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Archive for July, 2020

Mary Midgley, Covid-19, and That Beastly Illusion

Mary Midgley (1919-2018) wrote her first book, Beast and Man, in her fifties; it was published shortly before her 60th birthdy. In her fifteen more books that followed, she continued to explore, with great subtlety and a far-reaching philosophical imagination, the relationship between humans, animals, nature, and the environment at large — all of which are notions that have been thrown into sharp relief by the global covid-19 pandemic. The very term “zoonosis” for a disease that crosses the animal-human boundary seems to suggest that animals are to blame. But, as BRB contributor Istvan Zardai, argues, such one-dimensional thinking would go against all that Midgley has shown us. In the end, the very notion of “beastliness” is an illusion we ought to resist, if we are to find better ways of living together with nature — which is, of course, the only way to live at all.