Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Environmental Philosophy

Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Deborah Slicer

Commitee Members

Bridget Clarke, Christopher Preston, Louise Economides


animals, animal ethics, animal rights, philosophy, ethics, moral disagreement, iris murdoch, cora diamond


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Feminist Philosophy | Metaphysics | Philosophy of Mind


I intend this paper as a sort of philosophical reflection on my experiences as an animal activist. In my three years of doing outreach on college campuses, I came to an increasing appreciation for what Murdoch referred to as “the difficulty and complexity of the moral life and the opacity of persons” (Murdoch 1998d, 293). This appreciation came in turn at the cost of an increasing disappointment with many of the philosophers I admired at the time – namely, Peter Singer and Tom Regan. What I came to understand is that many of these contemporary moral theories were in fact inadequate at grappling with the multi-faceted and endlessly varied phenomenon of moral disagreement as I encountered it in my experiences as an animal activist. In what follows, I hope to articulate what I found disappointing about philosophers like Regan and Singer. In pursuing this critique, however, I will instead focus on the more contemporary work of Paola Cavalieri: a philosopher very much in the same tradition as Regan and Singer. Afterwards, I will explore the merits of an alternative picture of moral disagreement, one I found in Virginia Woolf’s essay, “The Death of the Moth.” Throughout, I will be relying on the insights of Iris Murdoch and Cora Diamond.



© Copyright 2017 Kristian Cantens