235. Juhana Toivanen on Animals in Medieval Philosophy

Posted on 2 August 2015

Medieval ideas about what animals do and do not have in common with humans, and how we should treat them.


Further Reading

• J. Toivanen, “Peter Olivi on Internal Senses,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15 (2007), 427-54.

• J. Toivanen, “Peter of John Olivi on the Psychology of Animal Action,”Journal of the History of Philosophy 49 (2011), 413-38.

• J. Toivanen, Perception and the Internal Senses: Peter of John Olivi on the Cognitive Functions of the Sensitive Soul (Leiden: 2013).

• J. Toivanen, “Animals in Medieval Philosophy,” in P. Adamson (ed.) Animals (Oxford: forthcoming).


Michael Gebauer 2 August 2015

What an important topic! (Obviously you'll have to continue pursuing it, and again when you get into the 17th and 18th centuries.) I'm very curious how it will go on in the middle ages.


Yes, as it happens this is an interest of mine anyway. I actually have another interview (with Cecilia Muratori) already recorded, on animals in Renaissance philosophy, though you'll have to wait a while to hear it!

Antti 18 June 2019

Interesting outside the animal sphere too. But now I will never look at my neighbour the same...

Kevin Delaney 5 February 2020

This issue is alive in the abortion debate. Those who are pro-life say that a human fetus is part of the species and should be considered a person. Those who are pro-choice say that fetuses haven't developed rational facilities and can be aborted with impunity.

Kevin Walsh 11 January 2021

Interesting episode. One rather peculiar feature of late mediaeval and early modern European jurisprudence was the criminal prosecution of animals, which seems hard to justify if animals aren't capable of moral judgements. It sounds like the jurists weren't following the line of the philosophers here.

Peter Adamson 11 January 2021

In reply to by Kevin Walsh

True! Actually in a paper that Toivanen wrote about this topic in a book I edited, he did mention these trials. But you're right that it is hard to square with the philosophical views on animals prevalent at the time!

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