remarkable model for communitarian justice and cosmopolitan peace, challenging the human exceptionalism that drives modern moral theory. Situating biosocial ethics firmly within coevolutionary processes, Interspecies Ethics has profound implications for work in social and political thought, contemporary pragmatism, Africana thought, and continental philosophy. Interspecies Ethics develops a communitarian model for multispecies ethics, rebalancing the overemphasis on competition in the original Darwinian paradigm by drawing out and stressing the cooperationist aspects of evolutionary theory through mutual aid.
Interspecies Ethics's ethical vision offers an alternative to utilitarian, deontological, and virtue ethics, building its argument through rich anecdotes and clear explanations of recent scientific discoveries regarding animals and their agency. Geared toward a general as well as a philosophical audience, the text illuminates a variety of theories and contrasting approaches, tracing the contours of a postmoral ethics.
"If you are one of a vanishing minority of people who think that we humans are the only animals with highly evolved cognitive and emotional capacities and agency, Cynthia Willett's new book will surely make you reconsider this false view of who we are and who they (other animals) really are. The border between "us" and "them" already is blurry, and as we accumulate scientific data on the fascinating and surprising lives of other animals it becomes even more blurred. Surely, humans are exceptional beings, but so too are other animals. Arguing for human exceptionalism at the expense of other animals no longer works. We all need someone we can lean on and with whom we can engage, and this book and much research show that we lose when other animals lose, and similarly, we flourish when they flourish and when they are treated with respect and dignity. Peaceful coexistence is win-win ethic for all."
– Marc Bekoff, editor of Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation and author of Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence
"Interspecies Ethics is philosophy's St. Crispin's speech for creating a new compact with our animal kin. Cynthia Willett's book is a must read for anyone and everyone committed to putting the humanity back into human living and restoring the planet."
– G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D Ph.D, The Kerulos Center and author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity
"In Interspecies Ethics, Cynthia Willett gives us a book from which the reader derives pleasure as well as lessons. There is deftness in the prose, a breadth of vision in the references, and a genuine feeling to the book, a feeling we could call "humaneness" if the restrictiveness of that phrase weren't one of the targets of the book. "Interspecies ethics" is an affect-based ethics, focusing on attachments and disruptions within and across species lines. Outflanking common continental tropes, Willett's interspecies ethics is neither a "response ethics" nor a "becoming animal," but a living with animals. In the course of the book we find a movement, "from affect attunement in horizontal relationships, [which] culminates in an enlightened experience of cosmic peace." But the author won't rest without turning to "predation and death." Hence the Coda's discussion of Coetzee's Disgrace. But even then there is a turn not to the simple positive but to regeneration, the intertwining not just of human and non-human but of death and life as the tragic violence of the Coda ends with a "musical vision of mourning that regenerates the social basis of interspecies life.""
– John Protevi, Louisiana State University
"Distancing herself from the traditional anthropocentrism regarding other animals and the ethics that we apply, Cynthia Willett integrates recent scientific discoveries with a careful reading of philosophy and literary analysis. The result is a rich, enlightening book about the relation between us and our evolutionary fellow travelers."
– Frans de Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist
Introduction: New Ideals of Belonging and Africana Origins of Interspecies Living
1. Can the Animal Subaltern Laugh? Neoliberal Inversions
2. Paleolithic Ethics: Ethics’ Evolution from Play
3. Affect Attunement: Discourse Ethics Across Species
4. Water and Wing Give Wonder: Meditations on Cosmopolitan Peace
5. Reflections: A Model and a Vision of Ethical Life
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Cynthia Willett is a professor of philosophy at Emory University. Her books include Irony in the Age of Empire: Comic Perspectives on Freedom and Democracy; The Soul of Justice: Racial Hubris and Social Bonds; and Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities. She has also edited the anthology Theorizing Multiculturalism and is a coeditor for the Symposia on Race, Gender, and Philosophy.