A Humean Account of the Status and Character of Animals

Julia Driver

in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371963
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

A Humean Account of the Status and Character of Animals

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science


Show Summary Details


This article presents a theory inspired by and rooted in the work of the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume. Hume anticipated some features of Darwinian thinking about animal minds. In particular, Hume believed that when the term “understand” is used properly, animals can understand many features of the world. Hume attributed rationality to some animals, on grounds that these animals are significantly like humans in the principles of their nature, their patterns of learning, and their powers of inference. This article interprets Hume to hold that animals resemble human beings both in a variety of behaviors and in critical aspects of their mental lives. It finds that these behavioral and psychological similarities form the basis of a Humean argument that animals have moral status, though it acknowledges that Hume is less interested in moral status questions and more interested in animal minds.

Keywords: Darwinian thinking; David Hume; animal minds; rationality; moral status

Article.  14945 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.