Nicolas Delon

I am currently working on three interrelated projects:

  • Animal metaethics: how disagreements within animal ethics are shaped by debates at its periphery (e.g., axiology, metaethics, science and values, concepts), and how they can be solved (or dissolved) accordingly (including the vexed relation between animal and environmental ethics)
  • Matters of life and death: meaning in the lives of animals and its moral implications; the ethics of breeding and killing animals; what it takes to be irreplaceable; the suffering and the freedom of wild animals, and what are our corresponding obligations; relations between ecosystems and animal well-being; relations between captivity, freedom, and well-being
  • Descriptive ethics: how moral theory and practice can be informed, and constrained, by social/moral psychology and experimental philosophy, in particular our attitudes to nature and other entities and the underlying cognitive processes

These three projects draw on published and working papers, most of which appear below and often feed into more than just one project. P
enultimate and/or open access versions of many papers can be found on my Academia, ResearchGate, or PhilPapers profiles. You can also email me for drafts or preprints..

My dissertation, under the supervision of Sandra Laugier, defended a contextual theory of the moral status of animals [full text].


Comment: Beyond the personhood paradigm
ASEBL Journal (2019) [open access]
Comment on Shawn Thompson, “Supporting Ape Rights: Finding the Right Fit Between Science and the Law”

Commentary: Setting the bar higher
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (2019) [final draft] [link]
Commentary on Carolyn Neuhaus and Brendan Parent, “Gene Doping – in Animals? Ethical issues at the intersection of animal use, gene editing, and sports ethics”

Social norms and farm animal protection

Palgrave Communications (2018) [open access]

Animal agency, captivity and meaning

Harvard Review of Philosophy (2018) [link]

Wild animal suffering is intractable
(coauthored with Duncan Purves)
Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics (2018) [link]

Meaning in the lives of humans and other animals
(coauthored with Duncan Purves)
Philosophical Studies (2018) [link] [abstract

L'animal d'élevage compagnon de travail: l'éthique des fables alimentaires
Revue française d'éthique appliquée (2017) [link]

The values behind calculating the value of trophy hunting (coauthored with Jennifer Jacquet)
Conservation Biology (2016) [link]

Un Singer peut-il en remplacer un autre ?
Klêsis, issue: Peter Singer (2016) [link]

Etudes animales : une perspective transatlantique
Tracés : Revue de Sciences Humaines (2015) [link]

Une théorie morale peut-elle être cognitivement trop exigeante ?
Implications Philosophiques, issue: Empirical ethics (2015) [link]

La mort : un mal non nécessaire, surtout pour les animaux heureux !
Revue semestrielle de droit animalier, issue: Factory farming (2014) [link]

Moral status, final value, and extrinsic properties
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (2014) [link]

Pour une éthique animale descriptive [Plea for descriptive animal ethics]
Klêsis, issue: Experimental philosophy (2013) [link] (Czech translation by Olga Smolová, Journal of Medical Law and Bioethics 6(1) (2016) [link])


Statut moral et vulnérabilité animale (forthcoming) [penultimate draft]
Edited volume on animals and vulnerability

The meaning of animal labour (forthcoming) [penultimate draft]
Animal Labour, C. Blattner, K. Coulter, W. Kymlicka, eds. Oxford University Press

Les cartographies de l'éthique animale
S'engager pour les animaux, F. Carrié & C. Traïni. eds. (forthcoming) [final draft]

The Replaceability Argument in the ethics of animal husbandry
Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, D. Kaplan & P. B. Thompson. eds. 2nd ed. (2016) [link]

L'éthique animale en contexte
Recherches sur la philosophie et le langage: L'animal, M. Jouan & J.-Y. Goffi eds., Vrin (2016) [publisher]

La sensibilité en éthique animale, entre faits et valeurs
Sensibilités animales - Perspectives juridiques, R. Bismuth & F. Marchadier eds., CNRS (2015) [publisher]

Against moral intrinsicalism
Animal Ethics and Philosophy: Questioning the Orthodoxy, E. Aaltola & J. Hadley eds., Rowman & Littlefield (2015) [publisher]

Handicap et animaux
Tous vulnérables ? Le care, les animaux et l'environnement, S. Laugier ed., Payot-Rivages (2012) [publisher]


Animal Consciousness
with Pierre Le Neindre, Emilie Bernard, Alain Boissy, Xavier Boivin, Ludovic Calandreau, Bertrand Deputte, Sonia Desmoulin-Canselier, Muriel Dunier, Nathan Faivre, Martin Giurfa, Jean-Luc Guichet, Léa Lansade, Raphaël Larrère, Pierre Mormède, Patrick Prunet, Benoist Schaal, Jacques Servière, and Claudia Terlouw
EFSA Supporting Publication (2017) [open access]

Work in Progress

Pervasive captivity and urban wildlife (revision under review) [draft]
This paper argues from an analysis of the concept of captivity that, as the boundaries of cities expand, the boundaries of our conception of captivity should expand to include borderline animals such as urban animals.

La valeur de la souffrance : Nietzsche et Parfit
(minor revisions) [draft forthcoming]
On Parfit's reading on Nietzsche, Nietzsche's view of suffering, and how it bears on Parfit's argument for moral convergence and realism. I argue that Parfit's critique of Nietzsche's challenge is unsuccessful and that Nietzsche's view of suffering is in fact plausible.

Does suffering really matter?
(under review) [draft]
Is suffering really bad? In a robustly realistic (i.e. attitude-independent) sense? This papers has two aims: to offer a cogent interpretation of Nietzsche's claims about the value of suffering against Derek Parfit's attempt to set them aside as misguided; to offer a genealogical debunking reading of realism about suffering, including Parfit's, in light of philosophical and empirical discussions of our attitudes to suffering.

Personhood, communities, and the species problem
(under review) [draft]
I propose an account of moral status allowing for variations based on community-membership. Sketching the notion of person-communities, I argue that community-membership can constitute a set of morally relevant grounds for elevated moral status while satisfying two fundamental desiderata of theories of moral status: Moral Relevance and Supervenience. However, I argue against one common presupposition of many prominent theories of moral status – Intrinsicalism.

Valuing humane lives (under review) [draft]
In this article, I examine the two-level utilitarian case for humane animal agriculture and argue that it fails, not on first-order grounds, but as a result of internal tensions. The central concern of this paper is whether humane lives are appropriately valued in the two-level utilitarian theory by its own lights. They are not, but I suggest ways in which they could.

Meaningful lives, complicity, and collective harms (in progress) [early draft available on request]
Large-scale practices like factory farming involve considerable harm caused by the aggregated effects of individual acts, but individual consumers often cannot make a difference—a classic example of collective harm problem. I sidestep discussions of causal impotence and offer an alternative approach to the puzzle: an account of our reasons, which I call meaning-based, to avoid complicity in wrongful practices that doesn't turn on a causal solution to the problem.

Book reviews

  • Engel M. Jr. and Comstock, G. L., eds., The Moral Rights of Animals (Lexington Books, 2016), Essays in Philosophy 19(1) [link]

  • Glover J., Questions de vie ou de mort [Causing death and Saving Lives] (Labor et Fides, 2017), La Vie des Idées [FR] [EN]

  • Pelluchon C., Les nourritures (Seuil, 2015), Implications Philosophiques [link]

  • Boehm Ch., Moral Origins (Basic Books, 2012), Metapsychology Reviews Online [link]

  • Parfit D., On What Matters, 2 vol. (Oxford UP, 2011), Nonfiction [link]

  • Nussbaum M., Les émotions démocratiques [Not For Profit] (Flammarion, 2011), Implications Philosophiques [link]

  • Lestel D., L’animal est l’avenir de l’homme (Fayard, 2010), Raison Publique [link]

  • Wolff F., Notre humanité (Fayard, 2010), Nonfiction [link]