Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from

Is Humanism good enough?

Sentientism is evidence, reason and compasson for all sentient beings
May 2020

While many humanists do extend their circles of concern more widely, the term humanism implies and encourages an anthropocentric focus on one species and gives us all excuses for cognitive dissonance and akrasia (not that we need any).


I’ve had some great conversations since my first article on Sentientism was published in Areo. As a reminder, Sentientism is an ethical philosophy or worldview that applies evidence and reason and extends moral consideration to all sentient beings. Sentient beings have the ability to experience things – suffering or flourishing. They include humans, non-human animals and potentially even artificial or alien intelligences.

One recurring theme of those conversations, often with fellow humanists, runs as follows…
“Humanism already does a good enough job. Most humanists do care about non-human animals (anecdotally ~40% seem to be vegan or vegetarian in some countries) and we can stretch the humanist concept easily to sentient AIs. Humanists UK and the IHEU already reference sentient non-human animals in their definitions.

The term humanism only applies to moral objects or agents – we can and do extend our concern to non-human subjects. Humanism is already a reasonably well organised movement via the IHEU and national organisations. Humanism is a simpler term and is already widely understood. It has a rich intellectual and cultural heritage. Sentientism is a clunky term that might just confuse people and may fragment an important progressive movement.”

I have some sympathy with these lines of argument. I see humanism as a force for good that I don’t want to distract from or fragment. That gave me pause for thought when deciding whether to put effort into my rather amateur project to develop and popularise Sentientism.



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