Course code:



I - Introductory

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

This discussion-based course will explore philosophical and ethical questions pertaining to the relationships between humans and non-human animals. We will read a wide range of fiction, philosophical essays, and ethical arguments in order to articulate and unpack our beliefs, assumptions, and understandings of animals, human-animal relations, and the implications and consequences of the human-animal binary. This course will focus on a wide range of theoretical approaches, including the tradition of animals rights and animal liberation as articulated by thinkers such as Peter Singer, the growing field of animal studies as represented by thinkers like Donna Haraway and Kari Weil, as well as texts rooted in the tradition of Continental philosophy which includes thinkers like Derrida, Agamben, and Irigaray.

This course is premised on the following questions: What are our moral obligations to other animals? Should non-human animals have legal rights and moral standing? If so, on what basis? How does the moral treatment of animals change across the contexts of food, research, captivity, and the home? Do we have different ethical obligations to wild and domestic animals? Historically, western philosophers construct the “animal” in opposition to the human. Why? What is an “animal” and why is the “human” contrasted with it? How do we use the concept of the “animal” to delimit our concept of the “human”? How does language shape and produce our relationships with animals?

Upon complete of the course, students will have refined their understanding of the concept of the “animal” and they will be familiar with the key legal and ethical debates regarding human-animal relationships. Course requirements include class discussion, weekly writing exercises, a midterm exam, and a research project focusing on a human-animal relationship somewhere in Maine. Students should come to this class prepared to engage challenging philosophical essays and to share their ideas with others.



Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.