Institute of Art and Ideas: On Humans and Animals

Institute of Art and Ideas: On Humans and Animals
Published: Feb 20, 2013
Acclaimed moral philosophers Mary Midgley and Peter Singer discuss human attitudes towards animals, the rise of humanism, the ethics of evolution and the sanctity of life. The film comes courtesy of the Institute of Art and Ideas.

Mary Midgley

Author of Beast and Man and Wickedness, moral philosopher Mary Midgley has been described as "the UK’s foremost scourge of scientific pretention" and “the most frightening philosopher in the country”. The focus of much of her work has involved sustained and sometimes forceful critique of the modern tendency to elevate the sciences to the status of a religion. Her central argument is that far from being an omniscient discipline, science can only ever answer a limited number of questions. Unsurprisingly, this has brought her up against public intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins, whose dogmatic approach to science is criticised by Midgley for its similarity to the religious fundamentalists that he professes to despise.

Peter Singer

Celebrated Australian philosopher Peter Singer is probably best known for Animal Liberation, a seminal text in the animal rights movement. The book popularised the term ‘speciesism’ to describe the moral standpoint from which the exploitative treatment of animals is justified. Singer has subsequently argued against the need for animal rights, making the case that their ability to experience suffering is sufficient for humans to rethink our relationship with other species. In 1996, Singer stood successfully as a Greens candidate for the Australian Senate, and he is currently professor of bioethics at Princeton.

The Institute of Art and Ideas

This film comes courtesy of the brilliant folks at the Institute of Art and Ideas, a charitable, not-for-profit organisation engaged in changing the current cultural landscape through the pursuit and promotion of big ideas, boundary-pushing thinkers and challenging debates. As well as all manner of lectures, discussions and events, they host an annual philosophy festival in the little town of Hay-on-Wye, on the border between England and Wales.


HowTheLightGetsIn 2013 takes place from 23rd May to 2nd June 2013.


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