Can Animals Be Moral?

Research output: Book/ReportBook

54 Scopus citations


The idea that animals can act morally-can act for moral reasons-has been almost universally rejected by philosophers and scientists alike. According to tradition, while animals may be objects of moral concern, they cannot be regarded as subjects of moral motivation. This book argues against the traditional view. Animals can act for moral reasons-at least there are no compelling reasons for supposing that that they can't. Animals can act on the basis of moral emotions-emotions that possess moral content-and these emotions provide reasons for their actions. Animals can, in this sense, be moral subjects. Using recent empirical work in cognitive ethology as a springboard, this book embarks on a meticulous examination of the idea of moral motivation-an examination that weaves its way through central topics in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, metaethics, and moral psychology. The result of this investigation is a powerful defense of an extraordinarily controversial claim-animals can, in fact, be moral-that is sure to engender heated debate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages288
ISBN (Electronic)9780199979844
ISBN (Print)9780199842001
StatePublished - Jan 24 2013


  • Action
  • Agency
  • Animals
  • Cognitive ethology
  • Emotions
  • Moral psychology
  • Reasons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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