Animal/Nonhuman Workshop

University of Chicago

Month: November 2014

December 1, 2014: “Zoo Visitors’ Subjective Meaning-making Across Four Species”

Cassie Freeman and Ashley Drake, Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago

Monday, December 1, 2014
4:30 pm
Social Sciences Tea Room (SS201)

This workshop will not have precirculated materials.

“Zoo Visitors’ Subjective Meaning-making Across Four Species”

The zoo as an institutional setting is a unique context to explore how people think about animals. While a few studies have explored philosophical and historical implications of zoos (e.g., Malamud, 1998; Rothfels, 2002) there is little empirical inquiry on this topic. This is surprising given their prevalence and the estimated 175 million people who visit them each year (AZA, 2012). In this project we seek to address this gap in the literature by describing how zoo visitors interpret their experiences at several exhibits through their use of language. Data was collected on zoo visitors observing four species (chimpanzees, African wild dogs, meerkats, and Bolivian gray titi monkeys) during real time visits at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. These species were selected because they are in groups of four or more, vary in size, and vary in habitat space, all traits which have been found to affect visitor behavior and feelings about conservation (Bitgood et al., 1988; Margulis et al., 2003; Fernandez et al., 2009; Ross et al., 2012). Through analysis of their speech and behavior, we hypothesized that zoo visitors will more frequently attribute subjectivity to chimpanzees and wild dogs than to titi monkeys and meerkats due to the structural similarity of chimpanzees to humans and wild dogs to companion dogs. In contrast, we hypothesized that titi monkeys and meerkats would be described more frequently by their physical characteristics because they resemble adorable inanimate objects (Serpell, 2003). Our general discussion will include general visitor behavior as well as visitor descriptions of the animals, attribution of subjectivity, and understandings about the animals. Through this description of visitor speech and behavior across encounters with four species, the data collected provides a novel approach to interpreting how zoo visitors think about animals.

Refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu).

Find our full workshop schedule here.

November 17, 2014: “‘The Starry Heavens Above Me and the Moral Law Within’: Transcendentalism’s Claim Against Deep Ecology”

Carly Lane, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

Monday, November 17, 2014
4:30 pm
Social Sciences Tea Room (SS201)

Request a copy of this work-in-progress by emailing hutch@uchicago.edu.

“‘The Starry Heavens Above Me and the Moral Law Within’: Transcendentalism’s Claim Against Deep Ecology”

Presented in collaboration with the Theology and Religious Ethics Workshop

I open this paper with a brief but sympathetic survey of the instincts and aims of Deep Ecology. I argue that on its own terms Deep Ecology can neither justify its necessity or make coherent progress on its own stated goals: Dismissing the ‘transcendent subject’ as so much metaphysics, and “anthropocentrism” as a moral/ecological threat, Deep Ecology undermines its own conditions of possibility. Turning to the very philosophical sources Deep Ecology understands itself against, I develop an account of the relatively-transcendent (which is to say responsible, undetermined, free) subject and her aesthetic-cum-ethical judgment. I show this form of judgment to be at work—albeit contradictorily—throughout Deep Ecology literature. Borrowing from Arendt, I defend the appropriateness of this form of judgment, not least for community formation and political action. I conclude by tracing the intimate relationship between this form of judgment and poetic thinking: As an exemplary alternative to Deep Ecology I proffer the poetic thought of Henry David Thoreau who sounds out his aesthetic-ethical judgments that we might be recalled to our humanity, in both society and the natural world.

Refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu).

Find our full workshop schedule here.

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