Why is the Sheep Afraid of the Wolf? Medieval Debates on Animal Passions

Dominik Perler

in Emotion and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199579914
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745959 | DOI:
Why is the Sheep Afraid of the Wolf? Medieval Debates on Animal Passions

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Avicenna's example of the sheep that is afraid of the wolf provided the starting point for a long debate on the structure and function of animal passions. This paper traces the history of this example and analyzes the interpretations given by Thomas Aquinas and Gregory of Rimini. It focuses on three problems: (1) How did medieval philosophers explain the relationship between sensory apprehensions and passions in animals? (2) How did they assess the intentionality of animal passions? (3) Did they make room for a “cognitive penetrability” of animal passions, or did they assume that animals can never have a cognitive control over their passions? An analysis of these problems intends to show that explanations of animal passions were of crucial importance for a general account of the cognitive content and motivational force of passions.

Keywords: Adam Wodeham; animals; avicenna; cognitive content; control. Gregory of Rimini; intentionality; passions; Thomas Aquinas

Chapter.  11230 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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