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Understanding Animals: Philosophy for Dog and Cat Lovers

Lars Svendsen



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Reaktion Books
01 September 2019
Philosophy; Animals & society; Mathematics & Sciences
How do animals perceive the world? What does it really feel like to be a cat, or a dog? In Understanding Animals, Lars Svendsen investigates how humans can attempt to understand the lives of other animals. The book delves into animal communication, intelligence, self-awareness, loneliness and grief, but most fundamentally how humans and animals can cohabit and build a form of friendship. Svendsen provides examples from many different animal species, from chimpanzees to octopus, but his main focus is on cats and dogs - the animals that many of us are close to in our daily lives. Using both philosophical analysis and the latest scientific discoveries, Svendsen argues that an owner's relationship with their pet is as equally valid and insightful as the scientific study of human-animal relations. With this entertaining and thought-provoking book, animal-lovers and pet owners will gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to be an animal, and in turn, a human.
By:   Lars Svendsen
Imprint:   Reaktion Books
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 138mm, 
ISBN:   9781789141597
ISBN 10:   1789141591
Pages:   240
Publication Date:   01 September 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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.

Reviews for Understanding Animals: Philosophy for Dog and Cat Lovers

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

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