Anthropomorphism, primatomorphism, mammalomorphism: Understanding cross-species comparisons

Biology and Philosophy 19 (4):521-540 (2004)
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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.



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Brian L. Keeley
Pitzer College

References found in this work

The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.Charles Darwin - 2018 - Mineola, New York: Courier Dover Publications.
The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex.Charles Darwin - 1898 - New York: Plume. Edited by Carl Zimmer.
Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?David Premack & G. Woodruff - 1978 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4 (4):515-629.
Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?David Premack & Guy Woodruff - 1978 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1 (4):515-526.

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