Moral Personhood as Legal Personhood

Date & time
6–7pm Tuesday 23 August 2022

Online via Zoom

Joshua Jowitt


For interstate visitors, we offer suggestions for accommodation near ANU.

Jelena Gligorijevic
ANU Law and Philosophy Forum

Part of the ANU Law and Philosophy Forum series

Moral Personhood as Legal Personhood

Happy the elephant is suffering as a direct result of her living conditions in the Bronx zoo. Judges in New York accept this, and that there is a moral issue here. Yet they claim they cannot grant her legal relief: she is merely a thing, property like any other possession, and until the legislature recognises her as a legal person their hands are tied. This talk will use Happy’s litigation as a case study to probe the belief that legal systems have absolute discretion to recognise who is and is not a legal person, and will argue that this position presupposes a legal positivist position with regards to the validity of legal rules. It will present both strong and soft natural law arguments that show this assumption to be misguided, and demonstrate that any rule which does not recognise the legal personhood of beings of moral concern cannot be legally valid.

The ANU Law & Philosophy Forum is an interdisciplinary group focused on issues spanning law and philosophy. Its core purpose is to promote research, discussion, and exchanges on various topics in law and philosophy, covering aspects of both private law and public law, and issues within both legal and political philosophy.

The Forum hosts guest speakers, holds workshops, and discusses recent scholarship of note in the field. Meetings are open to faculty members and research students from the College of Law and the School of Philosophy, and friends and colleagues of both. All are welcome to attend.

We look forward to hosting Dr Jowitt at the forum, and hope you will be able to attend.


  • Joshua Jowitt »

    Dr Joshua Jowitt is a Lecturer in Law at the Newcastle University, UK. His research expertise is in normative jurisprudence, and he focuses upon animal rights in particular. Dr Jowitt read law at Cambridge University and was awarded his PhD by University College, Durham. Since then, he has continued inquiring into the normative force of law, both in traditional areas of legal authority and in novel circumstances in which the law engages with non-human subjects, such as AI, animals and other agents. Dr Jowitt has been a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Centre for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, researching the theoretical underpinnings of Global Animal Law, and, in 2021, he was elected Co-Convenor for the Jurisprudence Subject Stream of the Society of Legal Scholars.


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