Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Deborah Slicer

Commitee Members

Christopher Preston, Jessica Pierce, Soazig LeBihan


Animal Cognition, Animal Ethics, Animal Hospice, Bioethics, Care Ethics, Companion Animals, End-of-Life Care, Ethics, Pets


University of Montana


In this philosophical project, I discuss the different kinds of companion animal and human relations, or in other words, and provide an argument that specifies our ethical obligations to the animals we live with—-our ‘pets.’ In the first chapter, I suggest that there are three types of relationships that humans can have with animals. These are a relation of instrumentalism, paternalism, and companionism, respectively. Such relations rest along a spectrum, but I will argue that companionism is the ideal. After making and defending such conceptual distinctions between human-animal relations, the next chapter will tackle the problem of animal minds. Specifically, I will argue first that, though we cannot know exactly what an animal is feeling or thinking, it is safe to assume first that animals do in fact have mental states. Secondly, I’ll argue that animals in fact experience very complex emotions and work according to what seems to be akin to practical reason. Finally, I’ll argue that it is possible to attribute mental content to them accurately. Accurate attributions must be based on science and must be done under a caring disposition. Next, chapter three will discuss what it means to care for another being, both human and animal, and it will posit that the relation of companionism, the ideal human-animal relationship, is modeled as an animal care ethic. This ethic is richer than an egalitarian and impartial animal ethic operating under deontology or utilitarianism. I’ll show why the care tradition in ethics works as a better framework for companion animals than the justice tradition. In the fourth chapter, I will conclude with a discussion of what an ethic of companionism would look like if it were practiced in an end-of-life context.



© Copyright 2013 Casie Jean Dunleavy