Lars Svendsen is Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen, Norway. He is the author of many books including A Philosophy of Boredom (2004), Fashion: A Philosophy (2006), A Philosophy of Fear (2008), A Philosophy of Freedom (2014) and A Philosophy of Loneliness (2017), all published by Reaktion Books.
It is funny how often philosophers have been right about other animals, and how often they have been wrong. In this enlightening book, Svendsen takes us through a history of Western philosophical musings, from Wittgenstein's lion to Descartes's automatons, comparing them with current knowledge. --Frans de Waal, author of Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves As knowledge about life, human and otherwise, grows greater and greater, we need a lucid guide through a thicket of questions that emerge when we try to understand animals, including the ones we are. Svendsen is that guide. . . . Clear as always and with a dose of characteristic humor thrown in, Svendsen draws on contributions from all the participant disciplines--philosophy, biology, and zoology, for instance, but also cognitive science and even literature--to address the many questions that arise when we take seriously the importance of understanding animals. --Jeffrey Kosky, author of Arts of Wonder: Enchanting Secularity Svendsen gives full credit to what he calls 'the amateur's view of the animal' while engaging with, for example, Descartes's notion of the animal as a sort of machine--capable of responding to stimuli but not possessing consciousness as such, which requires language. (No cogito, ergo no cogitation.) A less extreme formulation would insist that we only have certain access to animal behavior; whatever mental phenomena (e.g., emotion, memory, intellect) we may attribute to that behavior can only be an anthropomorphic projection on our part. It is possible to advance such ideas in a public discussion but difficult to maintain them upon returning home to a pet. 'The amateur is, as the word quite literally means, one who loves, ' Svendsen writes, 'and that loving view in itself can reveal something that the distanced [view] cannot grasp.' --Scott McLemee Inside Higher Ed