‘Autonomy and (Non) Domination: The Case of Non-Human Animals’

Dans le cadre du Congrès 2018 de l’Association canadienne de philosophie, Kristin Voigt et Valéry Giroux organisaient un symposium intitulé ‘Autonomy and (Non) Domination: The Case of Non-Human Animals’. C’était l’occasion pour Frédéric Côté-Boudreau (Queen’s U.), Sue Donaldson et Will Kymlicka (Queen’s U.) et Angie Pepper (CRÉ) de présenter leurs travaux. / As part of the 2018 Congress of the Canadian Philosophical Association, Kristin Voigt and Valéry Giroux organized a symposium entitled ‘Autonomy and (Non) Domination: The Case of Non-Human Animals’. It was an opportunity for Frédéric Côté-Boudreau (Queen’s U.), Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka (Queen’s U.) and Angie Pepper (CRÉ) to present their work.


« Preference Formation: A Non-Rationalistic and Non-Individualistic Approach »
Frédéric Côté-Boudreau
There are many theoretical obstacles that prevent marginalized groups, such as animals and persons with cognitive disabilities, from living the life they would like to lead. The main cause in these two cases has probably to do with the way philosophers typically define the concept of autonomy – in a highly rationalistic fashion. This tradition seems to me wrongheaded, as everyone is entitled to be free to choose her life and to not be dominated, regardless of one’s cognitive abilities.
But even once we grant that these individuals deserve the rights associated with autonomy, other issues persist. Is it enough to let them choose as they want or is intervention warranted in some cases, for instance when their choices are significantly harmful? And given that influences inescapably shape one’s identity and preferences in any social settings, how can we ensure that their environment can foster their autonomy rather than force them into predetermined choices? In general, how do we deal with adaptive preferences with persons who are not only more vulnerable to manipulation, but also less apt to question their options?
By drawing from relational autonomy, disability studies, and citizenship theory of animals, I will argue that these issues can be addressed in non-rationalistic and non-individualistic terms in a way that is equally instructive for neurotypical human agents, for persons with cognitive disabilities, and for animals. This approach will emphasize that social support is often crucial for any group to acknowledge and overcome its oppression, and for this reason, that personal autonomy often relies on interpersonal contributions. But this social influence, as it can as much foster as undermine individual liberty, should also aim at helping individuals to make their own choices, by allowing them the opportunity to redefine their relationships and their environment to a certain extent, to opt out if necessary, as well as to gain the power to contest their set of options.
« Freedom in Action »
Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka
One of the central puzzles in applying ideas of autonomy and non-domination to domesticated animals is to make sense of their capacity for “macro agency” – that is, to make choices between very different possible lives. It is clear that domesticated animals are capable of micro-agency over quotidian aspects of their lives: a pig or a dog can make choices about what to eat or when to sleep, and this sort of micro-agency is clearly important to an animals’ well-being. But if the larger parameters of her life are fixed by humans – if humans decide where she will live, with whom she can associate, whether she reproduces and raises offspring, and what sorts of activities and work she engages in – then clearly she is not self-determining, autonomous, free, or un-dominated, no matter how much micro-agency she has. Can domesticated animals exercise this sort of macro agency? Can they choose the larger parameters of their life? Can we provide the conditions under which domesticated animals have the opportunity, not just to choose this toy or that snack, but to be able to shape and contest the menu of choices on offer, as concerns matters both small and large? In thinking about these issues, we have become increasingly interested in intentional interspecies communities – such as certain farmed animal sanctuaries – which seek to create egalitarian communities of humans living alongside other domesticated animals. We believe these provide locations for reflecting on what kinds of macro agency might be important for animals; what might be possible; and what preconditions, supports and practices might be involved. This is an ongoing project, but we will discuss some of the promise and pitfalls of looking for freedom in action within these intentional interspecies communities.
« Enabling Nonhuman Animal Agency: Consent, Assent, and Dissent »
Angie Pepper
Defenders of animal rights increasingly argue that justice requires us to not only protect negative rights, but also to respect and enable nonhuman animal agency. On such views, justice demands that we create the conditions that will give animals greater control over the shape and direction of their own lives. In this paper I focus on one difficulty in realizing this goal, namely, that nonhuman animals lack the normative power of consent. Although the idea of consent may be inappropriate for thinking about just interspecies relations, I suggest that there are two other notions in the neighbourhood that show promise: assent and dissent. I then develop an account of assent and dissent that can facilitate nonhuman animal agency, help humans to respect that agency, and thus increase the degree of effective control that animals have and experience in their relations with us. Moreover, the account advanced holds that nonhuman animal assent and dissent are normatively transformative, and hence it contributes to determining the bounds of morally permissible human-nonhuman animal interactions.