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Title: Syllogismus Brutorum
Subtitle: Die Diskussion der animalischen Rationalität bei Albertus Magnus und ihre Rezeption im Mittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit
Author(s): ROLING, Bernd
Journal: Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales
Volume: 78    Issue: 1   Date: 2011   
Pages: 221-275
DOI: 10.2143/RTPM.78.1.2125164

Abstract :
Already in Antiquity philosophers were debating how the achievements of animal intelligence could be explained without humanizing the beast. Why does animal behaviour often seem to be rational, even though animals lack rationality and an immortal soul? Why do many animals seem to learn and improve their skills? Like other Peripatetic thinkers, Albertus Magnus held that animals do not act as rational beings, because they lack universal knowledge, which is characteristic of human beings. Nevertheless, on the basis of classical theories and personal observations, Albertus Magnus developed the idea of a syllogismus brutorum, which has to be situated in the imaginative faculty of the brutes. According to Albert animals are able to connect mental pictures and build quasi-syllogistical sequences, which can be reproduced by memory and imagination, when the animal is confronted again with the same situation. Albert’s model of animal syllogistics influenced other medieval philosophers like Thomas Aquinas and Dominicus of Flanders; it became important in early modern debates as a counter-model to the mechanistic philosophy of Descartes and his followers. In the academic circles of late scholasticism and Lutheran universities its traces can be followed up to the 18th century. The present paper reconstructs the reception of the syllogismus brutorum in the history of medieval philosophy and its wide-ranging influence on later philosophers.

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