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By Thomas Ryan (auth.)

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Extra resources for Animals and Social Work: A Moral Introduction

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Whitman, 1982, p. 217) An understanding of knowledge as a loving union finds its parallel in Murdoch’s (1996, p. 30) conviction that ‘the central concept of morality is “the individual” thought of as knowable by love’, with love being commensurate with knowledge of the individual. Love, Murdoch (1997, pp. 215–16) avers, ‘is the perception of individuals . . the imaginative recognition of, that is respect for, this otherness’. And it is this love of the individual that transforms self-consciousness into moral consciousness, just as knowledge and morality direct us away from ego, fantasy and illusion, and point us towards reality, goodness and virtue (Murdoch, 1996).

216) Whereas the world of the ancients conceptualised morality and virtue as independent of will, the modern world deems rationality and will to be constitutive of morality (Taylor, 1989). The upshot of this radical shift, witnessed most clearly in Kant, is that only rational beings have unconditional and absolute value. If moral subjectivity is indeed rationality dependent, it needs acknowledging that many humans fail to meet such stringent criteria. Because it is supposed that morality originates in the human will, it cannot in any way be attached to the substance of the world, and accordingly we no longer see ourselves against a background of values and realities that necessarily transcends us; this restricted notion obscures the reality that virtue is connected with unselfishness, objectivity and realism (Murdoch, 1997).

The chapter will also undertake an exploration of how moral inclusion or exclusion is dependent upon how social work thinks about itself, and by way of an examination of the concepts of moral considerability and the moral community, and reflection upon the origins of morality, an argument will be mounted that moral standing cannot be circumscribed by the species barrier. Chapter 3 undertakes an extended exploration of the nature of human beings and animals, arguing that an acknowledgement and acceptance of our status as terrestrial creatures, allied with a greater understanding of and respect for our fellow animals, is perfectly consistent with human dignity and moral standing.

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