Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution: The Historical Status of Animals

Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution: The Historical Status of Animals

Rod Preece

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0774811579

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this provocative inquiry into the status of animals in human society from the fifth century BC to the present, Rod Preece provides a wholly new perspective on the human–animal relationship.

Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution traces the historical status of animals in western civilization, and shows that current scholarship in this area is seriously deficient. Preece particularly contests the customary claims: that the Christian doctrine has denied immortality to animals, with the corresponding implication that they were thereby denied ethical consideration; that there was a near universal belief animals were intended for human use, with the corresponding implication that they were not ends in themselves, and were thus not entitled to ethical consideration; that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution had a profoundly positive impact on the way in which nonhuman animals were regarded and treated; and that the idea of the “happy beast” was merely a trope to condemn humans for their hubris and was not at all a sincere attempt to raise the status of animals.

In contrast to prevailing intellectual opinion, Preece argues that a significant number of early Christians were vegetarian; that control of nature was often undertaken not at the expense of animals but, in part, out of exasperation at their tribulations; that the Cartesian conception of animals as automata was largely rejected, especially in the English-speaking world; that Darwin’s theory of natural selection had no appreciable influence on the status of animals; and, finally, that “theriophily” – the notion of animal superiority over humans – was given greater credence than is commonly recognized.

Rod Preece believes that our ethical responsibilities to animals are ill served by the current simplistic and misleading conception of the historical record, and with this book, attempts a significant re-thinking of the human–animal perspective. Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution will be required reading for those from animal scientists to animal philosophers to animal rights activists who have an interest in the history and philosophy of animal ethics.

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Ritson and its reception in the early nineteenth century and later, Adams’s examination is ultimately more misleading than illuminating. Having rightly told us of the “ungenerous” description of Ritson’s “incipient insanity” in the Dictionary of National Biography, she adds that the dictionary “exhibits a similar dismissive viewpoint in [its] biographies of other vegetarians.”45 Yet this is to misrepresent the dictionary and to misrepresent the prevailing view of vegetarianism. The representation.

Alcmaeon, as later reported by Diogenes Laertius, telling us that “the soul is immortal and ... it moves continuously like the sun.”90 In general, although not always consistently, the soul was not seen to be entirely separate from material existence. The Greek word for the soul is psyche, which also means breath in some instances and mind in others; and the word is also used to denote the butterfly. Given the Homeric notion of the soul as a shadow of the body (soma), it is an application full of.

Singer’s broadly shared view that the claimed Christian denial that animals possess immortal souls had a “very negative influence on the way in which we think about animals.” On the basis of the available evidence, it would appear that early Christianity viewed animals with no less sympathy than adherents of other religions, other cultures, other climes. V In fact, many Christians not only rejected the Thomist view of the humananimal relationship, but also disagreed with him fundamentally on the.

Reason and were ingenious. He even questioned the right of human dominion. But he did not offer the animals a heavenly home. The Catholic priest Pierre Gassendi (-) was appalled at what he saw as Descartes’s blindness where animals were concerned. In fact, long before Descartes published his Meditations, which denied animals the capacity for reason definitively, Gassendi had announced his position in the Preface to Exercises in the Form of Paradoxes in Refutation of the Aristoteleans.

Chadwick tells us that such utterances arose because the early Christian communities were “urban, and only slowly penetrated rural societies.” And, when they did, we “hear of farmers alarmed to learn” of such pronouncements. They were aware of our obligations to other species.33 Despite the obvious failure of Christian doctrine in too many instances to enshrine animal interests, surely one must reject out of hand the conclusion of James Turner in one of the books to set the contemporary standard.

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