Philosophical Primatology: Reflections on Theses of Anthropological Difference, the Logic of Anthropomorphism and Anthropodenial, and the Self-other Category Mistake Within the Scope of Cognitive Primate Research
Biological Theory 15 (2):61-82 (2020)
AbstractThis article investigates the deep-rooted logical structures underlying our thinking about other animals with a particular focus on topics relevant for cognitive primate research. We begin with a philosophical propaedeutic that makes perspicuous how we are to differentiate ontological from epistemological considerations regarding primates, while also accounting for the many perplexities that will undoubtedly be encountered upon applying this difference to concrete phenomena. Following this, we give an account of what is to be understood by the assertion of a thesis of anthropological difference, identifying, inter alia, a property that fulfils the exclusivity, universality, and constitution criteria and demarcates the differentia specifica between humans and other animals. Also, we systematically develop how such theses can be formulated more moderately. Furthermore, we account for different theoretical frameworks, argumentative schemes, and sociological factors whose employment is associated with theses as such. This endeavor is carried out under the guise of anthropomorphism and anthropodenial. Doing so, we show that both are favored by the logic of cognitive primate research. Put briefly, concepts like cladistic parsimony and arguments by analogy favor anthropomorphism whereas concepts like traditional parsimony and Morgan’s canon favor anthropodenial. We close by framing these topics in the light of the self-other category mistake that lies in ascribing exclusive self-properties to some other. Lastly, we probe this category mistake for potency and scope of implications and find it to be central to and unavoidably ingrained in our thinking about other animals.
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