Beyond Anthropocentric Delusions of Abstract Reason and Logical Consistency


By Louis Arthur Gough

In his new book, How to Argue with a Meat Eater (And Win Every Time) (2023), Ed Winters (Earthing Ed) – arguably the mainstream vegan movement’s most conspicuous flagbearer – recounts his advocacy strategy of ‘Socratic questioning’. “Through this process of asking questions”, he explains, “we are able to probe for flaws in someone’s logic and reveal inconsistencies” (p. 31). For Winters, the ‘objective’ of vegan advocacy is “to make rational and logical arguments for veganism” in order to “create more positive impressions about what being a vegan means” – this, he contends, is what constitutes a ‘win’ (p. 33, emphasis added).

To be clear, highlighting inconsistencies in non-vegan logic can be satisfying, and I found Winters’ book to be a useful and enjoyable read; on the whole, I feel it is a valuable contribution to, and resource for, everyday vegan advocacy. However, is ‘winning’ by exposing logical and ethical contradiction more satisfying than effective? As the philosopher David E. Cooper (2018) points out, “susceptibility to… inconsistencies” is a petty ‘charge’ in our cultural contexts of routine contradiction (p. 126-127). In truth, the need for ideological coherency is simply an “illusion of the intellectual” (Simon, 2005, p.120); the everyday non-vegan is not a logician.

Winters is reminiscent of Singer and Regan – hyperrationals who “make a show of demonising feeling” (Fraiman, 2012, p. 101). However, as explored by Val Plumwood (1993) and Susan Fraiman (2012), among others, framing morality as a matter of ‘abstract reason’ actually reinforces the patriarchal and anthropocentric thinking that supports the subordination of nonhumans to begin with. Ethical consideration toward other animals ought not depend on our emotional whims, which itself would be anthropocentric. But to present morality as a matter of dispassionate logic plays into notions of hierarchy between reason and emotion – a hierarchy in which nonhuman animals are placed (by humans) at the bottom.

Like the dream of ‘objectivity’ untouched by the subjectivity of the beholder, ‘rationality’ free from emotion is a masculinist fantasy – a ‘god trick’, to use Donna Haraway’s (1988) phrase, and it is my belief that vegan advocacy is at its best when it undermines human deification. Having watched a lot of Ed Winters’ content, I feel that, overall, he does an excellent job at spotlighting the injustices of animal agriculture and promoting veganism. And yet, his fixed determination to expose logical contradiction often pivots the conversation around the supposed ‘irrationality’ of the non-vegan perspective – which is to say, it pivots veganism around the human.

Whilst traditional ethical theories make claims of ‘impartial reasoning’ intentionally detached from emotional responses to suffering, the feminist care tradition centres the “needs, interests, desires, vulnerabilities, hopes, and sensitivities” of nonhuman animals and calls for empathetic responses (Gruen, 2021, p. 33-34, 3). For the most part, empathy necessitates simply leaving other animals alone – an ‘activism of care’ that avoids “impos[ing] anthropocentrism on the non-consenting” (MacCormack, 2020, p. 23) – whilst other contexts are more complex (Donaldson and Kymlicka, 2011). Either way, to subvert the anthropocentrism at the heart of nonhuman animal exploitation, vegan advocacy should abandon masculinist delusions of ‘abstract reason’ and ‘logical consistency’ and instead orient veganism around a humble – and shamelessly emotional – respect for the intrinsic, beyond-human significance of other beings.




Cooper, D. E. (2018) Animals and Misanthropy. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Donaldson, S. and Kymlicka, W. (2011) Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fraiman, S. (2012) ‘Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies’, Critical Inquiry, 39(1), pp. 89-155.
Gruen, L. (2021) Entangled Empathy: An Alternative Ethic for Our Relationships with Animals. Woodstock, NY: Lantern Publishing & Media.
Haraway, D. J. (1988) ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’, Feminist Studies, 14(3), pp. 575-599.
MacCormack, P. (2020) The Ahuman Manifesto. London: Bloomsbury.
Plumwood, V. (1993) Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London: Routledge.
Simon, R. (2005) Gramsci’s Political Thought: An Introduction. London: Lawrence & Wishart.
Winters, E. (2023) How to Argue with a Meat Eater (And Win Every Time). London: Vermilion

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