Can We Obligate Animals? : Tool-Using, Nudge, and Autonomy

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Speaker: Dr Kanako Takae (Seijo University)

Can We Obligate Animals?

Some animal rights theorists, such as Tom Regan and Gary Francione, argue that we should end domestication. They claim that we have no moral justification to bring animals into existence for human use. Their position is called ‘abolitionism.’ Although what grounds animal rights differ among scholars, they share the view that animal right is violated by the status of property. From which abolitionism advocates what Christine Korsgaard calls ‘apartheid’: humans and animals should be equal, but must be separate completely.

Abolitionists’ claim is strong in a sense that it is not a matter of social structure that animals have been wronged in our society. Even if we consider animal welfare seriously, we cannot avoid violating their rights. That is, it is by nature impossible to live together with animals without making them subjects to our wills.

I will start my talk by pointing out the fact that both abolitionists and those who don’t accept animal rights regard animals as passive entities, meaning that we cannot jointly construct and share a social world. Incorporating animals into our society therefore is to subordinate them to humans. The two opposing positions just differ in its permissibility. In this talk, I will explore a possibility of reciprocal relationships with animals. In particular, I will question abolitionists’ view, examining whether or not we can stand in a position to obligate animals. In other words, is there a case in which we can legitimately make animals conform to our society? If so, then we would be able to show that incorporating animals in our society doesn’t always lead us to violate animal rights.


Speaker: Mr Masanori Kataoka (University of Tokyo)

Tool-using, Nudge, and Autonomy

Tools are often thought to be instrumental. They seem only to help given desires to be satisfied by providing better means to them. In fact, however, tools can affect or alter our desires themselves both through deliberative and unconscious processes. This fact may be morally problematic because, by changing desires, tools can undermine autonomy of agents. The situation, I will point out, is essentially the same with that of Nudge. In recent debates on Nudge, arranging things to affect our desires is often regarded too paternalistic. In both cases, autonomous agency is threatened by ordinary things. But when and in which sense is still controversial. I claim that the effects of things to our desires are morally problematic when the resultant choice is not corresponding to what the agent would choose deliberatively. Further question concerns blame. When things deprive autonomy of agents, are they blameworthy as people doing the same thing? It depends, I suggest, on whether things are designed to do so or not. If designed, things are blameworthy. This means either that people who design or produce them are blameworthy, or that things themselves are blameworthy.

Booking: Not required, but please arrive early to be guaranteed a place.


Humanities & Identities

Contact name: Rachel Gaminiratne

Contact email:

Audience: University of Oxford only