Respecting Animals

I'm been slogging through more of The Ethics of Killing, by Jeff McMahan. I keep wondering--if the book is so clear and interesting (it is!), why's it such a slog? Maybe I've grown too accustomed to reading and thinking about the real world. I want things to be "in living color" and this book is strictly black and white.

I'm rereading the chapter on killing, which makes the claim that there are two types of morality, one based on the consideration of interests, the other based on respect. We owe no respect at all to animals, McMahan argues, but we must consider their interests.

I'm puzzled. The more we know about animals, the more that we respect them. Am I using the word "respect" incorrectly? Or has McMahan spent too much time at a reeducation camp run by Kantians, getting taught that respect is only owed to persons?

To satisfy my craving for color I've been reading this blog starting at the earliest entries. The writer is so thoughtful and honest I suspect as time passes he's going to start thinking he needs to free his parrot. He respects the bird too much to be content with confining him. We do respect animals (don't we?), and we don't put unreasonable limits on those we respect.

OK, back to the black and white pages of McMahan.


Faust said...

Have your read Martin Buber's "I and Thou?"

Jean Kazez said...

No, but I often think about that phrase. Uh oh...are you going to tell me I should read it?

Faust said...


Well of course!

I don't know. How does one decide what to read. SO MANY BOOKS! So many interesting minds. So many angles, perspectives. Logic vs poetry. Reason Vs Passion. Sometimes they connect. Sometimes they seem irreconcilable.

I only bring it up because when I read that fellows blog entires on his parrot it reminded me of I and Thou.

I have a friend who has a grey parrot. He treats it like a child (in a non-perjorative sense).