"The Politics of Love" - Writer Philip McKibbin - Sentientism Episode 120

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Philip is a writer from Aotearoa New Zealand, of Pākehā (NZ European) and Māori (Ngāi Tahu) descent. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, affiliated with the Sydney Environment Institute. He holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy from The University of Auckland & diplomas in te reo Māori (the Māori language) from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Philip has written for publications such as the Guardian, Newsroom, & Takahē. His book, Love Notes: for a Politics of Love, is published in New York by Lantern Books. In 2018, he co-organised ‘The Politics of Love: A Conference’ at All Souls College, Oxford. Philip was also kaiwhakatipu (editor) of He Ika Haehae Kupenga.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here everywhere else.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

01:54 Philip's Intro

  • Writing on animals, Maori issues & "The Politics of Love"

03:10 What's Real?

  • Neither parent very religious so grew up agnostic?
  • Anglican Christian high school
  • Sermons talked more about love than god
  • Confirmed at 14 yrs… "ridiculous… what do 14 yr olds know?"
  • "A lot of the metaphysical background was smuggled in"
  • Anglicanism to comparative religion to philosophy
  • Turning from metaphysical to normative/ethics/politics
  • "The final nature of reality is unknowable to us & we just have to proceed on our senses"
  • Albert Camus
  • The risk of being distracted by esoteric philosophical questions… instead "We need to be engaged in work that tried to bring about a better world in the light of obvious suffering"
  • "I do believe there is something transcendent that is true… spiritual… love"
  • "Communing with the spiritual… but through a critical filter"
  • "Prophets of love… Martin Luther King Jr & Te Whiti O Rongomai"
  • God, purpose, meaning, spirit, love… "Our attempts to name it… project our own interpretations on to it… prevent us from fully understanding…"
  • Ethical risks from religious or spiritual epistemologies (unchallengeable, unknowable, incommunicable, obedience, higher purposes, constrained/conditional compassion)
  • Old, new testaments, "what would the next step be?… Something like love?… a more mature ethical outlook."
  • Is something missing from a purely naturalistic ethics? "Not necessarily… we should & can find reasons for acting in a loving way independently from this spirituality I have described."

26:30 What Matters?

  • "I understand ethics in relation to love & relationship"
  • Constructing & affirming the morality we want to see in the world
  • "We are living in an absurd world… we need to determine & assert our own values… try to act lovingly"
  • "The Politics of Love"
  • A communal house as a metaphor "something we create in which to live"
  • "The challenge is to ensure that our ethics & politics has philosophical strength… we do that with tools like reason & critical thinking"
  • "Our ethics & politics will be less coherent, less robust… if we only recognise that human beings are sentient"
  • Black, indigenous & feminist theory
  • "Our anti-racism is undermined if we're not also anti-sexist"
  • "We can't unpick one [oppression] without unpicking the others"

37:44 Who Matters?

  • In 2015 The Politics of Love hardly mentioned non-human animals… "since then my heart has opened, or re-opened, to non-human animals & the rest of nature"
  • Beyond sentience… the "more than human world"
  • "Who matters? Everyone & everything."
  • "Sentience needs to be taken into account morally"
  • Risks of instrumentalism re: non-sentient entities?
  • Is the notion of sentience tethered to the human?
  • Interests, relationships
  • "The environmental movement… has overlooked the sentience of non-human animals"
  • "I'm not convinced that value comes from sentience"

57:13 A Better Future?

  • The Politics of Love
  • Choosing optimism
  • Personal interactions to govt. policy
  • "I understand love as being intellectual & emotional"
  • bell hooks "work as central to love"
  • "Anything short of love isn't going to be enough"
  • "Love is not scarce & it's not limited. We can have more of it simply by choosing it"
  • Veganism & decarceration as examples of a loving politics
  • "Collective action always boils down to individual action"
  • "We cannot effect any change unless we effect that change in ourselves"
  • Pluralism, mutuality, honesty, intersectionality: "It's going to look different in different places"
  • When cultural values clash with a Politics of Love
  • "I don't think indigenous cultures should be engaged with uncritically"
  • He Ika Haehae Kupenga, "The fish who tears the net"… as a Maori vegan
  • "It's harder to do it with love when it's coming from without"
  • "That idea that indigenous cultures… should be preserved and are relics of the past is a patronising idea… a colonial idea"
  • Criticism as a sign of love & respect (Jennifer C Nash)

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at

Join our “I’m a Sentientist” wall using this simple form.

Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.

Thanks Graham for the post-production.

Latest work

How to End Injustice Everywhere - Melanie Joy - Sentientism Ep:179

Melanie Joy is an award-winning author and psychologist. A Sentientism conversation about what's real, who matters and how to make a better world.

How to End Injustice Everywhere - Melanie Joy - Sentientism Ep:179

Melanie Joy is an award-winning author and psychologist. A Sentientism conversation about what's real, who matters and how to make a better world.

"Commitment to solidarity and a stubborn commitment to hope" - Defending Animals Author - Kendra Coulter - Sentientism Ep: 178

Dr Kendra Coulter is a professor at Huron University and a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. A Sentientism conversation about what's real, who matters and how to make a better world.

Animals and Systems - Vegan Reflections with Jordi Casamitjana - Sentientism Podcast Ep: 177

Sentientism podcast episode 177. A conversation between Jordi Casamitjana (Vegan FTA) and Jamie Woodhouse about the meaning of the word "animal" and systems engineering and change.

Join our mailing list and stay up to date


Handcrafted with ♥ by Cage Undefined