Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers: Humanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature

Paperback | June 1, 2009

byCatherine Osborne

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Animal rights do not feature explicitly in ancient thought. Indeed the notion of natural rights in general is not obviously present in the classical world. Plato and Aristotle are typically read as racist and elitist thinkers who barely recognise the humanity of their fellow humans. Surelythey would be the last to show up as models of the humane view of other kinds? In this unusual philosophy book, Catherine Osborne asks the reader to think again. She shows that Plato's views on reincarnation and Aristotle's views on the souls of plants and animals reveal a continuous thread of life in which humans are not morally superior to beasts; Greek tragedy turns upthoughts that mirror the claims of rights activists when they speak for the voiceless; the Desert Fathers teach us to admire the natural perceptiveness of animals rather than the corrupt ways of urban man; the long tradition of arguments for vegetarianism in antiquity highlights how mankind's abuseof other animals is the more offensive the more it is for indulgent ends. What, then, is the humane attitude, and why is it better? How does the humane differ from the sentimental? Is there a truth about how we should treat animals? By reflecting on the work of the ancient poets and philosophers, Osborne argues, we can see when and how we lost touch with the naturalintelligence of dumb animals.

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Animal rights do not feature explicitly in ancient thought. Indeed the notion of natural rights in general is not obviously present in the classical world. Plato and Aristotle are typically read as racist and elitist thinkers who barely recognise the humanity of their fellow humans. Surelythey would be the last to show up as models of ...

Catherine Osborne is Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:274 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.07 inPublished:June 1, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199568278

ISBN - 13:9780199568277

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Table of Contents

Part One: Constructing Divisions1. Introduction: on William Blake, nature and mortality2. On nature and providence: readings in Herodotus, Protagoras and DemocritusPart Two: Perceiving Continuities3. On the transmigration of souls: reincarnation into animal bodies in Pythagoras, Empedocles and Plato4. On language, concepts and automata: rational and irrational animals in Aristotle and Descartes5. On the disadvantages of being a complex organism: Aristotle and the iscala naturae/iPart Three: Being Realistic6. On the vice of sentimentality: Androcles and the Lion and some extraordinary adventures in the Desert Fathers7. On the notion of natural rights: defending the voiceless and oppressed in the Tragedies of Sophocles8. On self-defence and utilitarian calculations: Democritus of Abdera and Hermarchus of Mytilene9. On eating animals: Porphyry's dietary rules for philosophersConclusion

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Review from previous edition: "...stimulating and informative..." --Bryn Mawr Reviews