Human Interactions With Nonhuman Animals Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1296 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Animals

Others, however, have persuasively argued that humans and animals are equal in perception and experience, thus leading to the conclusion that humans should relate to nonhuman animals on the basis that animals share many human feelings and perceptions. In Back to Earth: Tomorrow's Environmentalism, Anthony Weston argues that humans are essentially connected to, and part of, the larger word. He notes that humans must set aside our beliefs that we are superior to other forms of life, and that the human experience is central to the world. Weston argues that we must reconnect with the earth, and reconnect with greater nature through our senses. In essence, Weston argues strongly against Descartes' dichotomy between humans and the rest of the natural world. Weston's argument for connection with the larger world ultimately presupposes that animals and humans are equal in our experience and perceptions.

Descartes' argument that the uniqueness of human thought as the basis of a dichotomy between humans and animals is ultimately essential to countering this assumption. In Animals are Machines, Descartes notes persuasively that there is no clear evidence that supports thought in animals. Instead, the behaviors of animals can be easily explained away by pure mechanistic actions.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Term Paper on Human Interactions With Nonhuman Animals Assignment

Similarly, Abrams argues that an understanding of human language as abstract, which Descartes thought to be clear evidence of human thought not shared by animals, is essentially a false understanding of human communication. Writes Abrams, "by overlooking the sensuous, evocative dimension of human discourse, and attending solely to the denotative and conventional aspect of verbal communication, we can hold ourselves apart from, and outside of, the rest of animate nature" (p. 79). Abrams argues that this is a false dichotomy, as human language is deeply denotative and linked to affective meaning and sensation, thus meaning that Descartes' dichotomy between human thought and animal thought was essentially false, and that human treatment of animals built on this false dichotomy was essentially erroneous.

However, the argument that human language contains a strong evocative, connotative aspect does not necessarily negate Descartes' argument that animals do not possess the capacity for abstract, reasoned, denotative thought and language. Certainly, as Abrams argues, human language contains both connotative and denotative aspects of verbal communication. Abrams himself notes an abstract of communication between animals and humans that is missing, saying "I gradually came to discern there was no common ground between the unlimited human intellect and the limited sentience of other animals, no medium through which we and they might communicate with and reciprocate one another" (p. 25). While he eventually notes that a common ground appears through connotative expression, the fact that only humans appear to communicate in an abstract, reasoned manner argues strongly in support of Descartes' assertion the animal absence of such thought creates a distinct dichotomy of experience. As such, while animals an humans may share connotative expression and thought, this does little to discredit Descartes' argument that animals' incapability for abstract, reasoned thought and language leads to the conclusion that humans have little responsibility to nonhuman animals.


In conclusion, Descartes' arguments provide solid support for the idea that human interactions with nonhuman animals should be guided by the impact of these interactions with other human beings, and not by any perceived impact upon nonhuman animals themselves. Descartes' understanding of the separation of mind and body, and of the absence of thought and speech guided by reason in animals, provides the solid philosophical underpinning of this treatment of animals.

Works Cited

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human

World. Vintage, 1997.

Descartes, Rene. Animals are Machines. In Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, eds S.J. Armstrong and R.G. Botzler, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993,


Palmer, Donald. Looking at Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made

Lighter. McGraw-Hill Humanities, 1994.

Weston, Anthony. Back to Earth: Tomorrow's Environmentalism.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Human Interactions With Nonhuman Animals" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Human Interactions With Nonhuman Animals.  (2004, November 8).  Retrieved January 16, 2021, from

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"Human Interactions With Nonhuman Animals."  8 November 2004.  Web.  16 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Human Interactions With Nonhuman Animals."  November 8, 2004.  Accessed January 16, 2021.