“Humanism is just way too focused on one animal” – Philosopher Constantine Sandis – Sentientism Episode 103

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism Podcast.

Constantine is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, Director of Lex Academic and a Fellow of the RSA. He describes his philosophical interests as “unfashionably broad, but I work primarily in the philosophy of action, moral psychology, and interpersonal understanding. I also have an interest in the psychology of philosophy, as advanced by Hume, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein.” He spent most of his twenties as a theatre director and playwright. Constantine writes a quarterly opinion column for The Philosophers’ Magazine, contributes to Times Higher Education and The Times Literary Supplement, and frequently appears as a guest on radio programmes such as The Moral Maze, Analysis, and Free Thinking.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the video above the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple and here elsewhere.

We discuss:

00:00 Welcome

01:15 Constantine’s Intro

  • “I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m a Sentientist or not”
  • Teaching & researching philosophy
  • Phil of action, Wittgenstein & Hume, virtue ethics, anti-vegan rhetoric
  • Rejecting the separation betweeen human & non-human animals “Who are ‘we’ anyway?”
  • The value of improving human worldviews (epistemology & ethics)
  • Beliefs & values & reasons driving action

08:07 What’s Real?

  • Greek Orthodox Christian upbringing but “science was taken very seriously”
  • Born in India, living in Zimbabwe
  • Being placed in “Protestant” vs. “Catholic” or “Ethics” class
  • Agnostic as a teenager
  • Degree at Oxford in phil & theology “By the end of that degree I was atheist”
  • “The more you read about it [the bible] as a human text…”
  • Studying Christian moral reasoning & Nietzsche
  • Wittgenstein & Kierkegaard
  • “I’m not one of those Dawkins style atheists”
  • “I just don’t have this faith”
  • “Everyday life was very naturalistic”
  • Culturally Christian
  • Those who stay religious but update the ethics
  • “I think there are things we can’t explain”
  • Doubt as central to science & naturalism
  • “I know the precise second I switched from agnostic to atheist” in a phil of religion lecture: “Just because it’s possible something exists & you can’t disprove it’s existence doesn’t mean you’re agnostic about it… a 3 headed dragon in some other galaxy.” Atheism & Adragonism 🙂
  • Norms re: religious rituals/marriage
  • Why do religious organisations get a pass re: basic ethics? (sexism, homophobia, abuse)?
  • Atheist societies often suffer from similar problems
  • The good that can come from religion
  • Allen Ginsberg re: homophobia in Cuba
  • Post-truth, QAnon, homeopathy, Flat Earth… epistemology fails
  • Refusing medical treatment on religious grounds
  • Vountary euthanasia
  • Wearing the hijab
  • Personal autonomy, but don’t harm others

35:18 What Matters & Who Matters?

  • “Half Humean, half Wittgensteinian”
  • Contrasting reason & care
  • Annette Baier
  • Hume: Reason as the “slave of the passions”… Without “care”, ethics would be very different
  • Hume did talk about non-human animals
  • Justice, equality, suffering
  • Mark Schroeder’s “Slaves of the Passions”: “If there was no such thing as desire ethics could not take hold”
  • Caring has to come before reason
  • Wittgenstein: “It can’t be reasons all the way down… there’s something very animal & primitive at the basis”
  • Many philosophers try to separate humans from other animals using “reason”. Hume & Wittgenstein both say “no… we share behaviours & desires”
  • Ahimsa
  • “Humanism is just way too focused on one animal… it’s kind of like religion for people who don’t want to believe in god”
  • “What’s important is not harming other beings… first do no harm”. Why can that view garner so much hatred?
  • “What is so radical about not wanting to harm beings that feel pain”
  • Theophrastus https://sentientism.info/sentientist-pledge/theophrastus
  • A meat-eating family
  • Meeting veg*ns at unversity
  • Teaching ethics
  • Rosalind Hursthouse “Humans & other animals” virtue ethics “but she was eating veal!”
  • Went vegetarian (vegan was considered radical). Vegan for 5 yrs
  • A “Slower, old school journey”
  • “Consequences matter a lot”
  • Does consequentialism risk majoritarianism?
  • Biocentrism & ecocentrism “I don’t really see how you can harm a rock”
  • Species vs. individuals
  • Panpsychism
  • Cultivated meat

01:12:09 How Can We Make a Better World?

  • Semi optimistic & pessimistic
  • Climate catastrophe
  • “People thought veganism was a fad & it isn’t”
  • #JustTransition for communities
  • “You can end world hunger if you re-distribute the food the animals are eating”
  • The agri/env clash
  • Cat diets
  • Progress? “The penny can drop”
  • The distinction between “the doing & the thing done”

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.

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Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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