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date: 07 February 2023

animals, attitudes tolocked

animals, attitudes tolocked

  • Richard Sorabji


This was the subject of a huge debate among the philosophers. Already in the 6th and 5th cents. bce*Pythagoras (1) and *Empedocles had attacked the killing or maltreatment of animals, partly on the grounds that *transmigration made us literally akin to them. But vegetarianism was made difficult by the mutual interconnections between religious sacrifice and meat-eating. Justice was treated as a gift of God to benefit humans, not animals, both by *Hesiod and in the myth ascribed to *Protagoras in *Plato (1)'s Protagoras. Little was conceded by *Democritus' extending considerations of criminal justice to dangerous animals.The decisive step, however, was taken not by the Presocratics, but by *Aristotle, who denied reason and belief to animals. Compensatingly, he allowed them a rich perceptual life, which he carefully disentangled from reliance on reason or belief. In ethics, he surprisingly combined the view that animals can be praised and blamed for their voluntary acts with the view that we owe them no justice, because we have nothing in common, and can conduct a just war against them. Aristotle's successor *Theophrastus, disagreed.


  • Philosophy

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