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The Thou of Nature: Religious Naturalism and Reverence for Sentient Life

Explores the spiritual obligations of humans to animals from a religious naturalist's perspective.

By: Donald A Crosby(Author)

State University of New York Press

Paperback | Jan 2014 | #212334 | ISBN-13: 9781438446707
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NHBS Price: £16.99 $22/€19 approx
Hardback | Jan 2013 | #204115 | ISBN-13: 9781438446691
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About this book

Humans share the earth with nonhuman animals who are also capable of conscious experience and awareness. Arguing that we should develop an I-thou, not an I-it, relationship with other sentient beings, Donald A. Crosby adds a new perspective to the current debates on human/animal relations and animal rights – that of religious naturalism. Religion of Nature holds that the natural world is the only world and that there is no supernatural animus or law behind it. From this vantage point, our fellow thous are entitled to more than merely moral treatment: protection and enhancement of their continuing well-being deserves to be a central focus of religious reverence, care, and commitment as well.

A set of presumptive natural rights for nonhuman animals is proposed and conflicts in applying these rights are acknowledged and considered. A wide range of situations involving humans and nonhuman animals are discussed, including hunting and fishing; eating and wearing; circuses, rodeos, zoos, and aquariums; scientific experimentation; and the threats of human technology and population growth.

“There is a significant amount of literature in the fields of animal ethics and environmental ethics. A large subset of this literature is from a theistic point of view. Crosby’s work is unique in that he comes at these issues from the perspective of ‘religious naturalism.’ Both words are necessary in that his approach is nontheistic yet very much concerned with reverence for value in nature, in general, and for value in nonhuman animals, in particular. It is a significant contribution to the scholarly community.”
— Daniel A. Dombrowksi, author of A Platonic Philosophy of Religion: A Process Perspective



1. Religious Naturalism and Three Scientific Revolutions

The Cosmological Revolution
The Evolutionary Revolution
The Ecological Revolution
The Lesson of the Three Scientific Revolutions

2. Inwardness and Awareness in Nature

Inwardness of Life and Inwardness of Mind
Mind and Consciousness in Nature
The Range of Conscious Awareness on Earth

3. Presumptive Rights and Conflicts of Rights

Three Rs of the Thou of Nature
A Scheme of Presumptive Natural Rights
A Fourth R of the Thou of Nature
Conflicts of Rights

4. Hunting and Fishing

Responses to the Charge of Impractical Idealism

5. Eating and Wearing

Using Animals for Food
The Vegetarian Response
Using Animals for Apparel and Other Purposes

6. Other Areas of Responsibility and Concern

Experimenting on Animals
Rodeos, Circuses, Zoos, and Aquariums
Endangered Species and Despoliations of Natural Environments
The Human Population Explosion
The Threat of Global Climate Chagne

7. A New Moral and Religious Consciousness

Empowerment in Religion of Nature
Objections and Replies
Principles and Prescriptions

Works Cited

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Donald A. Crosby is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Colorado State University. He is the author of Faith and Reason: Their Roles in Religious and Secular Life; Living with Ambiguity: Religious Naturalism and the Menace of Evil; A Religion of Nature; and The Specter of the Absurd: Sources and Criticisms of Modern Nihilism, all published by SUNY Press.

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