From Dispositions to Obligations: Do Animals Have Obligations?

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Seminarsaal 20 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Olimpia LODDO, University of Cagliari, Italy
John R. Searle (2010) draws a distinction between dispositions and obligations. A disposition is a basic consistent tendency to behave in a particular way; an obligation presupposes the representation that a particular behavior is obligatory. According to Searle, both human and non-human animals can have dispositions. On the contrary, to have obligations is a characteristic of the humankind. In fact, in order to have obligations, are necessary complex linguistic abilities that animals lack. Other scholars support the thesis that the normative attitudes evolved earlier or independently of linguistic attitudes (e.g. Michael Tomasello 2009, Rodolfo Sacco 2015). The thesis that advanced linguistic abilities are necessary for being obliged and for feeling obliged is debatable. According to the ethologist Franz de Waal (2014), the non-human primates can “correct deviations from an ideal state”, so, even if they do not understand what an obligation is, they seem to be able to understand that a behavior is obligatory. Do animals have obligations? The goal of the paper is to clarify this question and to analyze the relationship between being obliged and having high-order cognitive functioning involving complex linguistic ability and abstract thinking.