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Animals in Early Modern Thought

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Synonyms

Animalis ; Beasts; Creatures

Introduction

What is a nonhuman animal? During the early modern period, definitions ranged from an ensouled creature that exists between humans and plants on the scale of nature to a soulless but finely constructed automaton. Particularly fierce disputes erupted over whether animals are rational, sensitive, or language-using, and the ascribed attributes were widely thought to have a bearing on ethical questions. Is it acceptable to hunt animals? To eat them? Kick them? Experiment on them for the amelioration of human health and knowledge? This entry delves into these issues. It begins with a brief overview of Renaissance perspectives on the status of animals and René Descartes’ attempt to upend them, then turns to Pierre Gassendi’s and Henry More’s head-on refutations of Descartes, and proceeds to the less direct responses of other major early modern philosophers including Kenelm Digby, Margaret Cavendish, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Wilhelm...

Related Topics

  • Animal souls
  • Scale of nature
  • Mechanical philosophy
  • Sensitivity
  • Rationality
  • Passions
  • Vegetarianism

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Correspondence to Justin Begley .

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Begley, J. (2021). Animals in Early Modern Thought. In: Jalobeanu, D., Wolfe, C.T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_628-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_628-1

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