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Newman Humanities Research Seminar Series

Plato and the animals: What is the purpose of philosophy in an age of environmental crisis?

Dr Louise Hickman

Greek mythology is full of animals but in the fourth century, rational investigation of their nature saw them become the object of ‘zoology’. The assumption is widespread that this coincides with the Attic philosophers declaring reason the hallmark of ‘man’ by which ‘he’ is distinguished from the animals.

This paper will argue, however, that Plato’s creative use of animal related myths and analogies sets his philosophy apart from Aristotle’s rationalism. Furthermore, Plato’s poetic writing inspired a long history of Platonic thought, characterised by enchantment and the contemplation of nature, which calls for the consideration of the non-human world to be put back at the heart of contemporary philosophy.

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