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Trials Against Animals: A Contribution to the Developmental Theory of Mind and Rationality

Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff

Published: 2009/06/01

Abstract

Many irrational forms of behavior and thinking prevailed in pre-modern societies from the stone age to recent times, which have been disappearing in modern societies during the past centuries or generations. The criminal prosecution and punishment of animals is one of the many absurd and incredible forms of thinking and behavior we can discover in the cultural heritage of pre-modern man. This phenomenon is attributed to elementary and pre-formal modes of psyche, personality, cognition and culture in pre-modern man. It is not a phenomenon remote from the centre of pre-modern culture and society, a just-for-fun fact of folklore and a strange kind of leisure time activity; it is a real indicator of the developmental level of pre-modern populations, their thinking and their cultures. If we want to understand mind, cognition, mentality, psyche and worldview of pre-modern populations, an in-depth, careful and serious enquiry of the criminal prosecution of animals can provide us one of the most intriguing insights. This cultural phenomenon illuminates important aspects of the history of culture and mankind, and it touches basic questions of the humanities and social sciences.

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