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Le radici greche di una filosofia non antropocentrica

The Greek Roots of a Non-anthropocentric Philosophy

Anno XXIII, n. 103, ottobre-dicembre 1988
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

The purpose of this article is to reconstruct the sources in classical Greek thought of a non-anthropocentric concept of nature and divinity. Such sources have long been overlooked, also because our knowledge of Greek philosophy is often only "filtered" from the readings given by the Christian Fathers. The latter very frequently deliberately ignored this aspect of the cultural tradition which they took as a point of reference, since it contrasted strongly with a concept of Providence that was totally centred on Man.
In reality, in Greek philosophy the tradition of respect for animals has very distant origins: there are undeniable traces of it already in the Pythagorean school, for example, where the motivation for this line of thought seems to have been of an essentially religious nature and connected with a belief in metempsychosis. It is to the Aristotelian tradition, however, that the theme of respect for animals no longer founded on religious grounds but on consideration of their similarity with Man belongs. A similarity that includes psychic function as well as affectionate gestures. In Plutarch's De esu carnium, we have an exhaustive treatment of the similarity between animals and Man, not just as regards sentiments but also concerning real reasoning. The question continued to be debated throughout the whole Hellenistic period.
Today, when the reasons for vegetarianism are being re-proposed with the force of a movement, it may be opportune to have a re-reading of a school of thought and of a philosophical tradition that were unique in formulating coherent theories and giving rational arguments on the subject of our psychic relationship with other living beings and the need for respect which derives from this.