The Human-Animal Boundary: Exploring the Line in Philosophy and Fiction - 28-29 March 2015

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University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez

The boundary between humans and non-human animals has been an integral part of philosophic discourse since antiquity, with mounting evidence of language, tool use and general cognitive abilities now leading scientists to contest its impermeability. These lines have been drawn and re-drawn in innumerable ways in imaginative literature, and the various ways in which humans perceive non-human animals has become the subject of study in various disciplines. Attempts to draw a boundary between human and nonhuman animals have involved the artistic imagination as well as philosophical reflection. Throughout the centuries philosophers and poets alike have defended an essential difference – rather than a porous transition – between what counts as human and what as animal. The attempts to assign essential properties to humans (e.g. a capacity for language use, reason and morality) often reflected ulterior aims to defend a privileged position for humans with regard to animals (which were, in turn, interpreted as speechless, irrational and amoral). While this form of humanism has come under attack through animal rights initiatives in recent decades, alternative ways of engaging the human-animal relationship from a philosophical and poetic perspective are rare. The conference thus aims to shift the traditional anthropocentric focus of philosophy and literature by replacing the question "what is human?" with the question "what is animal?".

The conference will be held in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico 28-29 March 2015. We aim to publish a selection of the papers presented at the conference

We welcome papers from several disciplines, including literature and philosophy. Please send proposals on by 31 October 2014 for a 20-minute paper to Nandita Batra ( and Mario Wenning ( with the subject line: HUMAN-ANIMAL SYMP PROPOSAL.