PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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A continuum of suffering?

Since Bentham, suffering has been a key concept for animal ethics. In an attempt to avoid what she calls “a potentially dangerous split between scientific and non-scientific definitions of welfare”, Marian Dawkins argues for a behavioral approach to animal suffering, decoupling it from assessments of “subjective feeling”. I argue that recent developments in neuroscience provide a framework for understanding subjective suffering as the product of a risk-assessment network which is unable to stably predict the effects of bodily actions. This embodied/predictive approach supports models of suffering that respect individual and species-level cognitive differences, providing a richer context for ethical assessments.

Author Information:

Colin Allen    
Dept of History & Philosophy of Science & Medicine
Indiana University - Bloomington


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