In the new issue of The Los Angeles Review of Books, Colin Dickey reviews Peter Sahlins’ 1668: The Year of the Animal in France. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below.
“Sahlins’s book revolves around the shift from what he terms “Renaissance humanimalism” to “Classical naturalism,” an epistemological shift that entailed a radical devaluation of animal life. Renaissance humanimalism, he explains, “refused the clear ontological distinction of ‘human’ and ‘animal,’ underscoring the kinship and community across the species boundary,” while at the same time remaining “broadly human-centered, at once anthropocentric and anthropomorphic in its understanding of animals.” Humanimalism had seen its best articulation in the writings of Michel de Montaigne, who, in 1576, had asserted, contrary to Christian anthropocentrism, that animals were both moral and rational. In fact, he went further: they were even more moral than humans, who had after all been corrupted by the Fall. “Animals,” Montaigne comments, ‘are much more self-controlled than we are, and restrain themselves with more moderation within the limits that nature has prescribed to us.'”