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Cavalieri begins with a Socratic dialogue on the status of animals between two imagined philosophers, representing the analytical and continental traditions. They discuss the history and defenses of moral perfectionism and debate whether the view represents an archaic approach to ethics. Cavalieri then follows with a roundtable "multilogue" in which Coetzee, Miller, Cary Wolfe, and Matthew Calarco expand on the relationship between philosophy and animals, the boundaries of moral status, the role of reason in ethics, the psychology of speciesism, conflicts of interest between human and nonhuman life, literature and fellow-feeling, and the practical consequences of an antiperfectionist stance.
Coetzee (author of the novels The Lives of Animals and Elizabeth Costello) emphasizes the animality of human beings; Miller (a prominent analytic philosopher at Virginia Tech) dismantles the rationalizations of human bias; Wolfe (professor of English at Rice University) advocates an exposure to other worlds and beings; and Calarco (author of Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida) extends moral status to entities that traditionally have little or no moral standing, such as plants and animals.