The Lives of Animals: Lesson 2 English, Yr 10

Philosophy and Animals

Information to Teachers

It is assumed that students have read the text pri0or to completing the suggested activities.

Lesson Overview

This lesson introduces students to the study of philosophy. Through discussion, close reading, analytical writing, in addition to reflection, students will be given multiple opportunities to share their thoughts and opinions on the various philosophical arguments concerning the human-animal relationship.

Time Allocation

50-100 minutes or 1-2 lessons.

Primary Resource

Voiceless Resources

Other Resources 

Inquiry Questions

  • What is the study of philosophy?
  • What are the benefits of thinking in a philosophical way?
  • Do animals think?

Suggested Learning Activities


Hold a 5-10-minute class discussion on the following two questions. Or, get students to complete this as a written task to test prior knowledge.

Examples could include:

  •  Norma – Holds a Ph.D. in philosophy.
  •  Costello makes mention of a number of western philosophers in her lectures and during the dinner party. These include; Kant, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Mary Midgley, Tom Regan, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Nagel, Montaigne, and Plutarch.
  •  Costello’s arguments are philosophical in nature.



Case Study: René Descartes – Cogito ergo sum.

a)    Students to watch the School of Life video Philosophy – René Descartes.

b)    Re-read the section on Descartes (pp. 33-35) as a class. Stop to explain/discuss sections or vocabulary, as necessary.

c)    Students annotate the section. Guide them to identify and consider the effect of the following:

  • Metaphor;
  • Analogy;
  • Repetition;
  • Listing;
  • Personal pronouns;
  • Connotations of powerful words.

d)    Students then complete the Worksheet – Philosophy and Animals.



Hold a class discussion on the following statements from the novella. Encourage open and honest reflection, good listening skills, and a safe environment for discussing varied perspectives.

  • “Man is godlike, animals thing like.” Pg. 23.
  • “This kind of talk polarize people.” Pg. 22.
  • “Animals have no shame.”/ “Shame makes human beings of us, shame of uncleanness.” Pg. 40.
  • “At bottom we protect our own kind. Thumbs up to human babies, thumbs down to veal calves.” Pg. 45.
  • “Animals are just biological automata.” Pg. 48.


This would be a great opportunity to run a Socratic Seminar using the statements above. This takes time and planning. Find out more on how to plan and run a Socratic discussion here:



Post-It Note Reflection

Hand out a Post-It note to each student. Give students 5-10 minutes to complete the following:

  • On one side, write down the most important take-away from today’s lesson;
  • On the reverse side, write down a question you still have or something you are unsure/confused about.

Students hand these in as they leave the lesson.



On page 26, Costello touches on the concept of Legal Personhood, that is to give legal rights to animals.

Watch the following video and consider your own views on the issue.

Voiceless Video Animals: Property or Persons?

Voiceless would be delighted to receive any completed student work to feature on the Voiceless website. If you have received parental and student consent, please email work to

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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