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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Undergraduate Course: Philosophy of Animals (PHIL10230)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will assess historical and contemporary conceptions of nonhuman animals and other living organisms from a variety of perspectives: metaphysical, scientific, cognitive, linguistic, ethical and theological. The main focus will be the divergence between Aristotelian and Cartesian accounts of animate life. Other philosophers whose views will be considered include Montaigne, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, and Whitehead, and more recent philosophers such as David Wood, as well all as new directions advanced by contemporary biologists, Denis and Ray Noble and ethnologist, Eva Meijer.
Course description The course will explore philosophical conceptions of nonhuman animals over the ages, from Pythagoras and Aristotle, through the Renaissance and early modern period and beyond. The course will be arranged thematically, beginning with scientific and metaphysical conceptions of animals, pitting Aristotelian conceptions against Cartesian and Lockean views. From there we will move to consider the Aristotelian-based conceptions from the perspective of philosophy of mind, raising questions about animal consciousness and intelligence, reasoning and conceptual awareness. Discussion of animal communication and recent research on animal languages will be followed by discussion of moral considerability of animals and the question whether animals themselves can be held morally responsible for their actions and choices. Finally, theological issues of animal suffering and innocence will be addressed.

Learning experience - Students will gain understanding of the variety and complexities of ways of thinking about and engaging with nonhuman animals.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have completed at least 3 Philosophy courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission. These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Midterm essay (40%)
Final essay (60%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Gain understanding of a wide variety of ways of thinking about and engaging with non-human animals.
  2. Acquire the ability to analyze and critically assess arguments of contributors to debates on animals, natures and capacities.
  3. Acquire the ability to construct their own arguments on philosophical questions relating to animals and their abilities.
  4. Gain understanding of philosophical and theological reasons for and against attributing mentality and associated abilities to non-human life.
Reading List
Primary (Sample)

Aristotle, Generation of Animals, De Anima

Descartes, Discourse on Method, part 5, Sixth Set of Objections and Replies, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, rules 12-14, Treatise on Man, Passions of the Soul, part 1

David Hume, Enquiry on Human Nature, section 9 (¿Of the Reason of Animals¿)

John Locke: An Essay concerning Human Understanding, Books 3 and 4

G. W. Leibniz, Correspondence with Sophie, Principles of Nature and Grace, New Essays Concerning Human Understanding, Books 3 and 4.

Eva Meijer (2019). Animal Languages: The Secret Conversations of the Living World (John Murray)

Pierre Montaigne, An Apology for Raymond Sebond (on animal language)

Denis Noble and Ray Noble (forthcoming). Understanding Living Systems (CUP)

A.N. Whitehead, Modes of Thought, ¿Nature Alive¿

David Wood (2020). Thinking Plant Animal Human: Encounters with Communities of Difference (University of Minnesota Press)

Secondary (sample)

Kirstin Andrews (2020). The Animal Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Animal Cognition, 2nd ed. (Routledge)

Kirstin Andrews and Jacob Beck, eds. (2017). The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds (Routledge)

Peter Atterton and Tamra Wright, eds. (2019). Face to Face with Animals: Levinas and the Animal Question (New York: SUNY)

T. L. Beauchamp (1999). ¿Hume on the nonhuman animal¿, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 24(4), pp.322-335

Andreas Blank, ed. (2016). Animals: New Essays (Philosophia Verlag)

Deborah Boyle (2003). ¿Hume on Animal Reason¿, Hume Studies, 29(1), pp. 3-28

J. Cottingham (1978). ¿A Brute to the Brutes?: Descartes¿ Treatment of Animals¿, Philosophy, 53(206), pp. 551-559

Simon Fitzpatrick (2017). ¿Animal Morality: What is the Debate About?¿, Biology and Philosophy, 32(6), pp. 1151-1183

John Grey (2013). ¿¿Use Them at Our Pleasure¿; Spinoza on Animal Ethics¿, History of Philosophy Quarterly, 30(4), pp. 367-388

Donald Griffin (1984). Animal Thinking (Harvard University Press)

Peter Harrison (1992). ¿Descartes on Animals¿, The Philosophical Quarterly, 42(167), pp. 219-227

Nicholas Jolley (2015). Locke¿s Touchy Subjects: Materialism and Immortality (OUP), chapter 3 (¿Animals¿)

Mark Kulstad (1981). ¿Leibniz, Animals, and Apperception¿, Studia Leibnitiana, 13(1), pp. 25-60.

Hassan Melehy (2006). ¿Montaigne and Ethics: The case of Animals¿, L¿Esprit Créateur, 46(1) (Montaigne and the Question of Ethics), pp. 96-107

A.T. Nuyen (1998). ¿Hume on Animals and Morality¿, Philosophical Papers, 27(2), pp. 93-106

Michael Northcott (2007). ¿Do dolphins carry the cross? Biological moral realism and theological ethics¿, New Blackfriars, 84 (994), pp. 540-553

P. Phemister (2016). ¿Malebranche and Leibniz on the Animals¿. In: A. Blank, Animals, : New Essays, pp. 161-180.

Mark Rowlands (2016). ¿Animals Acting Morally¿. In: A Blank,, ed. Animals: New Essays, pp. 333-354

Mark Rowlands (2012). Can Animals be Moral? (OUP)

Rebekah Sinclair (2013)/ ¿A Democracy of Fellow Creatures: Thinking the Animal, Thinking Ethics in Whitehead¿s Philosophy of Organism¿, Process Studies 42(2), pp. 200-220

Justin E. H. Smith (2011). Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life (Princeton University Press)

J. E. H. Smith (2016). ¿The Criminal Trial and Punishment of Animals¿. In: A. Blank, ed. Animals: New Essays, pp. 101-130

L. Strickland (2013). ¿God¿s creatures? Divine nature and the status of animals in the early modern beast-machine controversy¿, International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, 74(4), pp. 291-309

Evan Thomas (2020). ¿Descartes on the Animal Within, and the Animals Without¿, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 50(8), pp. 999-1014

Janice Thomas (2006). ¿Does Descartes Deny Consciousness to Animals?¿, Ratio (new series), 19(3), pp. 336-363
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Pauline Phemister
Tel: (0131 6)51 3747
Course secretaryMs Catriona Keay
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