The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series
19 March 2021, 4.00pm - 6.00pm
Online seminar.

Vision and Ethics: Looking at Animals

Samantha Vice (University of the Witwatersrand)

The language of vision recurs throughout our ethical practices. We say that we have or lack insight; that we are blinded by rage or jealousy, or are clear-sighted about a person’s faults. We see clearly or don’t see what is in front of us; we see red or have a jaundiced view of the world. And if we are fortunate, our eyes are opened and everything is illuminated. While some philosophers offer perceptual theories of moral properties, experience or knowledge, for the most part visual language is used in a non-literal way – most powerfully in the work of Iris Murdoch.

In this paper I take vision literally, in two ways. The first is to examine how literal seeing works and what its conditions are. The second way is to explore the ethical dimension of vision, how our ‘ways of seeing’ (in John Berger’s phrase) express our character and commitments, and the ethical demands they might reveal or give rise to. In particular, my interest is in how we look at animals, and I suggest that taking vision seriously has the potential to alter our attitudes towards animals.

The Institute of Philosophy hosts a regular workshop series entitled ‘The Practical, the Political, and the Ethical’. The series was created in 2015 by Véronique Munoz-Dardé (UCL) and Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck) in order to discuss work in progress from visiting speakers. This year the series is convened by Kate Vredenburgh (LSE) and Jonathan Gingerich (KCL).  Talks are normally 50 minutes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome. 


Institute of Philsophy
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