'The Taming of Savagery': Kantian Perspectives on Animal Embodiment and Human Dignity
Kantian philosophy has been very influential in modern and contemporary philosophy, particularly on morality, conceptions of personhood, and their relationship with each other. In this thesis, I aim to critically explore both Immanuel Kant's philosophy and the thought of certain philosophers who work within the Kantian tradition. Specifically, I focus on the human-animal distinction within the Kantian framework. First, I provide a critical exegesis of Kant's moral philosophy as it relates to human nature, the human animal, and nonhuman animals. Second, I discuss the work of 20th century philosopher Wilfrid Sellars, whose aim was to synthesize the Kantian framework with a metaphysical naturalism. I investigate the status of animals within Sellars's philosophy, and provide a critique of his anthropocentrism. Finally, I turn to contemporary theorists of human dignity inspired by Kantian conceptions of dignity as rank. I argue that this dignitarian approach denigrates not just nonhuman animals, but humans as embodied animal subjects. I then provide a brief argument for reorienting our ethical thinking with human and animal vulnerability in mind.