Animals in Classical and Late Antique Philosophy

Stephen R. L. Clark

in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371963
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Animals in Classical and Late Antique Philosophy

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This article explores a large array of conceptions and theories in the ancient world, with an emphasis on what the ancients thought of both themselves and the other “animals.” The scope is immense in terms of leading schools of philosophy: the Pre-Socratics, the Golden Age of Athens, the Hellenistic period, and the Late Antique period. One generalization that does seem to hold is that non-human animals were commonly viewed as foils—beastly in habits and without minds of moral significance. The discussion assesses the ancient, classical, Greek, and Mediterranean attitudes as complicated and often contradictory. In general, animals were seen as entirely unlike us, but humans also were seen as capable of a descent into beastly behavior—to the point that humans were in effect seen as no more than animals.

Keywords: humans; animal; Hellenistic period; beastly behavior; Greek attitudes; philosophy schools

Article.  14649 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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