Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

Living Edition
| Editors: David M. Kaplan

Plant Sentience

  • Andrew F. Smith
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6167-4_621-1


Arguably the most salient characteristic of sentience is the capacity for subjective awareness of sensations and emotional states that are pleasant or unpleasant (DeGrazia 1996, p. 99). Specifically, sentient beings have interests, preferences, and cares associated with avoiding pain, fear, and anxiety (Rowlands 2002, p. 11). They have unpleasant sensory experiences associated with actual or potential tissue damage, emotional responses to perceived threats to their physical or psychological wellbeing, and the desire to evade both.

Although it is generally assumed that only animals have these experiences, ample evidence exists to support the proposition that plants, too, are sentient. This is not a new proposition. It is a common view among animists that dates back many millennia, is a central principle of Jainism , and was defended by Aristotle’s student and subsequent director of the Lyceum, Theophrastus (Hall 2011). But it has been out of favor even among plant...

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English and PhilosophyDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA