Wild/Domestic Distinction

The Wild/ Domestic distinction

Chapter 10 of The Moral Menagerie, by Marc Fellenz, draws upon Nietzsche and many other philosophers that argue for a return to our natural animal selves. The authors argue for people returning to their wild selves and abandoning things such as culture which has domesticated us. The authors argue that this domestication of humans makes it impossible to extend an ethical framework to nature.

The chapter argues how our culture, our sense of morality, and the position that we are separate from nature makes it very difficult to extend moral consideration to the non-human world. In addition to this our culture is not something that should exist naturally, it is something created by humans to help domesticate the human animality. He argues that “’the meaning of all culture is the reduction of the beast of prey ‘man’ to a tame and civilized animal, a domestic animal” (Fellenz 192). Nietzsche argues that when you look at an animal as a human animal, it is clear to see that morality is a tool to control and domesticate us. We would not hold a bear accountable by putting it in jail if it ate a camper, however we hold humans accountable because they are supposed to be domesticated. The ethical biases we have adopted have been created to help support our agricultural civilization. This domestication of the human makes the human very much dependant on the various institutions in our culture to live, just like how cows and other domesticated animals are dependent on us to survive. Also as we have “progressed” as civilization, we have become more and more dependant.
Because of this an author by the name of Livingston argues that “non-human nature cannot fit any ethical model, because ethical models are human abstract constructions designed to serve the humans who constructed them” (Fellenz 196). Nature does not need ethics; applying ethics to it from our domesticated viewpoint can never properly work. Nature doesn’t play by moral rules of domestication. Mark Midgley however disagree with this claim saying that by extending an animal ethic and becoming a mixed community with the animal will allow us to learn from the animal and allow us to move past our domestication to other cultural possibilities.

We are now left with some question. Should we abandon this domestication and return to mans wild state, and if we did this what would society be like? What would this mean in our relationship with animals? This are very good questions, because man might become brutes who have no care for the well being of animals. The lack of morality might simply lead to more animal abuse and slaughter, and widespread animal extinction as animals are hunted to death. Lvingston takes this side of the issue. He mentions that 40,000 years ago, when the Homo sapiens first appeared, before the emergence of agriculture, humans began to spread across the world causing many species to go extinct at an alarming rate. Therefore returning to our wild, “feral” selves could “totalize the ecological devastation wrought by domesticated civilization” (Fellenz 208).

However the opposite might also be true. Maybe our cultural practices and faith in our system helps relieve our guilt over the killing of animals. Maybe without society saying that it is okay to exploit animals, and without our institutions we would feel guilty about harming animals. The abandonment of our domesticated lifestyle might cause us to forsake the killing of animals. Luke argues that ethics is a way to put rational restraints on our emotional selves. That without the self domestication of western ethics we would be more likely to listen to our emotions and realize the horror of harming animals. Luke says that we should return to our wild selves, abandon any idea of putting animals in the ethical realm, and abandon ethics. Our rational ethical systems only cause us to subvert animals, and consider them lesser beings. He says that all these things only tame our natural compassion and sympathy we would feel for animals.

Do you think that our ethical systems cause animals to become exploited further, or do they protect the animals?

Are humans born with the ability to feel compassion, or do we learn that from society? If we are not what does that mean to the proposed idea that we return to our “feral” selves?

Would returning to some wild amoral nature even be possible?

Fellenz, Marc R. "Sacrifice and Overcoming." The Moral Menagerie: Philosophy and Animal Rights. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
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