Most approaches to animal ethics ground the moral standing of nonhumans in some appeal to their capacities for intelligent autonomy or mental sentience. Corporal Compassion emphasizes the phenomenal and somatic commonality of living beings; a philosophy of body that seeks to displace any notion of anthropomorphic empathy in viewing the moral experiences of nonhuman living beings. Ralph R. Acampora employs phenomenology, hermeneutics, existentialism and deconstruction to connect and contest analytic treatments of animal rights and liberation theory. In doing so, he focuses on issues of being and value, and posits a felt nexus of bodily being, termed symphysis, to devise an interspecies ethos. Acampora uses this broad-based bioethic to engage in dialogue with other strains of environmental ethics and ecophilosophy.
Corporal Compassion examines the practical applications of the somatic ethos in contexts such as laboratory experimentation and zoological exhibition and challenges practitioners to move past recent reforms and look to a future beyond exploitation or total noninterference–a posthumanist culture that advocates caring in a participatory approach.
Corporal Compassion is a very important book because it shows that our moral relationships and solidarity with other animals do not have to depend on how similar 'they' are to 'us' in terms of mental capacities or sentience. Acampora avoids charges of anthropomorphism by arguing that compassion for other animals and the ethical responsibilities that follow are fostered because we are all 'bodily beings' with common vulnerabilities and experiences.
Acampora has written an excellent study that opens up an innovative approach to animal ethics, based in an interspecies morality of compassion. A corporeal phenomenology of affective relations is deployed to avoid anthropocentric, cognitive, and theoretical biases that ignore bodily experience and our animality shared with other species. Particularly noteworthy is the wide variety of topics, sources, and cross-disciplinary research, as well as fruitful exchanges between analytic, continental, and feminist perspectives. This is the finest text I have read on the subject.
Corporal Compassion offers a highly original and timely account of the foundation of animal ethics. Acampora locates this foundation, via a phenomenology of human-animal relations, in a shared bodily kinship and compassion between human beings and animals. In doing so, Acampora provides not only a sorely needed corrective to the overly abstract and intellectualist tendencies of contemporary animal rights discourse, but brings the reader back to one of the central moral questions concerning other animals: What gives rise to a sense of human responsibility to and for animals, and what is at stake in the claim that other animals have on us? Readers from both the analytic and Continental philosophical traditions will most certainly welcome this novel contribution to the existing literature on animal ethics.
Reading 'Corporal Compassion' soon went [from being] a fascinating journey to a gratifying learning experience. I recommend the book to all philosophers from an analytic background who would like to view familiar terrain through a new set of lenses. Acampora writes beautifully though exotically, and before too long one greatly appreciates—and even enjoys—the gestalt shift this book engenders.
All philosophers interested in animal ethics should read this thought-provoking book.
Ralph R. Acampora is associate professor of philosophy at Hofstra University. He is co-editor of A Nietzchean Bestiary and a member of the editorial board for Anthrozoos.learn more