Empathy and Wonder in Animal Ethics

An octopus swimming
Date Thursday 22 September 2022
Time 3:10pm
Where K.B.01 or
Presenter Liezl van Zyl
Contact Dan Weijers
Contact email
Admission Cost Free

All are welcome to this Philosophy Seminar for a general audience delivered by our own Associate Professor Liezl van Zyl.

You can join in person (K.B.01) or via zoom:

Abstract: In this paper I explore the role of two basic moral capacities - empathy and wonder - in cultivating the virtues that are necessary for flourishing with other animals.  Empathy, understood as the imaginative capacity to see and experience the world from another's perspective, forms an essential part of many traditional (interpersonal) virtues, such as compassion, benevolence, generosity, and honesty. Thus, it seems obvious that in order to extend these virtues to non-human animals, we have to begin by extending our capacity to empathize with them, by imagining and sharing their feelings of fear, joy, frustration, and loneliness. Story-telling, for example in documentaries like My Octopus Teacher (2020), play an important role in this regard. However, as many writers have pointed out, empathy can also lead us astray. I argue that these problems can be avoided by cultivating, alongside empathy, a capacity for wonder.

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