Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 2, pp 317–338 | Cite as

Meaning in the lives of humans and other animals

Article

Abstract

This paper argues that contemporary philosophical literature on meaning in life has important implications for the debate about our obligations to non-human animals. If animal lives can be meaningful, then practices including factory farming and animal research might be morally worse than ethicists have thought. We argue for two theses about meaning in life: (1) that the best account of meaningful lives must take intentional action to be necessary for meaning—an individual’s life has meaning if and only if the individual acts intentionally in ways that contribute to finally valuable states of affairs; and (2) that this first thesis does not entail that only human lives are meaningful. Because non-human animals can be intentional agents of a certain sort, our account yields the verdict that many animals’ lives can be meaningful. We conclude by considering the moral implications of these theses for common practices involving animals.

Keywords

Meaning in life Value Well-being Non-human animals Susan Wolf 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We owe a significant debt to Dale Jamieson and Robert Elliot, as well as Cheshire Calhoun, Stephen Campbell, Sari Kisilevsky, Rob MacDougall, Collin O'Neil, Regina Rini, and an anonymous referee for this journal for their encouragement and incisive comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Studies, Environmental Studies and BioethicsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Studies, Animal Studies InitiativeNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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