University of Tasmania
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Sentience and the primordial ‘we’: contributions to animal ethics from phenomenology and Buddhist philosophy

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 06:27 authored by Anya DalyAnya Daly
This paper explores the ontological bases for ethical behaviour between human animals and non-human animals drawing on phenomenology and Buddhist philosophy. Alongside Singer and utilitarianism, I argue that ethical behaviour regarding animals is most effectively justified and motivated by considerations of sentience. Nonetheless, utilitarianism misses crucial aspects of sentience. Buddhist ethics is from the beginning focused on all sentient beings, not solely humans. This inclusivity, and refined interrogations of suffering, means it can furnish more nuanced understandings of sentience. For phenomenology, sentience includes the capacities for self-awareness and, I will argue, a plural self-awareness; the ‘I’ belongs to a ‘we’, and the ‘we’ is constitutive of the ‘I’. This ‘primordial we’ provides the basis for rethinking the moral relations between human animals and non-human animals. I contend finally we thus have an ontological basis in ‘interanimality’ to explain why we most often do and should care about all sentient beings.


Publication title

Environmental Values










Philosophy and Gender Studies


White Horse Press

Publication status

  • Published

Place of publication

10 High St, Knapwell, Cambridge, England, Cb3 8Nr

Rights statement

© 2022 The White Horse Press. This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced version of an article accepted following peer review for publication in Environmental Values, Volume 32, Issue 2. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online,

Socio-economic Objectives

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