Are Animals moral agents Mark Rowlands

Are Animals Moral Agents?

Mark Rowlands

Do we radically misclassify animals? University of Miami Professor of Philosophy Mark Rowlands challenges the boundaries between humankind and animals as minds and moral agents alike.

  • MarkRowlands2012
    Mark Rowlands
    Philosopher, bestelling author, The Philosopher and the Wolf.

About the Course

What are humans doing when we act morally? Can animals act morally? In this course, Professor Mark Rowlands draws on his unique experience of a decade spent living with a wolf to uncover the flaws in the study of animal morality and examines the relationship between humans and other animals in the modern world. Might the differences between us be less significant than we like to think?

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

  • the arguments for and against animal consciousness, belief, emotion and agency
  • why the legacy of Descartes has misled philosophers
  • when we can justify harm to animals
  • the philosophy of animal rights
  • when we can classify beings as moral agents, subjects and patients
  • whether examples of animal compassion stand up to scrutiny.


As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning, suggested further readings to stimulate a deeper exploration of the topic, discussion boards to have your say and an end-of-course assessment set by Professor Rowlands.

IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

About the Instructor

  • Mark Rowlands

    Miami-based philosopher Rowlands is most widely known for his best-selling memoir, The Philosopher and the Wolf, about the decade he spent living and travelling with the wild canine of the title.

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: The Minds of Others
    From emotion to beliefs, how do we delve into the minds of animals? Do they explore ours?
  • Part Two: Rights for Life
    What rights should animals have? Should their interests not be overridden by human concerns?
  • Part Three: Can Animals Be Moral?
    Do animals act with compassion? If animals are moral, what would it mean for humanity?

Suggested Further Readings

A selection of further readings has been suggested by Professor Rowlands as part of this course. 

Explore Further

Our editors have brought together a range of content from across which explore the ideas in this course.