Darwin – What if Man is Only an Animal, After All?

Dialectica 64 (4):467-482 (2010)

Ansgar Beckermann
Bielefeld University
According to Darwin, humans, just like other organisms, are not created by any special act. All organisms arise by natural processes from inanimate matter. Humans are no exception. But can it really be the case that even humans are ‘only’ animals – natural beings which (a) are completely made up of natural parts (in the end, of macro-molecules which themselves consist of atoms), and for which it is (b) true that all processes that occur within them are physico-chemical processes? In recent years some German philosophers (e.g. Habermas and Wingert) have argued that man “is elevated above nature by his capacity for deliberation and his ability to judge and comprehend meanings” (Singer and Wingert 2003, 11). Does this mean that humans are ‘supernatural’ in some way or other? My aim is twofold. Firstly, I point out that even non-human animals to a certain extent have the capacity to deliberate and act for reasons. Secondly, I argue that one can also put forward theoretical considerations in favour of the thesis that entirely natural beings may have this capacity. Thus, my answer to the question of what parts of our accustomed views of humanity and the world must we abandon if even we humans are ‘only’ animals is: nothing or at any rate very little. At least, even if we humans are ‘only’ animals, we may have the capacity for deliberation and the ability to judge and comprehend meanings
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2010.01245.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 46,373
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Concept of Law.Hla Hart - 1961 - Oxford University Press.
Doing Things for Reasons.Rudiger Bittner - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
Doing Things for Reasons.Rudolph Bittner - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):144-147.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
113 ( #75,196 of 2,286,166 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #572,967 of 2,286,166 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature