73rd International Seminar, Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies

Human and Animal Wisdom – An Intercultural Perspective Assoc. Prof. Mario Wenning

Philosophical and literary works in the classical European and Asian traditions have repeatedly drawn on animal representations when deliberating about the nature and scope of human wisdom. Departing from a close reading of selected stories from Aesop’s Fables, Hegel’s reference to the Owl of Minerva and bird Peng in the Daoist classic Zhuangzi, the paper reconstructs diverse depictions of animal wisdom and their implications for a revised conception of being human. The capacity of animals to know intuitively, to undergo transformation processes and to effortlessly move in their natural habitat calls into question the pretentiousness behind human claims to absolute knowledge. One major function of imaging animal wisdom, the paper demonstrates, is to bring about an often humorous switch of perspective. It allows for the cultivation of humility and the capacity of honoring forms of life one does not completely understand.