Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution
496 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Jan 2006
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution

The Historical Status of Animals

UBC Press

In this provocative inquiry into the status of animals in human society from the fifth century BC to the present, Rod Preece provides a wholly new perspective on the human-animal relationship. He skillfully demonstrates that, counter to prevailing intellectual opinion, ethical attitudes toward animals are neither restricted to the twentieth century nor the result of Darwin’s theory of evolution. They have been part of Western thought and culture for centuries.

With his usual eloquence, Preece builds a cogent and persuasive argument, challenging current assumptions about the historical status of animals in Western civilization. He dispels the notion that animals were denied ethical consideration by Christian doctrine, refutes the claim that the Cartesian conception of animals as automata was widely embraced, and proves that "theriophily" -- the notion of animal superiority over humans -- was given greater credence than is commonly recognized. The exhaustive research and breadth of knowledge that Preece reveals in this book are matched by his belief in our ethical responsibilities to animals.

Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution will be required reading for those from animal scientists to animal philosophers to animal rights activists who have an interest in the history and philosophy of animal ethics.


  • 2006, Winner - Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
  • 2006, Winner - Award for Cover Design, American Association of University Presses
  • 2006, Shortlisted - Harold Adams Innis Prize, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Science
A book of this breadth and depth rarely comes around ... I learned a lot by reading this book. Preece’s claims are well referenced ... It will be a very valuable resource for anyone interested in the complicated and frustrating interrelationships that have emerged between animals and humans. Marc Bekoff, Quarterly Review of Biology, volume 81
In Brute Souls, Preece has shaped these findings into a very interesting and stimulating argument about the need to re-evaluate some widespread views on the historical status of animals within Western culture. Overall, this is a very interesting, well-researched book, impressive in scope and full of stimulating ideas. I recommend it to anyone concerned about the status of animals in society and about the development of ethical ideas and social justice in general.
Preece argues against the naturalistic fallacy and suggests that historical, popular, and empirical issues are where one begins when establishing tenable moral beliefs. Thus he ties together the historical and moral analyses. This wise, well-written, scholarly book is filled with insights. Highly recommended. R. Werner, Hamilton College, Choice
A marvelous scholarly tour de force. Preece is the most learned person writing in the area today. His knowledge is encyclopedic, and unlike many historians, he has a gift for relating the historical to contemporary conceptual issues. Bernard Rollin, author of Animal Rights and Human Morality and The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness
The scholarship is impressive ... Few other researchers, if any, can match his knowledge of the historical record. Angus Taylor, author of Animals and Ethics: An Overview of the Philosophical Debate
Rod Preece is Professor Emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has edited and written several books, including Animal Welfare and Human Values (1993), Awe for the Tiger, Love for the Lamb (2002), and Animals and Nature (1999), which received a Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award and was shortlisted for the Raymond Klibansky Prize.




1 In Quest of the Soul

2 Peripatetic Souls

3 A Natural History of Animal Souls

4 Return to Nature: The Golden Age and the Happy Beast

5 Theriophily Redivivus

6 Symbiosis: Animals as Means and as Ends

7 Evolution, Chain, and Categorical Imperative

8 Kinship and Evolution: The Darwinian Myth

9 The Moral Status of Animals: Practical Judgment, Reasonable Partiality, and Species Needs




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