This thesis joins a vibrant interdisciplinary conversation about animal subjectivity. Specifically, it addresses the question of whether nonhuman animals possess capacities for a human-comparable feeling of grief and spiritual experience. Historically, a substantial amount of philosophical discourse, particularly in the Western tradition, has centred on attempts to articulate a framework of defining features that would capture the presumably distinct nature of the human. Grief and spirituality have jealously been guarded as such uniquely human attributes, and despite nonhuman animal grief, as of late, having been admitted into scholarly discourse, the potency of the feeling fails to be recognised as equal to human grief.
This thesis examines the discourse on grief and spirituality, identifying conceptual and methodological approaches that have contributed to the prejudice against nonhuman animals. By exploring the underlying commonalities that enable the experience of grief and spirituality in both human and nonhuman animals, the research finds that experiential diversity likely manifests on an individual rather than on a species level.
A vast and growing body of knowledge concerning attachment and loss, and the shaping of animals’ (human inclusive) experiential realities more broadly, elucidates the role of the implicit forces at work for the emergence of grief and spirituality. Simultaneously it evidences that a human-comparable interpretative dimension, while it may colour the experience in distinct ways, is not necessary to experience both phenomena deeply.
In both academic and popular discussion, in fact, considerations of grief and spirituality in nonhuman animals continue to be tainted by anthropocentric philosophical questions, failing to recognise the significance of the more fundamental psycho-biological processes at the root of these experiences. A more integrative approach, as presented in this thesis, offers a stronger theoretical base for the consideration of grief and spirituality across species with ensuing ethical implications for human treatment of other animals and the developing of scholarship.