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Animalism (philosophy)

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In the philosophical subdiscipline of ontology, animalism is a theory of personal identity that asserts that humans 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.

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]