Anthropomorphism has long been considered a cardinal error when describing animals. Ethicists have feared the consequences of misrepresenting animals in their reasoning. Recent research within human-animal studies, however, has sophisticated the notion of anthropomorphism. It is suggested that avoiding anthropomorphism merely creates other morphisms, such as mechanomorphism. Instead of avoiding anthropomorphism, it is argued that it is a communicative strategy that should be used critically. Instances of anthropomorphism in animal ethics are analyzed in this paper. (...) Some analogies made between people and non-human animals in present theories of animal ethics are clear instances of psychological anthropomorphism. Other analogies are implicit cases of cultural anthropomorphism. It is argued that animal ethics needs to take the wider discourse of critical anthropomorphism into account in order to sophisticate the understanding and use of anthropomorphic projections. Anthropomorphism is an efficient tool of communication, and it may be made an adequate one as well. (shrink)
This article defends psychology and psychoanalysis against the accusation that their use of anthropomorphism in descriptions of brain and mind reintroduces the 'little man in the brain' and generates a viciously circular analysis. It queries the clarity of the concept 'anthropomorphic', And argues that many predicates which are allegedly 'characteristically human' are freely and literally attributable to machines, Parts of the brain, Etc.; this merely points out the unsurprising fact that non-Humans often perform tasks which humans can also perform. (...) It does not make these non-Humans into intelligent man-Analogues. (shrink)
How should scientists react to anthropomorphism (defined for the purposes of this paper as the attribution of mental states or properties to nonhuman animals)? Many thoughtful scientists have attempted to accommodate some measure of anthropomorphism in their approaches to animal behavior. But Wynne will have none of it. We reject his argument against anthropomorphism and argue that he does not pay sufficient attention to the historical facts or to the details of alternative approaches.
In the context of animal cognitive research, “anthropomorphism” is defined as the attribution of uniquely human mental characteristics to non-human animals. Those who worry about anthropomorphism in research are confronted with the question of which properties are uniquely human. As animals, humans and non-human animals1 share a number of biological, morphological, relational, and spatial properties. In addition, it is widely accepted and humans and animals share some psychological properties such as the ability to fear or desire. These claims (...) about the properties animals share with humans are often the products of empirical work. Prima facie one might think that in order to justify the claim that a property is uniquely human, it would be necessary to find empirical evidence supporting the claim that the property is not found in other species. After all, the goal of animal cognition is to determine what sort of cognitive abilities animals use. If scientists were to discover that a cognitive property wasn’t found in any species except human species, then the claim that some other animal had that property would be a false charge, and would be an example of anthropomorphism. However, in practice anthropomorphic worries play a pre-empirical role. Research programs are charged with being anthropomorphic because they are examining.. (shrink)
ANTHROPOMORPHISM is an inveterate tendency to project human qualities into natural phenomena—consciously or not. The standard and most important variant of anthropomorphism is animism which sees a soul in everything in nature. Before entering into the role of anthropomorphism in the history of science, let us consider a few important and usually neglected logical aspects of the idea.
The charge that anthropomorphizing nonhuman animals is a fallacy is itself largely misguided and mythic. Anthropomorphism in the study of animal behavior is placed in its original, theological context. Having set the historical stage, I then discuss its relationship to a number of other, related issues: the role of anecdotal evidence, the taxonomy of related anthropomorphic claims, its relationship to the attribution of psychological states in general, and the nature of the charge of anthropomorphism as a categorical claim. (...) I then argue that the categorical reading of anthropomorphism cannot work and that it misrepresents what is being claimed when one claims that traits are shared between humans and nonhumans. We should think of such claims not as anthropomorphic per se– because that implies the trait is intrinsically human and only derivatively nonhuman. Instead, traits shared with mammals are mammalomorphic, for example, or primatomorphic when shared by primates. (shrink)
There has been a recent resurgence of interest in anthropomorphism, attributable to both the rise of cognitive ethology and the requirements of various forms of expanded, environmental ethics. The manner and degree to which non-human animals are similar to human beings has thus become a focus of scientific research and a necessary component to our decisions to act morally. At its basis, anthropomorphism involves claims about the similarity of non-human objects or beings to humans. Critics of anthropomorphism (...) often attack the presumptive character of such claims. In this paper I consider a range of stances toward anthropomorphism from global rejections to specific models. The bumper sticker version of this talk could be: science made too easy is bound to be wrong. In the end I will argue that specific anthropomorphic theses are supported or not supported by the same rigorous experimental and logical reasoning as any other scientific model. (shrink)
: T. L. Short's Peirce's Theory of Signs offers a strong interpretation of semeiotic, advocating a developmental and naturalistic position. This commentary examines some of the main features of Short's approach, raising a number of critical questions concerning the growth of Peirce's thought and the problem of anthropomorphism. First, two possible weaknesses in Short's account of the development of semeiotic, connected to the treatment of the "New List of Categories" and the role of the index, are noted. Next, the (...) menace of anthropomorphism is placed in the context of Peirce's startling affirmation of this point of view. Finally, the article draws attention to Short's bold claim that Peirce's theory of signs needs to be modified in order to accommodate a plurality of final interpretants in view of varying purposes. (shrink)
I consider three theses that are friendly to anthropomorphism. Each makes a claim about what can be inferred about the mental life of chimpanzees from the fact that humans and chimpanzees both have behavioral trait B and humans produce this behavior by having mental trait M. The first thesis asserts that this fact makes it probable that chimpanzees have M. The second says that this fact provides strong evidence that chimpanzees have M. The third claims that the fact is (...) evidence that chimpanzees have M. The third thesis follows from a plausible Reichenbachian model of how a common ancestor is probabilistically related to its descendants. The first two theses do not, and they have no general evolutionary justification. (shrink)
T. L. Short's Peirce's Theory of Signs offers a strong interpretation of semeiotic, advocating a developmental and naturalistic position. This commentary examines some of the main features of Short's approach, raising a number of critical questions concerning the growth of Peirce's thought and the problem of anthropomorphism. First, two possible weaknesses in Short's account of the development of semeiotic, connected to the treatment of the "New List of Categories" and the role of the index, are noted. Next, the menace (...) of anthropomorphism is placed in the context of Peirce's startling affirmation of this point of view. Finally, the article draws attention to Short's bold claim that Peirce's theory of signs needs to be modified in order to accommodate a plurality of final interpretants in view of varying purposes. (shrink)
Idolatry is vehemently rejected by the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and closely connected with idolatry are certain varieties of anthropomorphism, which involve the attribution of a human form or personality to God. The question investigated in this paper is whether a highly anthropomorphic conception of God, one that commits the sin of idolatry, is entailed by a particular theory of religious language. This theory is the 'univocity thesis', the view that, for some substitutions for 'F', the sense (...) of '___ is F' as applied to God and its sense as applied to human creatures is exactly or substantially the same. My claim is that the univocity thesis entails a strong form of anthropomorphism that in effect reduces God to creaturely status and thus succumbs to idolatry (albeit a conceptual form of idolatry). In the course of my argument, a comparison is made between, on the one hand, the methods of Duns Scotus and modern proponents of perfect-being theology in arriving at a concept of God as maximally perfect, and on the other hand the work of Thomistic philosophers (especially Barry Miller) in showing how a more adequate conception of divinity can be reached by dispensing with some of the methods and assumptions of perfect-being theology, particularly the assumption of univocity. (shrink)
We investigate the problem of how nonnatural entities are represented by examining university students’ concepts of God, both professed theological beliefs and concepts used in comprehension of narratives. In three story processing tasks, subjects often used an anthropomorphic God concept that is inconsistent with stated theological beliefs; and drastically distorted the narratives without any awareness of doing so. By heightening subjects’ awareness of their theological beliefs, we were able to manipulate the degree of anthropomorphization. This tendency to anthropomorphize may be (...) generalizable to other agents. God (and possibly other agents) is unintentionally anthropomorphized in some contexts, perhaps as a means of representing poorly understood.. (shrink)
Embodied interface agents are designed to ease the use of technology. Furthermore, they present one possible solution for future interaction scenarios beyond the desktop metaphor. Trust and believability play an important role in the relationship between user and the virtual counterpart. In order to reach this goal, a high degree of anthropomorphism in appearance and behavior of the artifact is pursued. According to the notion of the Uncanny Valley, however, this actually may have quite the opposite effect. This article (...) provides an analysis of the Uncanny Valley effect from a cultural and gender studies perspective. It invites readers to take a closer look at the narratives that influence the production of anthropomorphic artifacts. The article starts with a short introduction of the idea of the Uncanny Valley and gives a brief overview of current artifacts. Following this, a semiotic view on computer science is proposed, which in a further step serves as an epistemological grounding for a gender-critical rereading of the Turing test. This perspective will be supported by analyzing a classic story of user and artifact—E.T.A. Hoffmann’s narration of Olimpia. Finally, the special character of anthropomorphic artifacts is discussed by taking Freud’s concept of “Das Unheimliche”, as well as theories of identity formation into consideration, closing with a plea for a more diverse artifact production. (shrink)
Andrew H. Gleeson has written an essay commenting on an exchange between Dewi Z. Phillips and me, arguing that I was mistaken to dismiss Phillips’ criticism of the standard definition of omnipotence as unsuccessful. Furthermore, he charges Swinburne, me, and analytic theists in general, with an excessive anthropomorphism that obliterates the distinction between Creator and creature. In response, I contend that all of Gleeson’s criticisms are unsound.
Do non-human animals have rights? The answer to this question depends on whether animals have morally relevant mental properties. Mindreading is the human activity of ascribing mental states to other organisms. Current knowledge about the evolution and cognitive structure of mindreading indicates that human ascriptions of mental states to non-human animals are very inaccurate. The accuracy of human mindreading can be improved with the help of scientific studies of animal minds. But the scientific studies by themselves do not by themselves (...) solve the problem of how to map psychological similarities (and differences) between humans and animals onto a distinction between morally relevant and morally irrelevant mental properties. The current limitations of human mindreading – whether scientifically aided or not – have practical consequences for the rational justification of claims about which rights (if any) non-human animals should be accorded. (shrink)
A common perception of Spinoza casts him as one of the precursors, perhaps even founders, of modern humanism and Enlightenment thought. Given that in the twentieth century, humanism was commonly associated with the ideology of secularism and the politics of liberal democracies, and that Spinoza has been taken as voicing a “message of secularity” and as having provided “the psychology and ethics of a democratic soul” and “the decisive impulse to… modern republicanism which takes it bearings by the dignity of (...) every man,” it is easy to understand how this humanistic image developed. Spinoza’s deep interest in, and extensive discussion of, human nature may have contributed to the emergence of this image as well. In this paper, I will argue that this common perception of Spinoza is mistaken and that Spinoza was in fact the most radical anti-humanist among modern philosophers. Arguably, Spinoza rejects any notion of human dignity. He conceives of God’s - and not man’s - point of view as the only objective perspective through which one can know things adequately, and it is at least highly questionable whether he allows for any genuine notions of human autonomy or morality. The notions of ‘humanism’ and ‘anti-humanism’ have been discussed extensively -mainly among continental philosophers - since the end of World War II. Because these notions carry a variety of historical, ideological, and philosophical meanings, it is important to provide at the outset at least a rudimentary clarification of my use of these two terms. By ‘humanism’ I mean a view which (1) assigns a unique value to human beings among other things in nature, (2) stresses the primacy of the human perspective in understanding the nature of things, and (3) attempts to point out an essential property of humanity which justifies its elevated and unique status. This definition of philosophical humanism has only little in common with the historical notion of Renaissance humanism, and seems to match quite well the common understanding of philosophical humanism suggested by current philosophical dictionaries and encyclopedias. This notion of humanism should be understood in contrast to two competing positions. On the one hand, in contrast to the theocentric position that considers humanity to be radically dependent upon God, humanism affirms at least some degree of human independence. On the other hand, in contrast to the naturalist position which endorses the scientific examination of human beings just like any other objects in nature, humanists affirm the existence of a metaphysical and moral gulf between humanity and nature. This gulf assigns a special value to humanity and does not allow us to treat human beings like any other things in nature. For many humanists the nature/humanity gulf does not allow the application of the methods of natural sciences to the disciplines of the humanities. Humanism does not begin with modernity. In order to see how far back we can trace this position, we may recall Protagoras’ saying: “Man is the measure of all things, of things that are, that they are, and of things that are not, that they are not.” In modern philosophy, the humanistic position had regained dominant status since the Renaissance, and variants of this position were vigorously argued for by prominent thinkers such as Pico della Mirandola, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Fichte, and finally, Hegel. In this paper, I will argue that Spinoza was a foe, and not a friend, of this tradition. I suggest that, in contrast to these humanist philosophers, Spinoza considers man as a marginal and limited being in nature, a being whose claims and presumptions far exceed its abilities. “To what length will the folly of the multitude not carry them?.... [T]hey imagine Nature to be so limited that they believe man to be his chief part.” Arguably, Spinoza locates the origin of our most fundamental metaphysical and ethical errors in a human hubris which not only tries to secure humanity an exceptional place in nature but also attempts to cast both God and nature in its own human image. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that we can learn much about wild justice and the evolutionary origins of social morality – behaving fairly – by studying social play behavior in group-living animals, and that interdisciplinary cooperation will help immensely. In our efforts to learn more about the evolution of morality we need to broaden our comparative research to include animals other than non-human primates. If one is a good Darwinian, it is premature to claim that only humans can be empathic (...) and moral beings. By asking the question What is it like to be another animal? we can discover rules of engagement that guide animals in their social encounters. When I study dogs, for example, I try to be a dogocentrist and practice dogomorphism. My major arguments center on the following big questions: Can animals be moral beings or do they merely act as if they are? What are the evolutionary roots of cooperation, fairness, trust, forgiveness, and morality? What do animals do when they engage in social play? How do animals negotiate agreements to cooperate, to forgive, to behave fairly, to develop trust? Can animals forgive? Why cooperate and play fairly? Why did play evolve as it has? Does being fair mean being more fit – do individual variations in play influence an individual''s reproductive fitness, are more virtuous individuals more fit than less virtuous individuals? What is the taxonomic distribution of cognitive skills and emotional capacities necessary for individuals to be able to behave fairly, to empathize, to behave morally? Can we use information about moral behavior in animals to help us understand ourselves? I conclude that there is strong selection for cooperative fair play in which individuals establish and maintain a social contract to play because there are mutual benefits when individuals adopt this strategy and group stability may be also be fostered. Numerous mechanisms have evolved to facilitate the initiation and maintenance of social play to keep others engaged, so that agreeing to play fairly and the resulting benefits of doing so can be readily achieved. I also claim that the ability to make accurate predictions about what an individual is likely to do in a given social situation is a useful litmus test for explaining what might be happening in an individual''s brain during social encounters, and that intentional or representational explanations are often important for making these predictions. (shrink)
How should we determine the distribution of psychological traits—such as Theory of Mind, episodic memory, and metacognition—throughout the Animal kingdom? Researchers have long worried about the distorting effects of anthropomorphic bias on this comparative project. A purported corrective against this bias was offered as a cornerstone of comparative psychology by C. Lloyd Morgan in his famous “Canon”. Also dangerous, however, is a distinct bias that loads the deck against animal mentality: our tendency to tie the competence criteria for cognitive capacities (...) to an exaggerated sense of typical human performance. I dub this error “anthropofabulation”, since it combines anthropocentrism with confabulation about our own prowess. Anthropofabulation has long distorted the debate about animal minds, but it is a bias that has been little discussed and against which the Canon provides no protection. Luckily, there is a venerable corrective against anthropofabulation: a principle offered long ago by David Hume, which I call “Hume’s Dictum”. In this paper, I argue that Hume’s Dictum deserves a privileged place next to Morgan’s Canon in the methodology of comparative psychology, illustrating my point through a discussion of the debate over Theory of Mind in nonhuman animals. (shrink)
In responding to Peter Forrest’s defence of ‘tough-minded theodicy’, I point to some problematic features of theodicies of this sort, in particular their commitment to an anthropomorphic conception of God which tends to assimilate the Creator to the creaturely and so diminishes the otherness and mystery of God. This remains the case, I argue, even granted Forrest’s view that God may have a very different kind of morality from the one we mortals are subject to.
Even if animal liberation were to be adopted, would rights for animals be redundant – or even deleterious? Such an objection, most prominently voiced by L. W. Sumner and Paul W. Taylor, is misguided, risks an anthropocentric and anthropomorphic conception of autonomy and freedom, overly agent-centered rights conceptions, and an overlooking of the likely harmful consequences of positing rights for humans but not for nonhuman animals. The objection in question also stems from an overly pessimistic construal of autonomy-infringements thought to (...) result from extending rights to animals, and also, of confusions that supposedly may ensue from ascribing animal rights. Whether or not a case for animal liberation and/or animal rights can cogently be made, the redundancy-or-worse objection to animal rights need pose no barrier. (shrink)
Much contemporary analytic philosophy understands the power of God as belonging to the same logical space as the power of human beings: a power of efficient causation taken to the maximum limit. This anthropomorphic picture is often explicated in terms of God’s capacity to bring about any logically possible state of affairs, so-called omnipotence. D.Z. Phillips criticized this position in his last book, The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God. I defend Phillips’s argument against recent criticism by William (...) Hasker, contending that the omnipotence thesis is either false or trivial. I trace the superficial plausibility of the thesis to a Cartesian understanding of personal agency, in the light of which God’s power over the whole material world is an inflated version of our more modest power over our own bodies: it is the power of immaterial souls to control material phenomena. This comparison is expressed to perfection in the work of Richard Swinburne, my main target. I argue that by making God a force among other possible forces, in-principle able to be resisted, however feebly, by contrary forces, this picture reduces the Creator to a creature. (shrink)
In this essay dedicated to the memory of D. Z. Phillips, I propose to do two things. In the first part I present his position on the grammar of God and the language game in some detail, discussing the confusion of "subliming" the logic of our language, the contextual genesis of sense and meaning, the idea of a world view, language game, logic, and grammar internal to each context, the constitution of the religious context, and the grammar of God proper (...) to that context. In the second part I present my appreciative critical reflection by arguing that the conception of context and language game must be made more dialectical, that the grammar of God needs more systematic metaphysical analysis, and that a greater sense of the radical transcendence of God over a language game is necessary in order to avoid reductionism always inherent in any contextual approach. (shrink)
Revaluation of the problem of natural teleology seems an important precondition for elucidating our environmental crisis and for formulating an 'econological ethics', because it calls for a recognition of an intrinsic value in nature and organisms. Therefore, it is necessary to show that the concept of natural teleology is not in contradiction with scientific theories, in particular not with the theory of evolution. In this paper I shall argue that there is a fundamental misunderstanding about the concepts of teleology and (...) chance in modern thinking. This as a result of a radical transformation of the Aristotelian concept of teleology by Christian theologians during the Middle Ages. This confusion resulted in the rejection of teleology from evolution and in an exaggeration of the role of chance. However, not a solution for the problem of teleology is given here, but only an attempt to prove that neither the fossil-record, nor the role of chance in evolution can give adequate arguments for the negation of teleology in evolution. That is not to say that, therefore there exists teleology in evolution, but the problem of teleology in nature cannot, be solved by the scientific theory of evolution, but only be elucidated by philosophical analysis. At the end of the paper it is argued that teleology must be rather presupposed in evolution. (shrink)