Interspecies Empathy in a Time of Extinction: ISM Fellows Lunch Talk with Ryan Darr

Event time: 
Thursday, March 7, 2024 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Miller Hall (PROS406) See map
406 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Free, but register in advance
Open to: 
Yale Community Only
Event description: 

Several prominent scholars have argued for the importance of interspecies empathy for environmental and animal ethics. By breaking down species barriers, empathy can open us up to the worlds of non-human others, thereby combatting anthropocentrism and motivating action. In this talk, Darr complicates the role of interspecies empathy by situating it in our moment of accelerating species extinction. Interspecies empathy tends to diminish the importance of species membership, while responses to the extinction crisis do the opposite, elevating the importance of species membership. As a result, interspecies empathy becomes ethically ambiguous in this time of extinction. The ethical ambiguity is explained through a reading of two recent novels, Ramona Ausubel’s The Last Animal (2023) and Lydia Millet’s Dinosaurs (2022). Darr concludes by arguing that recent scientific discoveries about animal experience allow new possibilities for an approach to interspecies empathy that is more sensitive to the extinction crisis.

The event is free, but registration is required by Tuesday, March 5 at 12 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Ryan Darr has been a postdoctoral associate in religion, ecology, and expressive culture at the ISM and will be continuing for another year from 2023-24. Prior to his time at Yale, he was a postdoctoral research associate in philosophy and religion at the Princeton University Center for Human Values. He holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University. Ryan is a religious ethicist. He is currently working on a book that draws from theology, philosophy, and literature to address ethical issues surrounding the emerging mass extinction event. The book situates the value of biodiversity conservation in relation to other ethical goods, including animal welfare, social justice, and decolonization. It also considers the role of grief, ritual, and the arts in recognizing and valuing the species we are losing. In addition, he is further developing work on longstanding interests in the relationship between individual responsibility, harm causation, and structural injustice. His first book, which is forthcoming from The University of Chicago Press, offers a new, robustly theological story of the origin of consequentialism, one of the most influential views in modern moral theory. It uses the new historical account to intervene in contemporary ethical debates about consequentialism and about how ethicists conceive of goods, ends, agency, and causality. You can find more information on Ryan’s work here. Listen to this podcast where Ryan discusses the global climate crisis.