Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Rhees on Humans and Animals, Take 753

Update (2.4.11): This version of the paper has been accepted for publication in Philosophical Investigations. (Hooray!)

Not that anyone is interested, but I have completely rewritten my paper, "Comparing Lives: Rush Rhees on Humans and Animals." I think I copied and pasted about two paragraphs of the previous draft. This "revision" is more focused on interpreting and motivating Rhees' ideas (and doing a better job of retrieving them from the dustbin...), and I restrict the argument against capacity-based conceptions of moral considerability to one focused section.

One thing that might interest regulars which is not at all in the previous paper: I've added an Appendix in which I discuss Rhees' diary remarks (and a couple letters) about the death of his dog Danny. This happened several years after the remarks on which I focus in the main paper, but his reaction to Danny's death, and his own sense of responsibility, are so strong and striking that I felt like I needed to say something, and draw some connections with the earlier work.

The Appendix is entitled "The Death of a Dog & Eternal Life." It starts on p. 25.


  1. Well, I'm interested. But scribd is asking me to either upload a document of my own or else pay them money to download the document. I can read it on screen, but my attempts to print it without paying have only produced garbage. This is new, isn't it?

  2. Sorry about that. Try it now; I've linked up to a copy off my EKU webpage.

  3. I think this is a fine paper. Thanks for posting it. Am I right that the problem with trying to justify claims that animals are inferior or equal to humans is that they are different kinds? If that's right, then we might be able to justify some claim along those lines by finding some kind to which both animals and humans belong. We can invent such a kind, of course, but I think it needs to be one that is already there if such an argument is going to have any force. 'Creatures' comes to mind, but then I'm not sure there is really any way of talking about the relative goodness of two things qua creatures.

    The last part of the paper is very touching. I have a mental image of Rhees driving a jeep with two big dogs in it, but I think this must be a fabrication of mine (possibly based on something someone told me) rather than a memory of anything I ever saw.

  4. Thanks, DR. I think what you say about creatures is right. (A frog is a better creature than a cricket? By what criteria, etc.) I need to think more about the statement of "equality"--depends on what that means. If you're interested in the conflict problems, I highly recommend Anderson's (2004) paper in the Sunstein and Nussbaum boook on Animal Rights. (I have a pdf I could send you.)

    I've never seen a picture of Rhees, but maybe the mental image you have isn't a fabrication. Cora Diamond told me that in the 70s when she was working with Rhees she "knew Danny and then Tim." But this must not be a temporal remark b/c Rhees mentions Tim in notes from '61 (acc. to Phillips). So it seems possible (unless he got Danny after Tim) that he had both dogs. As for the jeep, I don't know!

  5. Thanks, yes, I'd like to see the Anderson paper.

    I met Rhees when I was a grad student at Swansea (88-89), but I doubt I ever saw him outside a classroom. He was a dedicated teacher till the end of his life. My guess is I'm remembering (or misremembering) secondhand information.

  6. I finally read the Anderson paper. I don't have any worthwhile thoughts on it yet, but I'm very impressed. It almost seems like all you really need to know about the whole debate. Thanks again.