Ethics & the Environment, Volume 7, Number 2, Fall 2002
Seeing Ourselves as Primates
Ronnie Z. Hawkins
There has been a marked expansion in our human knowledge in recent decades and much of
this new information about ourselves and our world has yet to be integrated into our human
self-image. I maintain that understanding how we fit within the spectrum of lifeforms as
the primates that we are will enable us to take a more active role in choosing ecologically
responsible behavior and will allow us to address more effectively our major problems of
overpopulation, overconsumption, and militarism.
Animals and the Concept of Dignity
Suzanne Laba Cataldi
This essay concerns the dignity of nonhuman animals. It is composed of three sections.
The first recounts my experience of a Moscow Circus performance and records some of my
thought, feelings, and observations of this circus' famous bears.
As is obvious from that account, the performance and presentation of the bears seemed
to me to be undignified in a nontrivial, that is morally objectionable sense of the word.
The second section of the essay tries to specify that sense, to identify the wrong(s) with
these sorts of undignified performances, by developing a moral sense of dignity that might
extend, generally, to nonhuman animals.
I believe that the setting of this performance and my own frame of mind-the fact that it
took place in Moscow and in the midst of my exposure to sites and stories of communist
oppression-helped me to see the oppression of human and nonhuman animals as linked and
the performance as a performance of power relations. The third section of the essay explores
these power relations from an ecofeminist perspective through the circus'
depiction of the 'momma bear.'
Self-Deselection: Techhnopsychotic Annihilation via Cyborg
The cry that advanced machines will come to dominate human beings resounds from the
time of the Luddites up to the current consternation my the chief scientist of Sun
Microsystems, Bill Joy. My theme is a twist on this fear: self-deselection, the
possibility that humans will voluntarily combine their own bodies with technological
additions to the point where it could reasonable be said that our species has been
replaced by another kind of entity, a hybrid of human and readical enhancement, whether
that enhancement stems from genetic alteration or the affixing of robotic parts. This
paper discusses why this danger exists, focusing mainly on perilous psychological and
cultural tendencies (though the amazing rate of technological change and its likely
course are discussed). It then proceeds with arguments as to why such deselection is a
kind of suicide and why this suicide would be a bad thing in the context of early
twenty-first century society. In the last section, ecofeminist theory is employed to
generate a therapeutic ethic of social and political relationship that contrasts with
a patriarchal model of dominative control through aggressive science.
Incorporating the Other: Val Plumwood's Integration of Ethical Frameworks
Val Plumwood's recent attempt to formulate a "contextual" theory of vegetarianism that
integrates concern for animals, ecology, and unprivileged societies involves heavy
criticism of Carol J. Adams. Plumwood's theory, although claiming to be "contextual,"
involves an unnecessary degree of abstraction both in its engagement with Adams's thought
and in its attempt to formulate a universal narrative. Plumwood consistently misrepresents
Adams's work and demonstrates an alignment with dominant discourses that favor "meat."
By representing the rejection of these discourses as alienated and deviant, Plumwood risks
muting the radical critique that western vegetarianism represents and absorbing it within
the exploitative dominant viewpoint.