Anthropocentrism: Historical Origins

Various authors attach influential importance to the Christian view that man as made in the image of God (Genesis 1.26) is fundamentally (and not only incrementally) different from all other creatures. In this sense the Christian faith is a historical source of the anthropocentric, i.e. human-centred, understanding of the world. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that even the Christian myth of creation suggests a certain similarity between all "creatures" since it asserts that God is the origin of all living things. Thus, for example, the designation "fellow creature" in § 1 of the Animal Protection Act points to the kinship of all living things within creation and hence also implies a clear duty to show them respect.

The special moral status of man was justified without recourse to Christian theology by his intellectual nature (for example in Enlightenment philosophy). The French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650), for example, argued that man was the only living creature to have a soul (res cogitans) (see Module 3.6.).

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), on the other hand, saw the difference between humans and animals in the fact that only man is capable of self-commitment and is able to lead a life oriented to the law of morality.

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