Yale Symposium Considers the Continuum from Beast to Man

“Man and Beast,” a symposium that will take place at Yale University, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, December 7-8, will gather scholars of many disciplines from Europe and across the nation to examine a subject that has preoccupied mankind since the dawn of civilization.

What makes humans different from other animals? What do we have in common? Are non-human animals entitled to human rights? These are among the questions to be explored in the symposium, which is sponsored by the Yale Whitney Humanities Center, with the assistance of the Woodward Fund.

Defining what it is to be human has historically been at the core of Western philosophical inquiry, while animal imagery has figured in artistic expression at least since our early ancestors painted cave walls.

More recently, genome research has forced us to confront a new reality: genetically, homo sapiens is almost identical to the fruit fly. Even before the mapping of the human genome exposed this close biological kinship, legal scholars, bio-ethicists and advocates had taken up the cause of animal rights.

The symposium is divided into four 2 1/2-hour sessions, each focused on a different aspect of the man-beast connection. Sessions include the presentation of papers followed by a moderated panel discussion among the presenters. On Friday, 2:30-5 p.m., scholars from Harvard, Yale and the University of Paris will discuss ways in which animals have been conceived by the human imagination and incorporated into Western culture. The first session on Saturday, beginning at 9:30 a.m., will take up the question of animal and human kinship. The theme of the second Saturday session (beginning at 1 p.m.) is “Performativity,” that is, how animals’ behavior has been perceived in Western traditions. The final session (4-6:30 p.m.), “Animal Rights and Reason,” will reflect on the ethical treatment of animals in light of our commonality.

The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, call 432-0670 or e-mail manana.sikic@yale.edu

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345