Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know

By Paul Waldau | Go to book overview

2
THE ANIMALS THEMSELVES

A central issue in any discussion of protections for living beings outside our own species is the question of the animals’ actual biological realities. Intuitively, we know that other animals have their own experiences of the world, but some philosophers have aggressively denied that we can know much about these realities (see chapter 3 for more discussion of this issue). Most people, as well as the majority of philosophers, have recognized that we can in fact know something of other animals’ realities. We have some idea that mammals and some other animals experience pain, and many people are confident they can discern when another animal is suffering. Based on our confidence about such matters, our cultures have for millennia been protecting other animals in a variety of ways, informed by our perception of who and what they are.

While some animals’ realities are quite familiar to many people, as in the case of dogs, almost everyone recognizes that some features of nonhumans’ lives are very elusive or even unknowable. We consider in the following section what we can reasonably claim to know about other animals, for an answer to this question impacts whether we decide to try to protect them. As part of this inquiry, we need to address some interesting problems that humans inevitably encounter when they set out to know other animals’ realities. This inquiry takes us

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