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Carpenter, Amber. Illuminating Community – Animals in Classical Indian Thought
2018, In Peter Adamson and G. Fay Edwards (eds) Animals: A History. Oxford University Press
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Added by: Björn Freter
Abstract: This chapter presents a discussion of the rich tradition of reflection on animals in ancient Indian philosophy, which deals with but is not restricted to the topic of reincarnation. At the center of the piece is the continuity that Indians saw between human and nonhuman animals and the consequences of this outlook for the widespread idea of nonviolence. Consideration is also given to the philosophical interest of fables centrally featuring animals, for example the Pañcatantra. In general it is suggested that ancient Indian authors did not, unlike European counterparts, focus on the question of what makes humans unique in contrast to all other animals, but rather on the ethical and metaphysical interconnections between humans and various kinds of animals.

Comment (from this Blueprint): An overview of the role of non-human animals in Indian Thought pointing out that there is not much evidence of that presumption of a fundamental difference between human and nonhuman forms of life that allows us in English to use the word “animal” simply to mean “nonhuman animal.” The concept of the animal is thus not best suited to explore the nature of the human by contrast. Instead we more often find a background presumption of a common condition: whatever lives seeks to sustain its life, wants pleasure and not pain, wants its desires and aims satisfied rather than thwarted.

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