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Research seminar: Miira Tuominen


Date: Tuesday 10 May 2022

Time: 13.00 – 15.00

Miira Tuominen, Department of Philosophy: Justice to Living Creatures in Porphyry’s On Abstinence

In his treatise on abstinence from animate creatures, Porphyry (c. 235-305 CE) argues tha philosophers who aim at the highest goal of human life, assimilation to god insofar as it is possible in bodily life, must abstain from eating meat and killing animals. Porphyry has usually been taken to argue for animal justice on the basis of animal rationality. This common view has been challenged by (i) those scholars who maintain that animal capacity to feel pain, not rationality, is the crux of the argument and, (ii) more radically by Fay Edwards who argues that Porphyry does not ascribe rationality to non-human animals because they are not morally relevant to him at all. Although I agree with Edwards that there is no sufficient evidence that Porphyry would ascribe rationality to non-human animals, I disagree with her on the ethical implications she draws from her claim. I argue that, for Porphyry, justice in its higher degrees requires and is partly constituted by abstinence from causing harm to living creatures, not only to non-human animals but also to plants. Therefore, the scope of justice is defined through life (justice must be extended to all living creatures, not only the rational ones or ones that feel pain) and its content is partly defined in terms of restraint from causing harm to others.

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