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date: 19 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article presents a theory inspired by and rooted in the work of the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume. Hume anticipated some features of Darwinian thinking about animal minds. In particular, Hume believed that when the term “understand” is used properly, animals can understand many features of the world. Hume attributed rationality to some animals, on grounds that these animals are significantly like humans in the principles of their nature, their patterns of learning, and their powers of inference. This article interprets Hume to hold that animals resemble human beings both in a variety of behaviors and in critical aspects of their mental lives. It finds that these behavioral and psychological similarities form the basis of a Humean argument that animals have moral status, though it acknowledges that Hume is less interested in moral status questions and more interested in animal minds.

Keywords: Darwinian thinking, David Hume, animal minds, rationality, moral status

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