Q&A with Political Philosophy Professor Will Kymlicka

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Professor Will Kymlicka is the Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University and focuses his studies on multicultural citizenship. He questions whether animals are the type of being with whom humans can establish fair terms of cooperating citizenship. His most recent book, co-authored with Sue Donaldson, is Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights (2011).   Before presenting his public lecture on Animals and the Frontiers of Citizenship, Courtney Wong '15 sat down with Will Kymlicka for a brief interview.

Courtney Wong (CW): What made you interested in political philosophy in the first place?

Will Kymlicka (WK): I was always interested in justice, what makes something fair or unfair. I had initially thought of that as an issue of politics and economics, so I enrolled in a joint major of those studies. But as I was taking those courses, I found that most professors in those fields were not interested in discussing justice. When I happened to take a philosophy course, which was all about justice, I pretty quickly realized that if you want to think about, talk about, and write about justice, philosophy is a home. 

CW: Why did you choose to write about animal rights? 

WK: For 2,000 years, political philosophy has focused on justice and how humans govern other humans. It was conceived as something that only applies to governments and humans, but the reality is that we also exercise politcal power over animals. We make decisions on a daily basis on whether they should live or die and what kindsof houses, social relationships they can have. &nbsp

We decided to bring animals into our society, so as a society we owe them rights to membership. 

CW: Do you have a pet? 

WK: I grew up with one, and for many years, my wife and I had two dogs. When we first got “Cody” we left him for 6-8 hours on his own, and that is just not fair.  We intend and expect to get another, but we are now more aware that when it comes to owning pets, its important to set the conditions for them to flourish. 

You can also read The Dartmouth's article on Will Kymlicka's public lecture here.