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Human-animal amity and reciprocity

Marcel Wissenburg

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Wissenburg, M. (2014) Human-animal amity and reciprocity. AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies, 2:1, pp. 4-17. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/8


Animals are now widely accepted as subjects of justice: not equal but deserving equal consideration; not free but deserving liberties (that is, selfconstraining human duties). But liberty and equality are not all there is to a flourishing society – how about amity and reciprocity? Isn’t a minimal degree of friendship or amity between human and animal on the one hand, reciprocity of feelings or reciprocal benefits on the other, needed to ensure that justice will last? It is, I shall argue, possible to interpret some human-animal relations as reciprocal, even as mutually beneficial (symbiotic) exchanges (and not necessarily exchanges of goods or services). Human-animal amity, on the other hand, is excluded, since it demands the impossible of animals: identification with a joint project. The ‘best’ we can get is quasi-amity, the one-sided and dubious belief that animals benefit from and enjoy being part of the basically purely human enterprise, the joint venture that society is. Ultimately then, in relation to animals, justice remains a cold, jealous and calculating virtue.

Keywords: Amity, animal rights, animals, justice, reciprocity

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