Ar mfinniskor och djurjfimlika? — En idéhistorisk essä


  • Jaroslaw Zadencki Dept. of Comparative Medicine, Uppsala University
  • Hans Erik Carlsson Dept. of Comparative Medicine, Uppsala University
  • Jann Hau Dept. of Comparative Medicine, Uppsala University



This paper deals wilh the human altitudes lo animals and the relalions between humans and animals in a Weslem hislorical perspective. Initially, we analyse some significant quotations from the Old Tesament, in particular from lhe book of
Genesis. There are two possible inlerprelalions in the Biblical tradition in which man is a metaphysical being at a higher level than all animals: the “hard" interprelalion and the “soft" one. The hard interpretation regards man as a despot or as an
absolule monarch, who can treat animals more or less arbitrarily wilhoul any respect and compassion towards them. The soft interpretation looks at the individual as a constitulional monarch, with obligations both towards the nature and olhcr
species. He has the power over the animals, but this power demands responsibility and man acts as custodian or steward in relation to animals. These two interpretations are still valid in the current debale, even though the latter is nearly complelely dominant among most debaters today. Thereafter we describe Aristotle’s views on these issues from the Greek lradilion, early Christian notions. for example those of St Augustin, and Medieval Christian thoughts. especially Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Aquinas wrote about lhe three teachings that have anchored Christian reflection ever since: teachings on the instrumental value of animals. the indirect obligations of humans toward animals and the nature of animal souls.
Thereafler the thoughts of the Renaissance are briefly described. This part of the text also deals wilh Descartes‘ and Hobbes” views on animals in relation to humans. The thoughts of Bentham, Kant, Schopenhauer, Wagner and Hume are also
mentioned. Finally, we discuss Singers‘ controversial and well-known book Animal Liberation, published in 1975. We disagree with his arguments and conclusions. since we find them both manipulative and unrealistic.
As a conclusion we quote the Medieval mystician Sl Bernhard of Clairvaux’ thoughts: that humans combine a highly developed ralionalily with an awareness of the unavoidable death. This rationality helps us lo govern the nature, but our awareness about death forces us to create a symbolical infra slruclure we call culture, civilisation, religion, science, art and philosophy that makes it possible to survive ourselves. Thanks to this symbolic infra structure we humans change from
highly developed animals to culture individuals. Individuals that treat other creatures with care and responsibility.


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How to Cite

Zadencki, J., Carlsson, H. E., & Hau, J. (1997). Ar mfinniskor och djurjfimlika? — En idéhistorisk essä. Scandinavian Journal of Laboratory Animal Science, 24(3).