Whales, Dolphins and Humans: Challenges in Interspecies Ethics

  • Thomas I. White
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series book series (PMAES)


The discoveries of marine mammal scientists over the last 50 years have made it clear that whales and dolphins demonstrate advanced intellectual and emotional traits once believed to be unique to humans. Sadly, discussions of cetacean captivity are regularly marked by unsophisticated approaches to ethics. Senior scientists regularly fail to demonstrate even the most rudimentary skills of ethical analysis. As a result, most discussions of cetacean captivity in the marine mammal community are intellectually +weak—marked by the combination of formal and informal logical fallacies and a flawed understanding of such key concepts as “consciousness,” “personal identity,” “self-awareness,” “moral standing,” “moral rights,” “personhood,” and “flourishing.” Not surprisingly, similar weaknesses are evident in the arguments offered by representatives of businesses that profit from cetacean captivity. A fundamental problem regarding cetacean captivity, then, is blindness to the ethical significance of scientific facts already known. This essay argues that a proper understanding of the problem of cetacean captivity lies in an interdisciplinary and multi-faceted approach that combines both scientific and philosophical methodologies.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas I. White
    • 1
  1. 1.Loyola Marymount UniversityLos AngelesUSA

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