Michael Marder (http://dx.doi.org/10.4161%2Fpsb.21954) brings an original understanding to our place within the natural environment. He argues against a long held bias within our ordering of living things that elevates man above all other life on the basis of sentience. Philosophy, Marder, maintains has shown too much self-regard for the “self”, and too little interest in life.
Away from the supermarket value ranges things have notionally improved for pigs, but one doesn’t have to go too far back in science to find “squealing” depicted as a robotic response to slaughter rather than a horrifying reaction to pain and distress.
According to Marder, recent research into plants shows that the development of a central nervous system is not an evolutionary point of departure that reaches the pinnacle of expression in human self-awareness. On the contrary, pain like responses, intelligent interaction with the environment and cohort signaling all occur within plants. Sentience does not culminate in human intelligence, but is itself the very condition of life, whether it be human, animal or plant.
The moral vocabulary of rights that vegans and vegetarians are urging us to extend beyond our own species may need to be rewritten again, but this time to include plants. In an age when ecosystems are being described at the very moment of their destruction, Marder’s thinking around the moral inclusiveness of all life is timely.