Steve F. Sapontzis

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Steve F. Sapontzis
Born (1945-02-09) February 9, 1945 (age 76)
OccupationProfessor emeritus of philosophy, California State University, East Bay
Known for
Notable work
Morals, Reason, and Animals (1987)

Steve F. Sapontzis (born February 9, 1945) is an American philosopher and professor emeritus of philosophy at California State University, East Bay who specializes in animal ethics, environmental ethics and meta-ethics. He is the author of Morals, Reason, and Animals (1987) and Subjective Morals (2011), and editor of Food for Thought: The Debate over Eating Meat (2004). He was co-founder in 1985 of the journal Between the Species: A Journal of Ethics, and founder of the Hayward Friends of Animals Humane Society. He was also one of the first members of the board of directors of the Society for the Study of Ethics and Animals.


Sapontzis was born in New York City, the son of Zissis Peter and Lea Marie Vial Sapontzis.[1]

Sapontzis obtained his BA from Rice University in 1967, and his MPhil and PhD from Yale University in 1970 and 1971. He joined the philosophy faculty at California State University, East Bay in 1971, and became professor emeritus in 1999.[2] He was a member of the board of the American Philosophical Quarterly (1991–1994), and sat on the animal welfare research committee at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (1986–1990).[3]

On December 25, 1992, he married Jeanne Marie Gocker.[1]

Morals, Reason, and Animals[edit]

In Morals, Reason, and Animals, Sapontzis argues that nonhuman animals have interests, and that it is the existence of these interests that justifies their inclusion in the moral community. He writes that human beings should extend to animals the same moral protection for the latter's interests that we enjoy for our own. Sapontzis argues further that the burden of proof should shift toward those who argue against equal consideration for animals:

Aristotle thought that men were naturally superior to women and Greeks naturally superior to other races; Victorians thought white men had to shoulder the burden of being superior to savages; and Nazis thought Aryans were a master race. We have come to reject these and many other supposedly natural hierarchies; the history of what we consider moral progress can be viewed as, in large part, the replacement of hierarchical worldviews with a presumption in favor of forms of egalitarianism. This substitution places the burden of proof on those who would deny equal consideration to the interests of all concerned, rather than on those who seek such consideration. Consequently, some reason is needed to justify the fairness of maintaining a hierarchical worldview when we are dealing with animals."[4]

The claim that rationality should be prerequisite for moral consideration is challenged by Sapontzis, who argues that the experience of pain is not greater if an individual is more intelligent and that the opposite may well be the case, as individuals who lack the capacity to understand why they are experiencing pain in a certain situation may suffer more as a result.[5]

Sapontzis also investigates the issue of wild animal suffering and whether humans have an obligation to help these animals. He questions the view that aiding these individuals is ridiculous or absurd, instead arguing that if we have the means to help an individual suffering in such a situation, we should do so; as long as we do not inflict a greater harm in the process. Sapontzis makes a clear distinction between his antispeciesist position and that of environmentalists who are against helping animals suffering in these situations.[5] These ideas were anteceded by his 1984 paper, "Predation".[6]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Morals, Reason, and Animals. Temple University Press, 1987.
  • (ed.) Food for Thought: The Debate over Eating Meat. Prometheus Books, 2004.
  • Subjective Morals. University Press of America, 2011.


  • Sapontzis, S. F. (1977). "Direct Perception, Some Further Comments". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 37 (4): 556–565. doi:10.2307/2106436. ISSN 0031-8205. JSTOR 2106436.
  • Sapontzis, S. F. (1978). "A Note on Merleau-Ponty's "Ambiguity"". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 38 (4): 538–543. doi:10.2307/2106575. ISSN 0031-8205. JSTOR 2106575.
  • Sapontzis, S. F. (1980). "Are Animals Moral Beings?". American Philosophical Quarterly. 17 (1): 45–52. ISSN 0003-0481. JSTOR 20009783.
  • Sapontzis, S. F. (1981). "A Critique of Personhood". Ethics. 91 (4): 607–618. doi:10.1086/292273. ISSN 0014-1704. JSTOR 2380296. S2CID 170292757.
  • Sapontzis, S. F. (1983). "Moral Value and Reason". The Monist. 66 (1): 146–159. doi:10.5840/monist19836616. ISSN 0026-9662. JSTOR 27902793.
  • Sapontzis, S. F. (1984). "Predation". Ethics and Animals. 5 (2): 27–38. doi:10.15368/ea.1984v5n2.1. ISSN 0197-9094.
  • Sapontzis, Steve F. (1985). "Moral Community and Animal Rights". American Philosophical Quarterly. 22 (3): 251–257. ISSN 0003-0481. JSTOR 20014103.
  • Sapontzis, S. F. (1987). "Moral Relativism: A Causal Interpretation and Defense". American Philosophical Quarterly. 24 (4): 329–337. ISSN 0003-0481. JSTOR 20014210.
  • Sapontzis, Steve F. (1990). "Groundwork for a Subjective Theory of Ethics". American Philosophical Quarterly. 27 (1): 27–38. ISSN 0003-0481. JSTOR 20014309.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Steve F. Sapontzis Papers 1978-2001". NC State University Libraries. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  2. ^ "Directory of Emeritus Faculty" (PDF). California State University, East Bay. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  3. ^ "Morals, Reason and Animals: Steve Sapontzis interviewed by Claudette Vaughan". abolitionist-online. Archived from the original on January 14, 2010. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  4. ^ Sapontzis, Steve F. (1981). Morals, Reason, and Animals. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-87-722493-8.
  5. ^ a b "30 years since the publication of Morals, reason and animals". Animal Ethics. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  6. ^ Sapontzis, Steve (1984). "Predation". Ethics and Animals. 5 (2). doi:10.15368/ea.1984v5n2.1. ISSN 0197-9094.

External links[edit]