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Philosophy Department Colloquium
The first Colloquium will take place at 4:15-6:00pm, Wednesday 12 October in S0.17. The meeting will be in-person, with an online option for those who can't be on campus Note the slightly adjusted start time of 4.15pm for the first Colloquium.
Speakers: Susana Monsó (UNED) & Eze Paez (Pompeu Fabra)
Talk: Why death still harms animals who only half get it: Ethical implications of the minimal concept of death (w/ Eze Paez)
Abstract: In a series of recent works (Monsó 2021; 2022; Monsó & Osuna-Mascaró 2021), I have defended the idea that the concept of death is not circumscribed to the human species, but rather that many animals can understand death, at least to some extent. The core of my argument is the idea that the ‘minimal concept of death’ (‘MCoD’) requires little cognitive complexity and that the cognition required for it is fairly common in the animal kingdom. However, the MCoD refers to the capacity that an animal has to understand what has happened when another has died, but does not indicate that the animal has any notion of her own personal mortality. As such, it is not immediately obvious what ethical implications follow from it. Indeed, accounts of the prudential badness of death that make it dependent on an individual’s concept of death hinge on the ethical importance of having an awareness of one’s own future death (e.g., Cigman 1981; Belshaw 2012, 2015; Rollin 2015), so the presence of an MCoD in animals might not alter the extent to which death is thought to directly harm animals.
In this talk (developed together with Eze Paez), I will show that, contrary to this first impression, the deintellectualised account of the concept of death that I have defended does modify how we ought to think about the badness of death for animals, even in those cases in which animals do not develop a notion of death as something that will inevitably befall them. I will develop this argument in three steps. First, I will summarise my theory regarding the distribution of the MCoD in nature. Second, I will give an overview of different accounts of the badness of death and how they relate to individuals’ understanding of death. Lastly, I will show how the truth of my analysis would entail that, even on the most stringent and demanding accounts, death harms many more animals than is often presupposed.