Rational Animal

Rational Animal is a classical definition of man. [sep entry|aristotle-metaphysics|Aristotle's Metaphysics] Aristotle used it as a primary example to illustrate both the basic structure of definitions and how he thought definitions could provide an understanding about the essential nature of objects. The definition located man within the genus of animals, but differentiated him from them by the possession of reason. Responses to this can be grouped into three basic categories: those who object to man as essentially rational, those who object to implicit claim that other animals are not rational, and those who object to definitions as the vehicle for getting at essential natures.

Those who hold to stronger forms of such claims and do thereby doubt the proposition stated by Aristotle, are dealt with mainly as mentally challenged people; those who hold such as "There "never was" an Aristotle", or "None can "know" surely of Aristotle" or "None may know surely "of any matter" ". Such views, which may seem obscure to the lay , or non- professional enquirer, are never addressed within Philosophy, though not necessarily are such considerations of major interest to a general reader. Nevertheless, some general reader, from a form of 'natural reasoning' may argue that there is a further paradox: "How, if not by reasoning, can a "rational animal" come to doubt of "anything"?

Descartes

In Meditation II of Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes arrives at his famous "I am, I exist" claim. He then goes on to wonder "What am I?" He considers and rejects, "rational animal":

Shall I say 'a rational animal'? No; for then I should have to inquire what an animal is, what rationality is, and in this one question would lead me down the slope to other harder ones. ["The Philosophical Writings of Descartes Volumn II". Translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch. Cambridge University Press. 1984.]

Quotes

* Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason. – Oscar Wilde

* It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this. – Bertrand Russell

References

ee also

* Genus-differentia definition


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