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The question of whether and to what extent animals have minds is a key problem for philosophy, cognitive and animal science, and lived experience as a whole. This problem, which will be called "the Problem of Animality", concerns whether animals can be said to have the attributes of consciousness, thinking, moral worth, and other fundamental concepts.

The modern approach to what will be called the "Problem of Animality" had its genesis with the philosopher Rene Descartes. The Problem of Animality was not a question in itself for Descartes, but instead, a question that was answered through the application of his modern epistemology. Descartes believed the animal was merely automata, unable to speak, think, or be conscious. Philosophers following him, most notably Kant, broadly accepted this conception, and Kant’s own ethical theory contains a similar notion.

This paper will present a genealogy of German thought from Kant as it's point of departure, applying Hegel's, Husserl's, and Heidegger's systems of thought to questions of animal minds. The paper will examine whether or not the three other philosophers in question (Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger)'s thoughts contain broad Cartesian tendencies by comparing their systems' views of animals to Descartes' and Kant's own.

The paper will begin by detailing Kant's ethical views on obligations toward animals and Hegel's reaction against Kantian ethics. It will rely on secondary sources that extrapolate Hegel's views on animals from his thought. From there, it will inquire into whether Hegel escaped from the Cartesian picture of the animal or not. What will be illuminated is another part of the Problem of Animality, a question of Otherness and phenomenology.

This question will lead us to Husserl, which we will compare with Descartes and Kant before him. The essay will then examine early Heidegger's synthesis and reaction against his mentor Husserl, and his concept of the Destruktion of Descartes, the animals poverty-in-the-world, and whether or not his thought on the animal constitutes a destruction of the Cartesian tradition.


Utah State University

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Arts and Humanities

German Thought and Animality