Campus News

Professor discusses philosophy behind animal intelligence, human empathy

Chris Cuomo, a women’s studies and philosophy professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, was recently quoted in a Vox article about why humans care about the intelligence of animals.

The findings of a recent survey suggest that people are more likely to want to help an animal when they believe that animal is intelligent.

It’s also possible that people could believe that anything living has moral value, or, more expansively, that anything that supports living things has value (like lakes or mountains).

Cuomo believes these approaches are much better than the sentience perspective. She said a narrow focus on animal sentience “replicates a neoliberal tendency to focus our moral concern only on individual suffering,” and not on holistic ecosystem health or degradation more broadly.

“It really leaves a lot out,” Cuomo said.

The article continued to emphasize that there’s no easy answers when it comes to moral beliefs.