Porphire Sophiste, in a French 16th-c. engraving
Original name Malchus. Greek Neo-Platonist philosopher, born in Syria; disciple and biographer of Plotinus.
Various extracts from: 'On Abstinence from Animal Food':
from The Extended Circle by Jon Wynne-Tyson.
But to deliver animals to be slaughtered and cooked, and thus be filled with murder, not for the sake of nutriment and satisfying the wants of nature, but making pleasure and gluttony the end of such conduct, is transcendently iniquitous and dire.
He who abstains from anything animate ... will be much more careful not to injure those of his own species. For he who loves the genus will not hate any species of animals.
And is it not absurd, since we see that many of our own species live from sense alone, but do not possess intellect and reason; and since we also see that many of them surpass the most terrible of wild beasts in cruelty, anger, and rapine, being murderous of their children and their parents, and also being tyrants and the tools of kings [is it not, I say, absurd] to fancy that we ought to act justly towards these, but that no justice is due from us to the ox that ploughs, the dog that is fed with us, and the animals that nourish us with their milk and adorn our bodies with their wool? Is not such an opinion most irrational and absurd?
... if we depend on the argument of necesstiy or utility, we cannot avoid admitting by implication that we ourselves were created only for the sake of certain destructive animals, such as crocodiles and snakes and other monsters, for we are not in the least benefited by them. On the contrary, they seize and destroy and devour men whom they meet - in so doing acting not at all more cruelly than we. Nay, they act this savagely through want and hunger; we from insolent wantonness and luxurious pleasure, amusing ourselves, as we do, also in the Circus and in the murderous sports of the chase. By thus acting, a barbarous and brutal nature becomes strengthened in us, which renders men insensible to the feeling of pity and compassion. Those who first perpetrated these iniquities fatally blunted the most important part of the (civilised) soul. Therefore it is that Pythagoreans consider kindness and gentleness to the lower animals to be an exercise of philanthropy and gentleness.
Extract from a review of Animal Minds and Human Morals - The Origins of the Western Debate by Richard Sorabji. Review by Stephen Salkever:
For Sorabji, the pro-animal side of the ancient debate, the side arguing that the gap between human and animal psychology is not so large, is best represented by various Aristotelians (especially Theophrastus, Aristotle's successor as leader of the Peripatos) and Platonists (especially Plutarch and Porphyry). A key figure in Sorabji's history of the fading away of this alternative is Iamblichus, who turned Neoplatonism away from its earlier assertions of a significant kinship between humans and other animals, and so sets the stage for the nearly complete triumph of the anti-animal view.
from the 1957 IVU Congress souvenir book
PORPHYRY (233-304 A.D.) a great Greek Philosopher:
"It is not from those who hare lived on innocent foods that murderers, tyrants, robbers, and sycophants have come, but from eaters of flesh. The necessaries of life are few and easily procured, without violation of justice, liberty, or peace of mind ; whereas luxury obliges these ordinary souls who take delight in it to covet riches, to give up their liberty, to sell justice, to misspend their time, to ruin their health, and to renounce the satisfaction of an upright conscience.
"Since, then, justice is due to rational beings, as our opponents allow, how is it possible to evade the admission also that we are bound to act justly towards the races of beings below us? We do not extend the obligations of justice to plants, because there appears in them no indication of reason; although, even in the case of these, while we eat the fruits we do not, with the fruits, cut away the trunks. We use corn and leguminous vegetables when they hare fallen on the earth and are dead. But no one uses for food the flesh of dead animals, unless they have been killed by violence, so that there is in these things a radical injustice."
"Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods? Draw near them in being merciful. True mercy is nobility's true badge... If we depend on the argument of utility, we cannot avoid admitting by implication that we, ourselves, were created only for the sake of certain destructive animals, such as crocodiles and snakes and other monsters, who seize and destroy men whom they meet - in so doing acting not at all more cruelly than we ... Those who first perpetrated these iniquities fatally blunted the most important part of the human mind. Therefore, it is that Pythagoras considers kindness and gentleness to the lower animals to be an exercise of gentleness and philanthropy. .. He who does not restrict harmless conduct to man, but extends it to other animals, most closely approaches Divinity.. .According to Xenocrates, there were in existence at Eleusis[the edicts]: "Honour thy parents; sacrifice to the gods from the fruits of the earth; injure no animals."