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Ecocentric personhood : establishing ethical and legal obligations to nonhumans within capitalism

Author: Melissa Mary Wilson; University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Department of Philosophy.
Publisher: ©2013.
Dissertation: M.A. University of North Carolina at Charlotte 2013
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript   Archival Material : English
Summary:
Globally, humans eat, wear, experiment upon, and seize over 150 billion nonhuman animals annually. Held in captivity, isolated from families, denied natural behavior, alienated from their labor, marketed as nameless commodities, and nearly always the subjects of premature and macabre death, nonhumans are by every definition slaves. The exploitation and extermination of nonhumans is rooted in speciesism (a  Read more...
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Details

Material Type: Thesis/dissertation, Manuscript
Document Type: Book, Archival Material
All Authors / Contributors: Melissa Mary Wilson; University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Department of Philosophy.
OCLC Number: 872270540
Notes: UNC Charlotte Libraries notes:
ds 031114
Description: 145 leaves : illustrations ; 29 cm
Responsibility: by Melissa Mary Wilson.
Local System Bib Number:
System.Supplied@2014-03-11,16:16:23

Abstract:

Globally, humans eat, wear, experiment upon, and seize over 150 billion nonhuman animals annually. Held in captivity, isolated from families, denied natural behavior, alienated from their labor, marketed as nameless commodities, and nearly always the subjects of premature and macabre death, nonhumans are by every definition slaves. The exploitation and extermination of nonhumans is rooted in speciesism (a predisposition to view the most basic needs of nonhumans as morally inferior to even the most trivial wants of humans) and symbiotically buttressed by kyriarchy (the interwoven set of power structures oriented around gender, race, and class that subjugate individuals and groups outside of the socially constructed "normative" individual or group). Biocentrism alternatively proposes that speciests have drawn an arbitrary and tyrannical moral line between humans and nonhumans. For biocentrists, humans and nonhumans are alike in their sentience: the ability to feel - physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Some advocates for nonhuman rights are petitioning judicial systems to recognize nonhuman animals as persons, protecting them from self-interested human interference. Sentient personhood avoids anthropocentric needs for human-nonhuman equality, and instead considers the ability of a being to suffer. The purest interpretation of personhood for nonhumans abolishes the property status of nonhuman animals, recognizing their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of pleasure. Furthermore, acknowledging nonhumans as legally protected persons provides a permanent means for court appointed guardians to advocate on behalf of nonhumans' interests in flourishing: physically, psychologically, socially, and recreationally (within healthy ecosystems). Advocates for nonhumans are sometimes faulted for neglecting to sufficiently address holist concerns involving nonsentient ecological constituents, such as plants, air, water, and soil. Ultimately, all beings need a healthy planet in order to thrive. To bridge the philosophy of environmentalism and nonhuman rights, I propose that if we are to accept that nonhuman animals are legal persons, then we also must logically extend legal protection to the ecosystems in which they live, work, and play. Like humans, nonhumans also have collective interests. Within capitalism, corporations are considered "artificial persons" under the law. While controversial, the notion of corporate personhood acknowledges the complex and delicate web of social, political, and economic interactions reinforcing human communities. Likewise, without sustainable ecosystems, nonhumans (and humans, for that matter) cannot exist fully, successfully, or peaceably. I submit that ecosystems are nature's form or corporations, and should gain legal protection, for the sake of the current and future inhabitants living within the ecosystems. Accordingly, I have developed the idea of "ecocentric personhood" as an umbrella term for my new theory of comprehensive legal rights for nonhumans and their worlds. Ecocentric personhood is a non-speciest extension of the current anthropocentric understanding of individual and collective personhood. It is twofold: 1) sentient nonhumans should be considered legally protected persons with individual interests; and 2) ecosystems should be considered artificial persons with collective interests.
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