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Animal Minds and Human Morals: The Origins of the Western Debate (Cornell Studies in Classical Philology) Paperback – December 7, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0801482984 ISBN-10: 0801482984 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Cornell Studies in Classical Philology
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (December 7, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801482984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801482984
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Philosopher Sorabji, Professor of Ancient Philosophy at King's College, University of London, skillfully explores the debate in Western thought over the moral status of animals. Beginning with its roots in the arguments presented by Aristotle and the Stoics, the central argument concerns whether or not animals have the requisite "rationality" to be treated as equals or near-equals, with most sides arguing that they do not. "Rationality" usually being defined by these philosophers as the ability to speak, the Western view has been that animals "don't have syntax, so we can eat them." Still, these philosophers are forced to negotiate many mental twists and turns to make their theories fit their own conflicting perceptions of what animals are and aren't capable of knowing and doing. Medieval Christian beliefs on the subject are also discussed, and a thoughtful critique on the more contemporary belief systems of animal rights proponents Singer, Reagan, and Midgley is presented. Recommended for anyone concerned with or interested in the origins of today's animal rights debate. Brian McCombie --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A wealth of information and argument on an important issue. . . This exhilarating book shows how studying the history of philosophy can be a way of examining our own lives."—Philosophical Review

"Sorabji starts . . . by examining philosophical treatments of animals in ancient Greece. From there he goes on to current thinking and argues that the animal rights movement is philosophically incoherent. His philosophical analysis is so thorough that anyone who's thinking about these issues has an obligation to read this book."—Lingua Franca

"A tour de force, Animal Minds and Human Morals is a brilliant contribution to the literature and will be an essential reference for anyone interested in the history of philosophical debates about the cognitive and moral status of animals. Sorabji convincingly argues that these concerns go to the very core of the Western philosophical tradition. The clarity, wit, and charm of the prose will make this book engaging to a wide audience."—Dale Jamieson, University of Colorado

"Extremely impressive. Sorabji documents fully and sharply two startling points which need very much to be widely seen: first, the bizarre neglect of moral questions about animals until quite recently; second, the distortions that have afflicted philosophy on this topic in the decades since it has been properly noticed. Sorabji shows admirably both how badly this corrupted our practice and how our careless thinking here has rebounded to cause confusion in the philosophy of mind. I believe his book can help us considerably to use more realistic methods, not just on this topic, but in ethics generally."—Mary Midgley, author of Animals and Why They Matter

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Andrew N. Carpenter on June 4, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Can animal behavior be explained without attributing to them reason or belief? In the first part of this book, Sorabji investigates this question. Since animal behavior is explained by appeal to notions like perception, memory, intention, learning, and emotion, the "no reason or belief" thesis is plausible only if those concepts can be explained without recourse to either reason or belief. Sorabji investigates this with close reference to Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and many other philosophers of antiquity.
In the second part of the book, Sorabji examines the significance of the animal minds debate. He argues that Aristotle's denial of reason and belief to animals has a long and sad legacy that deeply affects humans' relations to animals in Western Culture. Sorabji concludes that a proper account of human minds would motivate new moral judgments.
Sorabji's mastery of the classical literature is truly impressive, and he forges many interesting connections to Donald Davidson's famous denial of animal thought and to many other contemporary debates in the philosophy of mind.
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