Edited By Szymon Wrobel
Evil and the Human/Animal Divide: From Pliny to Paré
Evil and the Human/Animal Divide:From Pliny to Paré
Kathleen Perry Long
One striking difference between humans and animals, at least in ancient and medieval thought, is the human capacity for evil. In his Natural History, Pliny portrays elephants and some other animals as superior to humans, arguing that they do not harm their own kind. Elephants are particularly ethical, refusing to harm other creatures, even at the peril of their own lives. The monstrous human races are described in neutral terms. Caesar, on the other hand, is portrayed as a destructive if admirable monster that has destroyed many millions of human lives. This representation of the animal and the half-human monster as morally admirable or at least neutral is modified by Saint Augustine and subsequent theologians who associate the animal and the monstrous with the divine, the human with imperfect knowledge and character. In this context, it is not surprising that Marie de France portrays her werewolf as morally superior to his human wife. But in the wake of late medieval discussions of the devil, particularly in the context of theories of witchcraft, animals become associated with evil. Most particularly, creatures that blur the line between human and animal are presented as evil; the animal-human hybrids in Ambroise Paré’s Des monstres et prodiges offer a striking example of this association.
capacity for evil; human/animal divide; Pliny; Ambroise Paré; monster; half-human monster; werewolf; medieval; hybrids.
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