Chandler D. Rogers
Boston College
Spinoza’s attitude toward nonhuman animals is uncharacteristically cruel. This essay elaborates upon this ostensible idiosyncrasy in reference to Hasana Sharp’s commendable desire to revitalize a basis for animal ethics from within the bounds of his system. Despite our favoring an ethics beginning from animal affect, this essay argues that an animal ethic adequate to the demands of our historical moment cannot be developed from within the confines of strict adherence to Spinoza’s system—and this is not yet to speak of a more robust animal ethics which would advocate actual care and compassion for the animals themselves. We argue that on the assumption of Spinoza’s ontological biocentrism, in the presence of Spinozist determinism and the absence of an axiological biocentrism, an anthropocentric axiology necessarily follows. Any Spinozist animal ethic must fall back, therefore, upon appeals to the maximization of human pleasure and power; hence Spinoza’s ruthless injunction to “use (the animals) at our pleasure.” These are the very ontological and ethical assumptions which have incited human self-exaltation in the modern period, in pursuit of power and pleasure even despite the destructive long-term consequences for all the living. We suggest that an adequate animal ethic would require either an abandonment of Spinoza’s ontological biocentrism or the adoption of an axiological biocentrism.
Keywords Spinoza  Biocentrism  Anthropocentrism  Posthumanism  Animal Affect  Animal Ethics
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