Skip to main content

Animals and Society Class - Discussion 3

Q: Prompt: How are animals biologically classified? What are the categories? How were animals classified by Aristotle? How is the

medieval bestiary or the Physiologus an example of a sociozoologic scale?


A: The system for biological classification created by Linnaeus in 1735 was a way of grouping animals together based on observed physical traits. Groupings were formed based on things like the way an animal was constructed (e.g. vertebrates/invertebrates), reproduction was accomplished (e.g. mammals/various non-mammals), or what it ate (e.g. carnivore/herbivore). The categories are: phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, species.


Aristotle believed strongly that all animals, and all other life for that matter, were inferior to humans. He constructed a “scala naturae” or “Great Chain of Being” which was a hierarchical invention of fixed categories; placing human beings at the pinnacle of his ever ‘ascending’ scale, which started with insects. His opinion became the authoritative source on the topic for centuries, and still holds sway today. He held that animals were only concerned with procreation and food, yet he also assigned them a certain amount of intelligence in pursuit of those things. While Aristotle asserted that the main difference between humans and animals was in the quantitative amount of a given attribute, especially intelligence, he seemed to consider all similarities to be fundamentally insignificant. Aristotle allowed no space to consider an animal equal to a human – he seems to have been a firm believer in biological determinism and human exceptionalism.


A sociozoologic scale defines animals in relation to their value/benefit to people. The medieval bestiary does something similar, if more esoteric, in relation to the human soul. Within the bestiary is a Western Christian hierarchy of animals based less on the actual physical benefits the animals provide, and more on belief. A lion, for example, is not a particularly useful animal to the daily life of a medieval European, who will most certainly never see one in real life. However, as a symbol of Christ, Christianity, religious mythos, and governance of one’s daily behavior, it is invaluable. The bestiary’s sociozoologic scale is based on a religious worldview more than anything, but it still creating a hierarchy of good/bad animals for the perceived benefit of the eternal souls of humans. It attempted to tell people: lions are good animals; hyenas are bad animals. Be like a lion, not a hyena.



Popular Previous Posts

Book Review - Three Tides - Part 4

Pineda’s ‘gathering’ chapters are all about the epic destruction of Katrina. I come away from this reading feeling some sense of relief that many people are decent human beings who will help others in times of need, including Pineda herself. Pineda talks a lot about the strong sense of community in New Orleans before the hurricane and that during the hurricane the effected people were repeatedly “helping one another, sharing what they had.”  But the sense of relief at the humanity between individual people, gave way very quickly to disgust at the negligence of the organizations meant to help. Starting with the callous government officials who actually seem to have viewed Katrina as an opportunity to ‘clean up’ the “public housing” of New Orleans in favor of “urban renewal.” Rep. Richard Baker actually said as much, adding, “We couldn’t do it, but God did.” Apparently, they blew up the levees intentionally to sacrifice the poorer parts of town, in order to save the richer areas and tour

New blog content coming ... really ;-)

Ok, since I've been kind of neglecting my blog lately (Bad blogger!), I've decided to try something new here. Last semester I included book reviews and commentary for what I was reading in some of my classes. Since I'm taking a film class this semester, I've decided to share the commentary I'm writing for that class on here as well. Why not? They're all stories I'm experiencing in some fashion. They're all reactions and thoughts I'm having as a result. Who says I can review or comment on a book, but not a film? Not me ;-)

Review: You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero My rating: 4 of 5 stars Listened to the audiobook version. While some of the advice was stuff that could be found in any other self help book, some of it was wholly original and exciting. And the author fully owned that not every word she was communicating could be called earth shattering. But the best reason to read this book as opposed to others is the style of the author. Jen Sincero writes like your best friend telling you the truth. She writes without pulling any punches, in a straightforward vernacular, but with a perceived underlying concern for your well-being and self improvement. It's basically impossible not to listen. View all my reviews