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Theological Ethics through a Multispecies LensThe Evolution of Wisdom, Volume I$
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Celia E. Deane-Drummond

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198843344

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198843344.001.0001

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Persons in Multispecies Communities

Persons in Multispecies Communities

(p.220) 9 Persons in Multispecies Communities
Theological Ethics through a Multispecies Lens

Celia E. Deane-Drummond

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers arguments for and objections to extending the notion of personhood beyond the human community. While extension of personhood is rather more appealing compared with rights, it is still premised on moral worth parsed out in anthropocentric terms. Such discussion hinges on philosophical debates about whether animals have moral worth, intrinsic value, subjectivity, and moral agency, and on the definition of personhood. It also touches on questions of the place of animals in religious traditions discussed in critical animal studies, as in authors such as Aaron Gross. It suggests that if personhood is extended it should not be confused with divine image bearing and in this respect argues against authors such as Charles Camosy and David Clough that tie both together in advocating an extended notion of personhood. While some theologians have become nervous about using any language about divine image bearing even in the case of humans, on the basis it could lead to an unhelpful sense of human superiority, the author considers that such nervousness can be avoided by suitable qualifications of what human image bearing means. Divine image bearing is, like wisdom, a complex term that has its own chequered history of interpretation. But image bearing is also a reminder that human persons bear a special responsibility in a multispecies community in a way that personhood alone does not. Enlarging a notion of personhood may broaden the moral sphere, and the author believes that it is justified in the case of many animal kinds, but it does not tell us how to act in situations of conflicting interests.

Keywords:   personhood, moral standing, animals as persons, image bearing, Aaron Gross, David Clough, Charles Camosy

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