Professor Jamieson's most recent book is Morality’s Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature (Oxford, 2002). He is also the editor or co-editor of seven books, most recently A Companion to Environmental Philosophy (Blackwell, 2001), and Singer and his Critics (Blackwell, 1999), named by Choice as one of the outstanding academic books of 1999. He has also published more than eighty articles and book chapters. His research has been funded by the Ethics and Values Studies Program of the National Science Foundation, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Office of Global Programs in the National Atmospheric and Aeronautics Administration. He is on the editorial board of such journals as Environmental Ethics; Environmental Values; Science, Techology and Human Values; Science and Engineering Ethics; the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare; and The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics.
Question: What did you think of Grizzly Man?
Dale Jamieson: Well, "Grizzly Man" is a really interesting film at multiple levels, I mean. It's first of all a film about Treadwell, who himself is an extremely interesting person who has several different layers and levels of views in his relations to animals and to nature but then it's also a film about Werner Herzog who has his own take, not just on Treadwell, but his own views about nature and about animals. Now Treadwell, on the one hand, is a remarkable person informing the relationships that he did form with grizzly bears. Ecologists and ethnologists will spend decades in the field and really not develop relationships that are as strong and actually as informative as the relationships that Treadwell formed. At the same time, Treadwell, right? It's Treadwell, Treadwell is really one of us in the sense that he's a normal person who is projecting onto the animals, all of his own desires, his failures, his successes, who he wants to be. And so there's a way in which Treadwell doesn't really see the animals, he sees himself as reflected in the animals and that's part of what makes the film interesting. What really makes it interesting is both of those things are going on in Treadwell, both he has a real connection to these animals of the very profound kind and also he's using the animals to see a reflection of himself in the eye of the bear.
Question: Do you obey all the moral conclusions you have reached?
Dale Jamieson: I am very far from being the sort of person I think that I like to be, in many ways. Probably the thing that I do that is the least defensible is I fly too much in airplanes and there will come a time, I suppose, when we'll feel the need to fly less than we do and still feel as though we can accomplish the things that we can accomplish. There'll come a time when airplanes are much more efficient when it comes to producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions, there'll come a time when we'll be able to offset those emissions much more effectively than we do now. But alas at the moment, flying airplanes is really one of the least defensible things that we do and it's one of the things that I indulge in quite frequently, alas.
Question: What is the measure of a good life?
Dale Jamieson: Well, one measure of a good life, I think, is to be engaged in projects that one thinks are meaningful and worthwhile. So I would put the emphasis of a good life on activity, on the walk rather than the destination, and I think that most of the things that any of us do that are really valuable and really important are projects that we really shouldn't expect to be completed in our lifetime because if they could completed in our lifetime, they probably wouldn't be so important that we should devote our lives to them.
Recorded on: April 15, 2009