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Boyd Leupen wins MSc Thesis Prize 2015

Boyd Leupen has won the Institute of Political Science MSc Thesis Prize 2015. With 'Refuting asymmetrical Kantianism: On the moral standing of animals', Leupen completed his Political Science master studies and contributed an excellent piece of scholarly work. According to the jury, his thesis stands out for its 'erudition, commitment, and depth of argument.'

No ‘moral asymmetry’ between humans and animals

Leupen’s thesis attacks the ‘asymmetric Kantian’ view, which holds that there is a moral asymmetry between human and nonhuman animals founded on the idea of personhood. Its main object of criticism is that kind of anthropocentrism which implies that only human animals are proper subjects of rights. 

The thesis, supervised by Nicholas Vrousalis, contributes in original ways to highly topical debates on rights-ascription (who is a proper subject of a moral right), the moral pitfalls of animal experimentation, the ethics of meat-eating and the controversial political question as to the place of nonhuman animals in a world dominated by humans. 

The conclusions of Leupen’s thesis are clearly articulated and suggest promising directions for future research. It is also, in the estimation of its supervisor, an excellent basis for a PhD at the intersection of political philosophy and environmental ethics.

‘High standard of argumentation, thorough analysis, top quality writing’

The 2015 MSc Thesis Prize jury—consisting of Theresa Reinold, Francesco Ragazzi, and Arjen Boin—is impressed with Leupen’s work, which they classify as a ‘well-researched confrontation with an extensive literature’, deserving praise for its ‘precision of argument’.

Leupen’s critique of ‘asymmetric Kantianism’ also has its methodological merits. According to the jury, ‘the thesis is fully conversant, indeed fluent, in the analytic approach to philosophy: it takes up an argument, charitably reconstructs its presuppositions and then defends or attacks it premiss by premiss.’

Furthermore, the jury compliments the author on his writing: ‘very high quality‘, ‘with brio and passion’. Leupen, in short, has demonstrated remarkable academic maturity. Reinold, Ragazzi, and Boin: ‘Overall, Leupen’s thesis manifests a level of erudition and understanding well beyond what is normally expected of a Master's student with only one year of graduate experience.’

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