The present article examines a concern I have had for some time about the compatibility of humanistic psychology with the emerging animal rights movement. Beyond working out my position, the paper has the additional educational and, frankly, political purpose of bringing animal rights issues to the attention of humanistic psychologists.
The article applies certain concepts of contemporary animal rights philosophy, notably "speciesism," to both the philosophy of humanism and humanistic psychology. While on a philosophical level, certain concepts are discussed that would likely block a rapprochement, I feel that humanistic psychologists as individuals are likely to extend their compassion to nonhuman animals.
A review of philosophical humanism reveals that its important concept of individuality excludes nonhuman animals. Within this conception, animals simply are not individuals. In fact, animals are employed as a categorical foil representing precisely the absence of reason and relative autonomy, hallmarks of individuality.
In humanistic psychology, the concept of self actualization is open to similar charges. A compatability and, hence a reconciliation, is suggested through a phenomenological rendering of empathy, a second concept critical to humanistic psychology.
Shapiro, K. J. (1990). Animal Rights Versus Humanism The Charge of Speciesism. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 30(2), 9-37.