Research Seminar

Will Kymlicka: Interspecies politics

Date: 26 April 2016
Time: 14:00–16:00

Will Kymlicka is the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy in the Philosophy Department at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada

Western political theorists have largely ignored the animal question, assuming that animals have no place within our theories of democracy, citizenship, membership, sovereignty, and the public good. Even those who acknowledge that animals might be entitled to a certain moral status and to certain moral rights – and hence that animals belong to the moral community – resist the idea that animals should be seen as members of the political community, or that human-animal relations can be characterized as political relations. Animals may be part of our moral world, and perhaps even part of our social world who live and work alongside us, but they are not part of “politics”, which remains conceived as an exclusively human sphere of activity. This paper traces the historic origins of this exclusion of animals from political theory, as well as recent attempts to overcome it. I argue that this exclusion reflects a number of assumptions about both the moral purpose of politics and about the circumstances that make politics possible. These assumptions are so deeply entrenched in the Western tradition of political philosophy that they are rarely made explicit, let alone defended. But I will argue they are outdated, and indeed inconsistent with many core tenets of contemporary liberal-democratic political philosophy. I offer an alternative account of the purposes and circumstances of politics which would put human-animal relations squarely within the realm of the political, and explore how this requires rethinking fundamental political concepts such as citizenship and sovereignty.

Will's research interests focus on issues of democracy and diversity, and in particular on models of citizenship and social justice within multicultural societies.

Read more about Will on his website

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