Yves Christen

Are Animals Philosophers? Kantian Chickens and Aristotelian Bonobos Publication date : March 7, 2013

A biologist and scientific journalist, Yves Chisten is the president of Ipsen Foundation. He is the author of L’Animal est-il une personne? (Flammarion, 2009).

‘Because animals, both human and non-human, are not the passive toys of the surrounding world but, on the contrary, active creators and because they are carriers of weltanschauung, I regard them as philosophers. Furthermore, I propose to define animals as creatures capable of elaborating a comprehensive worldview.
‘Let’s call such creatures, who are capable of understanding and imagining the world, philosophers. In order to clarify things, I should like to underline that what I am evoking is not a marginal situation, like that of some of the great apes, famously recognised as cousins of our own species, but a more general criterion, of the sort that can impose a definition: animals are philosophers and they are necessarily philosophers by nature. I am fully aware that this viewpoint may seem paradoxical since most philosophers have tried to build a barrier between humans and animals or to define the former in relation to the latter. But basically such an attempt makes as much sense as opposing robins to birds or chimpanzees to animals,’ writes Yves Christen.

• Manipulating concepts, thinking and discussing are not sufficient to produce a philosophy. Intelligence is not everything, nor does it a philosopher make. That is what Yves Christen shows by defining the concept of ‘animal philosophy’.