Animalism (philosophy)

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In the philosophical subdiscipline of ontology, animalism is a theory of personal identity that asserts that human persons are animals.[1] The concept of animalism is advocated by philosophers Eric T. Olson, Peter Van Inwagen, Paul Snowdon, Stephan Blatti, David Hershenov and David Wiggins.[2][page needed] The view stands in contrast to positions such as John Locke's psychological criterion for personal identity or various forms of mind–body dualism, such as Richard Swinburne's account. Whilst the animalist is committed to something like the claim that human persons are essentially animals, the animalist is quite content to allow non-human persons, e.g., sufficiently advanced robots, aliens, or other animals.

Thinking-animal argument[edit]

A common argument for animalism is known as the thinking-animal argument. It asserts the following:[3]

  1. A person that occupies a given space also has a Homo Sapiens animal occupying the same space.
  2. The Homo Sapiens animal is thinking.
  3. The person occupying the space is thinking.
  4. Therefore, a human person is also a human animal.

Use of term in ethics[edit]

A less common, but perhaps increasing, use of the term animalism is to refer to the ethical view that all or most animals are worthy of moral consideration.[4] It may be similar, though not necessarily, to sentientism.



  1. ^ Olson 2007, sec. 2.1.
  2. ^ Blatti & Snowdon 2016; Garrett 1998; Snowdon 2017.
  3. ^ Olson, Eric (2003). "An Argument for Animalism" (PDF). Personal Identity: 318–34.
  4. ^ The Animalist. "What Is Animalism?". Medium. Retrieved 29 March 2019.


  • Blatti, Stephan; Snowdon, Paul, eds. (2016). Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, & Identity. Oxford University Press.
  • Garrett, Brian (1998). Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-16573-0.
  • Olson, Eric T. (2007). What Are We? A Study in Personal Ontology. Oxford University Press.
  • Snowdon, Paul (2017). Persons, Animals, Ourselves. Oxford University Press.

Further reading[edit]