Steve Cooke

measuring the boundaries of our nation by the sun

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Measuring the boundaries of our nation by the sun

When I first started this blog I needed a pretext to get writing. I forced my self to write by working through a few of those big philosophy books we all buy and then only read snippets of, and then writing reflections on those readings. I learned a lot doing this, but it turned out that writing summaries of other people’s summaries wasn’t all that interesting. I chose the blog’s title (The Thrifty Philosopher) on the basis that I was making good use of the things picking up dust on my bookshelf. I’d like to spend more time writing about my research, my teaching, and current affairs, so I think it’s time to change the name. I also need a full-time job (I’m having to be far too thrifty with more than just my book collection for my own liking right now), so I’m going to advertise myself whilst doing my best to live the life of theõria.

The strapline is from a quote from Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca: ‘measure the boundaries of our nation by the sun. Seneca was a cosmopolitan and his quote entreats us to give ethical consideration to all humans regardless of national boundaries. Seneca wasn’t just a cosmopolitan, he was also a vegetarian (at least until he feared people would think that made him a Christian and so persecute him for it). Given that I’ve written on a cosmopolitan approach to animal rights the quote seems fitting: you can read my paper on a cosmopolitan animal rights theory here: Perpetual Strangers: Animals and the Cosmopolitan Right.

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A cosmopolitan theory of animal rights

The other day I was writing a review of Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s thought provoking new book Zoopolis: A Political Theory Animal Rights, and it got me thinking about Kant’s principles of cosmopolitan hospitality towards strangers. It strikes me that so much of what marks out our humanity rests in how we behave towards strangers. It’s easy to act with compassion towards those nearest and dearest to us, and it’s easy to wrongly favour those we love or identify with, but it is where doing the right thing is hard that the importance of morality comes often comes to the fore. Animals, it seems to me, are the ultimate strangers; they cannot and do not identify with us, or communicate as we do with each other. They cannot cry out from across the world for our help. Nor can they speak up and beg us us not to slaughter them. And this is why I’m beginning to think that animal rights theory should be thought of as beginning from a cosmopolitan expansion of universal human rights. Humanitarian principles should be principles that spring from our nature as moral beings – that are about being humane towards others rather than about simply protecting humans. Hopefully this post will act as the first steps in clarifying my thoughts prior to writing a paper on the cosmopolitan duty towards non-human animals.