Interspecies Cosmopolitanism: Towards a Discourse Ethics Grounding of Animal Rights

1. Introduction

There is a fundamental contradiction at the core of the notion of cosmopolitanism, one that I will argue is not idle but generative. On the one hand, there is a reference to the whole wide world, to the universe, to the boundless expanse of nature, the known and unknown ‘cosmos.’ On the other hand, there is a reference to an all-too human notion, to a circumscribed, limited, fragile, and at times unacknowledged institution, namely the polis as a realm in which humans rise above nature. Thomas Hobbes captured this tension wonderfully in his Leviathan. In the state of nature we are like rapacious and unhinged wolves, while it is only in a contingently constructed commonwealth that we acquire rights. In the state of nature there is no right. We are all equal, but only because we are all equally capable of killing each other, either by strength, cunning, or machination. We have risen above the state of nature and created an artificial automaton that wields the sword of war in order to impose a peace. Peace, which is unnatural, is the foundation of the polity within which we acknowledge each other as equals under the watchful eye of the sovereign. Even for Kant, we remained irrevocably citizens of two worlds: the phenomenal world of nature, and the noumenal world of the moral law. Kant also captured the contradiction at the heart of the “cosmopolitan” ideal in one of the most provocative versions of the categorical imperative: ‘act as though the maxim of your action can become a universal law of nature.’ Of course, Lucretius and Marcus Aurelius also already understood this dual “citizenship” of the human. Kant’s philosophical anthropology, from a pragmatic standpoint, as well as his cosmopolitan project, are ultimately based in the Stoic notion that it is precisely as creature of nature that we all belong to the same nomos. In fact, Kant went so far as to argue that it is ‘nature’ that compels us to rise to the level of the self-legislating creature that we have become. It is by the cunning of nature itself that we are forced to be cosmopolitan. In this sense, then the contradiction that Hobbes, Rousseau and Kant noted at the heart of cosmopolitanism dissolves.

Cosmopolitanism, however, has been stripped of this metaphysical baggage and has been analyzed in much more abstemious philosophemes. For instance, a quick survey of the contributions to the clarification of cosmopolitanism as a desirable and possible ideal in the 21st century –that is to say, a survey of the works by Martha Nussbaum, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Judith Butler, and Walter Mignolo, to mention the ones that have influenced me the most–, reveals that we can analyze cosmopolitanism as both an ‘epistemic’ and a ‘moral/ethical’ principle1. As an epistemic attitude it challenges the monopoly of one worldview, and advocates epistemic humility and fallibilism. As an ethical/moral principle or guiding norm, it commands the mutual respect of humans and the solicitous moral regard for those who are our others. Cosmopolitism, in short, implies a dual relationship that urges that we remain cognitively open to the other and that we be morally accountable for and to the other. Cosmopolitism is not at all like what we can call “elite” knowingness, or Davos man internationalism. Cosmopolitism is not simply an insouciant tolerance that blithely looks on with amusement at others. To put it in terms of Habermas’ language, cosmopolitanism brings together the first person with the third person perspective. To put it in pedestrian terms: this person, life form, cultural configuration, etc., matters to me and I have an uncircumventable moral relationship to it, but I also can see myself as someone who is challenged to know it and to see how in knowing it, it transforms my view of the world. As an ethical/moral relationship cosmopolitanism is thus about co-existence and co-habitation –to use Judith Butler’s recent language2. To act and to known the world from a cosmopolitan standpoint is to ask oneself about the conditions and duties of co-existing and cohabitating. Indeed, Kant already noted that it was the fact of the planet’s finitude that forces us to seek to occupy every corner of the planet with equal claims as every other human being. The physical fact of the geography of the planet forces us to be cosmopolitan, namely to aim to co-exist and co-habit. Kant, as well as most Kantians after him, did not consider to what extent this cosmopolitan ideal of co-existence and co-habitation included non-humans3. We know that in his ethics lectures Kant talked about subsidiary duties to animals, that is, we do have duties to animals, but only as a proxy for duties towards other humans.

There should be no need to try to persuade you that one of the greatest challenges we face as humans, in general, and as philosophers, in particular, is the ecological crisis. This crisis has several components, or rather, victims. First and foremost, there is the moral and political challenge entailed by the fact that the poorest of the poor will suffer once again disproportionably the disastrous consequences of the warming up of the atmosphere. Second, there is the moral and political challenge of how to distribute the burdens of halting and hopefully reversing the ecological effects of too much consumption, which again is unevenly distributed throughout the planet. Third, there is the moral and political challenge of the depletion of biodiversity throughout the planet. This extinction of life, due to human agency, has been so massive that biologists and ecologists call it the “Sixth Extinction,” to compare it with other similar extinctions that have taken place in the natural history of life on earth. Of course, this is not one but several moral and political challenges, for the massive planetary extermination of countless species is not just of consequence to the overall ‘status’ of life on the planet, but also to the unforeseen consequences for future generations. Indeed, the future of ‘life’ on the planet is not simply an issue about future human life, but also of both ‘plant’ and ‘animal’ life tout court. It is this particular cluster of problems that I want to consider, namely to what extent the already two millennia old ideal of cosmopolitanism must be re-thought in terms of not just a legal/political order of rights, of mutual rights and duties, that is extended to only human subjects, but now of right and duties that must be extended to the entire space of nature, of the cosmos, of that physical horizon in which we live, to which we belong, along with every other living being on the planet. We are truly on the threshold of a cosmopolitan order that captures the earliest intuitions of the Stoics, namely that by nature we all, as living beings, live under a legal umbrella that grants us all rights, that is, equal protections. In the following I will argue that the combined resources of discourse ethics, deliberative democracy, dialogic or communicative cosmopolitanism can provide us with the kind of critical resources that would allow us to face some of the challenges that we face due to the ecological crisis. Most concretely, I want to argue that the universalization, discourse and democratic principles Habermas has elaborated by linguistifying Kant’s moral philosophy allow us to develop a non-metaphysical and non-anthropocentric grounding of rights of nature. It is precisely Habermas’ post-metaphysical turn that has allowed Frankfurt School inspired ‘critical theory,’ to be able to offer some theoretical tools that can help in the discussion of what rights not just other humans and cultures have, but also what other non-human being may or should have. Postmetaphyiscal critical theory has matured not simply to a postsecular stance, but also to a post-anthropocentric moral and legal consideration of life4. In this way, then, postmetaphysical thought is the foundation for an interspecies cosmopolitanism that offers a de-centered universalism that thinks from the standpoint of the future of life on the planet.

2. Nature in Critical Theory

Left-Hegelianism — the larger rubric under which historical materialism belongs– is a form of romanticism. This is explicit in Karl Marx’s youthful and mature writings. In his Philosophical-Economic Manuscripts of 1844, Marx talks about the ‘humanization of nature and the naturalization of man,’ as a critical remark on the deforming effects of bourgeois society, on the one hand, but also as a reflection on the way in which what humans do and make, they do as creatures of nature5. Some almost 20 years later, in the Grundrisse, Marx will be more specific and will write on the social production of the human ear and the human hand through and by the invention and production of social tools6. For Marx, we are social creatures through and through, but our sociality is not bought at the expense of our natural, or human, nature. We are social animals that produce their social character through the making of devices and technologies that are develop for the sake of dealing with nature. Thus, the humanization of nature is mediated by technology, and in turn technology is embedded within a whole set of social relations. Technology itself is a social relation that mediates the human/nature nexus. There is thus no access to nature except through techno-social dispositifs. The naturalization of man, the other side of the dialectic, means that humans discover and produce their natural character as they produce those apparatuses that allow them to deal with nature. Just as language has what Karl-Otto Apel and Habermas have called a dual structure, one that points directly to nature and to other social agents simultaneously, technology points to nature while also networking a whole ensemble of social relations. In this way, already in Marx we find proleptically Georg Lukás’ pointed formulation: “nature is a societal category.”7

Lukás took the inchoate step already implicit in Marx’s materialistic dialectic. If we produce our natural essence, our what Marx called “species being” (Gattungswessen) by transforming nature through technology, then what is produce is a social detritus. We never have an unmediated access to nature, and what we take to be nature, i.e. that which is untouched by humans, is itself already a social effect. What Peirce said about Kant’s concept of the noumena applies as well to what Lukás said about a pre-social concept of ‘nature,’ namely that such a notion is incoherent, at best, and at worst, a reification of social relations that aims to mask the constructedness of our world.

First generation critical theorists, such as Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse, retained the left-Hegelian romanticism that guided Marx and Lukás, but given their specific social situation, they put the accent on the ‘nature’ side of the social production of nature.’ If, to use the Kantian language, we are compelled by nature to rise to the social level, and society imposes itself sovereign over the natural world, nature itself can re-assert itself not just through the paroxysms of human violence, but also through the dialectic of misconstrued or misrecognized nature8. In other words, the death of nature, brought on by the technological reification and hyper-social alienation, is to be countered by the resurrection of nature. Against new myth of technological supremacy, Adorno and Horkheimer called for recognition of the still ‘unsocialized’ nature in the human. Both agreed that, for instance, Freudian psychoanalysis was a critical method that analyzed the ways in which nature re-asserted itself against pathological forms of socialization and how socialization remained incomplete. For Adorno and Horkheimer, in fact, the human being is the natural animal that is deformed by society, one that nonetheless remains insufficiently socialized. For Adorno, most concretely, we are the Nietzschean mangled animals that is not animal enough or is too socialized for its own good. The Dialectic of Enlightenment9 is not just a Hegelian critique of the myth of rationalization and the reaffirmation of mythological thinking, in the form of the ideology of technoscience; it is also a reaffirmation of Marx and Lukás’s analysis of the social production of human nature10. For Adorno and Horkheimer, we remain caught between the extremes of too much un-enlightened socialization, i.e. socialization driven by reification and alienation, and submission to too many unsocialized natural urges, i.e. again due to either their repression or economic manipulation. Thus, Adorno and Horkhemier added a new level of clarification to the Marxian left-Hegelian romantic philosophical anthropology that explored the social production of nature in and through the human. On top of this natural sociality and social naturalness there is the social production of a pathological or deforming naturalness that leads us to rattle the cage of civilization even at the risk of dismantling it to the detriment of all. For this reason, the concept, as the privileged medium of grasping nature, is always both a weapon of self-subjection, and the only means of our own emancipation.

Adorno and Horkheimer, however, were in a philosophical dialogue with, on the one hand, Marcuse and Bloch, and on the other, Walter Benjamin. Marcuse and Bloch articulated the critique of instrumental reason that affirmed the possibility of nature to be resurrected by the emergence of a non-reifying technology, a technology that would not vivisect nature and in the process also lead to the pathologies of reason. Benjamin on the other hand, called for a type of thinking that recruited the help of theology in order to reawaken dead nature. Against both tendencies, Adorno and Horkheimer affirmed the social character of both epistemology and technology, and above all their inescapability and irreversibility. There was no way that we could return behind Lukás, Marx, Hegel and Kant, with their respective critiques of metaphysical thinking. As against the affirmation of a romantic Schellingian metaphysics and a theological metaphysics, Adorno and Horkheimer affirmed the irreversible and irretrievable loss of the magic of nature for the sake of our Mündigkeit. We have been inconsolably expelled from the garden of nature, and remain also still far too far from the heaven of paradise, in which all creatures would be bothers and sisters, the lion and lamb, co-existing next to each other.

3. Science as Ideology, Communicative Rationality, and the genesis of law.

Notwithstanding its neo-Hegelian character, the Dialectic of Enlightenment turned out to be too much of a critique of rationality en toto because in it Horkheimer and Adorno conceived rationalization as the reification of reason in terms of scientific, or instrumental, rationality. In other words, the Dialectic of Enlightenment led to a totalizing critique of reason in as much as all reason led to both reification and alienation. It became imperative to understand how the enlightenment project of the rationalization of social existence could be uncoupled from the scientific rationalization of both nature and the social world. This is where Habermas’ work intervened, and becomes both immanent and a new dialectical correction of the reifying telos of Adorno and Horkheimer’s totalizing critiques. There are two key points of reference for a proper understanding of how Habermas’s work contributed to disentangling first generation critical theory’s from its defeatist total critique of reason. The first is Habermas Knowledge and Human Interest from 196811. In this book Habermas sought to offer a philosophical anthropological theory of knowledge interests by way of a conceptual reconstruction of the evolution of social theory and the critique of knowledge since Kant, all the way through Freud and Nietzsche. In other words, already in this early work Habermas was offering an immanent analysis of the constitution of knowledge interests that disaggregated the types of knowledge that humans acquire by virtue of how they are oriented towards specific object realms and their corresponding guiding interests. Thus, we have an interest in controlling nature so as to survive, which directs our instrumental knowledge interest, or technical interest. We have an interest in understanding others, who cannot be properly instrumentalized. This practical interest presupposes mutuality and intersubjective relations. And we have an interest in emancipation, or liberation from social relations and modes of self-understanding that have regressive and repressive consequences. This is the interest in critique. These knowledge constitutive interests take form in the media of labor, interaction and language. But it is in language that all the three cognitive interests are united, for it is through language that we can related to the world as an objective and independently standing reality, and relate to others in normed ways. Additionally, it is in and through language that we can articulate our critique of all reifications.

Habermas’ will abandon this philosophical anthropological grounding of knowledge interests because they presuppose a history of the human species as the proper subject of the history of the acquisition of these particular knowledge interests. But, it is important to underscore that in Knowledge and Human Interests, the evolution and acquisition of certain knowledge competencies is part of our natural history. In other words, it is part of our natural history that we have evolved the capacity to instrumentalize nature by reifying it in nomothetic models that render it as something for us, as a standing reserve for our technical interest. As Henning Ottman noted in a paper from the late seventies, this very technical or instrumental interest in “managing and controlling” nature also reveals a “nature in itself” that does not challenge the instrumental knowledge interest as such, but only specific interpretations of it –purely scientistic and positivist interpretations, for instance. In other words, within Habermas’ own early work on the need to distinguish about certain forms of knowledge there is a place for the need to recognize the limits of instrumental rationality, even within the form of knowledge that is most instrumentalizing12.

The second key point of reference for understanding how Habermas disentangled critical theory from its defeatist total critiques of reason is the massive two volume work Theory of Communicative Action, whose subtitles are properly disclosive: reason and the rationalization of society, for volume one, and lifeworld and system: critique of functionalist reason13. What is relevant for our purposes is that Habermas’ has transformed his philosophical anthropological theory of knowledge into a theory of rationalities, or types of rationality. As with Knowledge and Human Interest, the Theory of Communicative Action (TCA henceforth) proceeds by way of conceptual or theoretical reconstructions. What is significantly different in the new work is the claim that in order to approach a typology of rationality we must do so in terms of the rationalization of society. Thus, a theory of reason become a theory of social rationalization, which in turn becomes a theory of the ways in which different social institutions embody certain types of rationality. It is for this reason that a proper critical social theory must also be a theory of modernity, that is to say, a theory about why our modern societies embody the forms of rationality they do in the respective institutions that make those societies self-steering and self-critical.

The major theoretical gain of TCA is that it allowed us to disaggregate not just types of rationality, but also the types of discourses that correspond to different validity claims: Thus, we have theoretical, practical, and aesthetic discourses that have to do with truth, rightness and truthfulness. In this way, Habermas’ has secured the autonomy of practical discourses that deal with questions of ethics and justice independently from theoretical or even aesthetic discourses, even as they may enter into dialogue. Thus, the pathologies of reason diagnosed in such powerful and evocative language by Adorno and Horkheimer have become in Habermas language pathological modes of social rationalization that can and should be criticized with the aid of counter-models of directed and transparent modes of social rationalization. The most important gain, however, is that now critical theory can contribute to a clarification of a normative theory of morality that combines the best work on developmental moral psychology with deontological moral philosophy. It is on the basis of the clarification of the validity claims of truth, rightness and truthfulness that drove the Habermasian project to develop a discourse ethics and a deliberative theory of democracy. It is at the level of practical discourse oriented to morality and democracy that we encounter the practical questions of co-existence with other forms of living entities. I like to briefly discuss Habermas’ treatment of the question of animals and life in general at the level of moral theory before I turn to the question of rights, and whether there is possibility for a discourse theoretical grounding of animal rights.

Habermas’ most extensive treatment of the question of animals others is to be found in his long essay entitled “Remarks on Discourse Ethics,” which is included in Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics14. In section 13 of the main essay, “Remarks on Discourse Ethics,” Habermas is addressing Günther Patzig’s critique of discourse ethics’s anthropocentrism and its putative deficit with respect to ecological moral and ethical challenges. Habermas acknowledges that the anthropocentric profile of Kantian deontological moral theories, of which discourse ethics is a variant, do seem to blind them to “questions of the moral responsibility of human beings for their nonhuman environment.” (105) Even within a Kantian framework it would be possible to recognize that there are duties towards animals and nature precisely as derivative or secondary duties, which are always referred to human beings, existing or future ones. But Patzig pushes past this recognition. He asks: does nature have a claim on our duty to respect it independently of our duties to humans? Does nature have a moral status that commands our respect independent and irrespective of other human beings?15 Habermas acknowledges that we do have the moral intuition that animals do make moral claims on us precisely in their bodily integrity, which is revealed to us when they suffer some cruelty. Habermas writes: “We have an unmistakable sense that the avoidance of cruelty towards all creatures capable of suffering is a moral duty and is not simply recommended on prudential considerations or even considerations of the good life.” (106). In fact, Habermas is here rejecting Kant’s subordination of our duties towards animals to duties towards other human beings. “Animals confront us as vulnerable creatures whose physical integrity we must protect for its own sake.” (106). This for its own sake, is what in humans we call personal dignity. Thus, animals may be said to have a unique form of dignity that commands our moral consideration. The moral considerability of non-human suffering is based on their vulnerable physical integrity. Animals are irreducibly alive and thus also vulnerable in their own way. But, taking distance from Patzig, Habermas’ notes that these moral claims remain of a different character and order than the claims humans make on us. There is no way in which our moral considerability of animal suffering can be part and parcel of the deontological structure of the moral point of view. Why? Habermas makes the following distinction. When we address the physical vulnerability of an animal we are addressing the bodily integrity of a nonhuman animal. When we address the physical vulnerability, or injurability, of a human being, we address it in terms of personal integrity (of which physical integrity is only a part, even it is only a large and important part). Habermas notes, and I quote at length because it is so crucial:

The person develops an inner life and achieves a stable identity only to the extent that he also externalizes himself in communicatively generated interpersonal relations and implicates himself in an ever denser and more differentiated network of reciprocal vulnerabilities, thereby rendering himself in need of protection. From this anthropological point of view, morality can be conceived as the protective institution that compensates for a constitutional precariousness implicit in the socialcultural form of life itself. Moral institutions tell us how we should behave towards one another to counteract the extreme vulnerability of the individual through protection and considerateness. Nobody can preserve his integrity by himself alone….Morality is aimed at the chronic susceptibility of personal integrity implicit in the structure of linguistically mediated interactions, which is more deep-seated than the tangible vulnerability of bodily integrity, though connected with it.” (109)

Evidently, our moral duties towards the personal integrity of other human beings does not carry over into animals, because we cannot attribute personality to them, since they are not part of our communicative world. We don’t come to an understanding with them about something in the world, even if we are in non-verbal forms of symbolic interaction with them. Habermas concludes: “Like moral obligations generally, our quasi-moral responsibility towards animals is related to and grounded in the potential harm inherent in all social relations.” (109). Thus, not only does the suffering of animals command our moral considerability, on the grounds that the physical integrity of animals is an issue for their own lives—it is their suffering that commands my moral response to them–they also command our moral considerability because even if we are not able to reach “understandings” with them, they are embedded within social relations within which they are vulnerable to the potential harm that is part and parcel of every social interaction16.

But how are these moral claims embodied in our social interactions? How do our moral intuitions take shape in social institutions and direct our social interactions? This is what Habermas set out to answer in his Between Facts and Norms17 (henceforth BNF). At the heart of this treatise on law and democracy are two key ideas, which are directly relevant to the aims of the present paper. First, that “law is the medium through which communicative power is translated into administrative power” (BFN, 150) that is, the power that is generated when humans come together to act in accord guided by an opinion generated through public discussion and publicly held gets transformed into administrative action. Law is the medium that transforms this communicative power into administrative wherewithal. Second, that “law is the only medium in which it is possible reliably to establish morally obligated relationships of mutual respect even among strangers.” (BFN, 460). Rights, which is the way we experience law, embody moral intuitions while also guiding our everyday interactions in a non-coercive way that nonetheless regularizes our mutual expectations. Rights stabilize our mutual behavioral expectations and serves as either dis-burdening or un-burdening mechanisms in so far as they transfer the weight of moral oughts to the positive sanction of enforceable law. In this way, law is Janus faced. One face is directed at enforceable sanction, while the other points in the direction of moral duties. In fact, in a recent paper entitled “Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights” Habermas put it this way:

Because the moral promise is supposed to be cashed out in legal currency, human rights exhibit a Janus face turned simultaneously to morality and to law. Notwithstanding their exclusively moral content, they have the form of enforceable subjective rights that grant specific liberties and claims. They are designed to be spelled out in concrete terms through democratic legislation, to be specified from case to case in adjudication, and to be enforced in cases of violation. Thus human rights circumscribe precisely that part of morality which can be translated into the medium of coercive law and become political reality in the robust shape of effective civil rights18.

Evidently, this ways of thinking about law assumes that law is not just the fiat of the sovereign but instead that positive law is the materialization of rational decisions that either have or would have the assent of all those affected by those laws. Rights result from the crystallization of the abstract character of the “legal form,” that is, rights are the instantiation of the general form of law. To use Rousseau’s language, we could say that “right” or “droit” is only that which treats the general body politic in the form of generality. The form and content of law is always general, i.e. it applies to all, and establishes a general relation among the individual members of the polity. Habermas takes this key Rousseauian idea of the general form of law, and links it with what he calls the democratic principle, namely:

…only those statues may claim legitimacy that can meet with the assent (Zustimmung) of all citizens in a discursive process of legislation that in turn has been legally constituted.”(BFN, 110)

The interpenetration of the legal form with and by the democratic principle is the site of the genesis of rights. A polity must always deliberate on what “statues” it is willing to submit so as to deal with the contingencies of economics and politics. Rights are always being generated to deal with those contingencies, but at the basis of the legislative edifice is a set of basic rights that allow for the further specification of rights. At the same time that rights are meant to ‘stabilize’ our behavioral expectations, they are also, and perhaps most importantly, mean to give voice to our moral intuitions, those intuitions that could be the basis for an agreement about how we should treat each other and all kinds of members of the polity, even if we don’t acknowledge directly as our equals and are merely treated as strangers or ‘others’.

On the basis of this understanding of the relationship between the moral point of view and the genesis of rights within a polity, understood and clarified in terms of the logic of rational deliberation, we can develop a postmetaphysical and non-anthropocentric paradigm for animal rights that gives expression to our moral intuition that non-human suffering does command our moral considerability that also imposes upon us enforceable legislation that protects all those who are injurable and vulnerable by virtue of the fact that they are, even if unwittingly, members of our community. The issue is not whether animals are rational, and thus command the respect every rational entity commands. Nor is it whether animals can communicate, or enter into our “space of reasons,” and thus hypothetically at some point assent to the consequences of the enforcement of some rights. Nor, furthermore, is the issue whether they can suffer, as Bentham objected against Kant. The issue cannot be of where and when are we willing to move the line of who or what is within the horizon of moral considerability, for if moral considerability is reduced to the locus of this line, then we are still in the grip of a circular specism—we can only admit of our duties to other entities that are always defined in terms of something that we either lack or posses, and thus, cannot admit duties to a living being that is not in some way sharing our metaphysical space. It is precisely against this kind of metaphysical chauvinism that we humans invented the institution of rights—humans and non-human. Rights are one of the few human institutions we invented not for the sake of preserving and protecting that which is similar, familiar and can argue and talk back; on the contrary, we invented (human) rights to force ourselves to respect and protect that which is alien, different, vulnerable, indefensible and speechless. This is Habermas insight, which takes us beyond Kant, Regan and Singer –namely that we can recognize, very clearly, that we legislate rights not merely on prudential and consequentialist reasons, nor solely on the grounds of metaphysically dubious grounds of “intrinsic worth,” but, on the contrary, because we recognize the mutual vulnerability of forms of life that command from us our protection insofar as we have arrived at a moral insight that regardless of the metaphysical status of these beings, they nonetheless command our protection. Rights look simultaneously in two directions: they look to our moral intuitions and they look to how to administer our interactions when we are lost in a sea of moral uncertainties. There are plenty of cases within the history of moral philosophy that have argued that we have moral intuitions about our moral duties towards animals. Now we have the added urgency that we must force ourselves to consider animals for their sake and for our sake, and for the sake of life on the planet. We legislate rights not because we are so forced by God, nature, or history; but because we are the kind of creatures who can bring both legal and moral order to the world. Rights do not require metaphysical foundations because they are expression of our gratuitous legislating will to live in accordance with moral reason and the concomitant will to submit to its non-violent coercion (gewaltloss Gewalt).


1See Eduardo Mendieta, Global Fragments: Globalizations, Latinamericanisms, and Critical Theory (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007), the introduction; and most recently, in my article “From Imperial to Dialogical Cosmopolitanism” in Ethics & Global Politics Vol. 2, No. 3 (2009): 241-258.

1See Judith Butler, “Why Judaism is not Zionism: Religious Sources for the Critique of Violence” in Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, eds., The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming)

3The notable exceptions are Ursuala Wolf, Das Tier in der Moral (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1990), and Julian H. Franklin, Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), and as I will argue, Habermas.

4On the notion of “postmetaphysical thought” see Jürgen Habermas, Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1992), on the relationship between postmetaphysical and postsecular, see Jürgen Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion (Cambridge: Polity, 2008), as well as my recent interview with Habermas, “Philosophy’s New Interest in Religion? On the Philosophical Significance of Postsecular Consciousness and the Multicultural World Society –An Interview by Eduardo Mendieta with Jürgen Habermas” (forthcoming in a blog by SSRC).

5The passage reads: “Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement, and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as social, i.e. human, being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of previous periods of development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, and between man and man, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and being, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species” in Karl Marx, Early Writings, ed. By Quintin Hoare (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 348. All italics in original.

6See the still indispensable book by Alfred Schmidt, The Concept of Nature in Marx (London: New Left Books, 1971).

7See Georg Lukás, History and Class Consciousness (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1971), 234.

8See William Leiss, The Domination of Nature (Boston: Beacon Press, 1974), and my essay “Globalizing Critical Theory of Science” in Max Pensky, ed., Globalizing Critical Theory (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), 187-208.

9Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenement: Philosophical Fragments (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002)

10See Steven Vogel, Against Nature: The Concept of Nature in Critical Theory (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996).

11 Jürgen Habermas, Knowledge and Human Interest (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)

12 See Henning Ottmann, „Cognitive Interests and Self-Reflection“ in John B. Thompson and David Held, eds., Habermas: Critical Debates (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1982), 79-97.

13 Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, Volume 1 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), and Theory of Communicative Action: Lifeworld and System: Critique of Functionalist Reason, Volume 2 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987)

14 Jürgen Habermas, Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1993). This book in English is an augmented translation of the German book Erläuterungen zur Diskursethik published in 1991.

15 This is precisely the line of questioning that Julian H. Franklin pursues in his Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy, chapters 3 & 4.

16 See the important work by Bryan S. Turner, Vulnerability and Human Rights (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), and how it develops from different sources Habermas’ intuitions.

17 Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996)

18 Jürgen Habermas, “Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights” in Metaphilosophy (forthcoming)


Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1