12 December 2003

Richard Swinburne on Love of (and by) Animals

The higher animals have all of the simpler kinds of belief and desire which I have described, and humans have the more sophisticated kinds of belief and desire. One might come to think that, in that case, because the beliefs and desires which humans can have are better than those which animals can have, God would create only humans. But that thought would be mistaken for more than one reason. It will suffice to mention here just one reason; I will come to others in the next chapter. This one reason is that among the great goods available to humans are those of responding in the right way to those with lesser abilities and so to love and to care for animals. Although animals can respond with great love to human love, they cannot love in the same way; and hence human love of animals will have a uniquely valuable character (because reciprocable only in a limited kind of way). To be able to love those who cannot love you in the same way is to have a unique opportunity for generous love.

(Richard Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998], 79)