Moral Status of Animals in the Ancient World

Topics: Animal rights, Animal welfare, Animal cruelty Pages: 10 (3612 words) Published: April 27, 2010
Moral status of animals in the ancient world
Main articles: Moral status of animals in the ancient world and Human exceptionalism

Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam. The Book of Genesis echoed earlier ideas about divine hierarchy, and that God and humankind share traits, such as intellect and a sense of morality, that non-humans do not possess. Modern views of humans treatment of animals can be traced back to the ancient world. The idea that the use of animals by humans—for food and clothing is morally acceptable, springs from many sources. There is a hierarchy based on the theological concept of "dominion," in Genesis (1:20-28), where Adam is given "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." Although the concept of dominion need not entail property rights, it has, over the centuries, been interpreted to imply some form of ownership.[8][10] Other parts of the Bible strongly protest the abuse of animals, such as Balaam and the talking donkey in Numbers 22:28-33 [11] or the merciful command in Deuteronomy 25:4 to allow an Ox to feed whilst it treads the grain [12]. In the New Testament, the dove is used to represent the Holy Spirit of God in Matthew 3:16[13] and in Revelations 14:1,17:14 and John 1:29,[14] Jesus is described as a lamb; these two animals are still depicted in some churches with respect[15][16], thus showing ancient influence in modern religion. At the same time, animals have been considered inferior because they lack rationality and language, and as such are worthy of less consideration than humans, or even none.[8][10]. Aristotle considered animals to have no rationality, but that they had a soul. [edit]17th century: Animals as automata

[edit]1641: Descartes
Further information: Dualism (philosophy of mind) and Scientific Revolution

Descartes' remains influential regarding how the issue of animal consciousness—or as he saw it, lack thereof—should be approached.[17] “[Animals] eat without pleasure, cry without pain, grow without knowing it; they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing. — Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715)[18]” The year 1641 was significant for the idea of animal rights. The great influence of the century was the French philosopher, René Descartes (1596–1650), whose Meditations was published that year, and whose ideas about animals informed attitudes well into the 21st century.[17] Writing during the scientific revolution—a revolution of which he was one of the chief architects—Descartes proposed a mechanistic theory of the universe, the aim of which was to show that the world could be mapped out without allusion to subjective experience. The senses deceive, he wrote in the First Meditation in 1641, and "it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once."[19] “Hold then the same view of the dog which has lost his master, which has sought him in all the thoroughfares with cries of sorrow, which comes into the house troubled and restless, goes downstairs, goes upstairs; goes from room to room, finds at last in his study the master he loves, and betokens his gladness by soft whimpers, frisks, and caresses. There are barbarians who seize this dog, who so greatly surpasses man in fidelity and friendship, and nail him down to a table and dissect him alive, to show you the mesaraic veins! You discover in him all the same organs of feeling as in yourself. Answer me, mechanist, has Nature arranged all the springs of feeling in this animal to the end that he might not feel? — Voltaire (1694–1778)[20] ”

His mechanistic approach was extended to the issue of animal consciousness. Mind, for Descartes, was a thing apart from the physical universe, a separate substance, linking human beings to the mind of God. The non-human, on the other hand, are nothing but complex automata, with no souls, minds, or reason. They can see, hear, and touch, but they...
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