My research is a three-way conversation between the thought of Wittgenstein, Quakerism, and animal rights/animal consciousness: looking at Quaker attitudes towards non-human animals, through a Wittgensteinian lens.
I am using silence as the connection between the three separate parts of the conversation: Wittgenstein’s insistence on the power and importance of the ineffable, Quakers’ use of silence for worship, for making individual and collective decisions, and for epistemic insight, and animals’ ‘enforced’ silence through their natural lack of language.
The research is important in that it will develop our (that of humanity, and that of Friends) understanding of other species. We humans seem on the brink of a new understanding of the similarities between ourselves and the other species on the planet: the growth of plant-based diets, and new research on e.g. the cognitive abilities of species previously considered incapable of meaningful suffering such as fish, are evidence for this. Historically (primarily in the Anglophone world), Quakers have been at the forefront of ethical progress (e.g. the abolition of slavery), so it is particularly important to investigate both how Quakers’ understanding can develop - as well as how non-Quakers’ understanding can progress, perhaps under Quaker influence.
To what extent do human and non-human animals qualitatively differ? And does our answer make a difference to the moral status of non-human animals? This thesis will attempt to navigate between a justification of animal rights based on utilitarianism - on different species’ capacity for suffering - and another, more normative, justification, derived from an analogical translation to other species of a ‘primitive’ recognition of, and acceptance of, the rights of other humans. If we accept an intuitive recognition of the rights of other humans, then does animals’ ability to suffer entitle them, at least at some level, to share these rights? If not, do humans have to fall back on a speciesist anthropocentrism?