Worthy of Empathy
Public Talk with Elisa Aaltola
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
12 May 2022
As part of The scent of Flowers, The touch of Soil, Dominik Fleischmann has invited Elisa Aaltola, an expert in environmental philosophy and moral psychology, to speak about the ethical flaws of animal experiments and to lay out the arguments for a cruelty free future. Aaltola will discuss her research into empathy voids and propose approaches towards nonhuman animals as minded individuals, worthy of empathy, before engaging in an open discussion with the artist. This public talk provides an opportunity to dive deeper into the philosophical issues raised in the exhibition and to engage in a discussion about the possibilities, necessity and importance of research without suffering.
“Empathy requires that we perceive others as subjects with minds. However, within the anthropocentric worldview, nonhuman animals are often depicted as beings with lesser or nonexistent minds – a phenomenon that in literature is termed “mechanomorphism” and “dementalisation”. This, again, leads to empathy voids in how human beings relate to their nonhuman kin. The talk discusses the societal prevalence of both dementalisation and empathy voids, and suggests how we might address them e.g. via arts. One of the most significant yet rarely mentioned questions of our era is: how to approach nonhuman animals as minded individuals, worthy of empathy?” –Elisa Aaltola
Elisa Aaltola, PhD, works as a senior researcher and adjunct professor in philosophy at the University of Turku, Finland. Her research has focused on animal philosophy and normative moral psychology. Aaltola has published 12 books on these topics, including Varieties of Empathy: Moral Psychology and Animal Ethics (Rowman & Littlefield 2018) and Animal Suffering: Philosophy and Culture (Palgrave MacMillan 2012). In 2021 she was awarded the Pro Animalia Prize for her life’s work for animals.
image: Dominik Fleischmann, Only to live, 2022