Beyond Anthropomorphism

Kristin Andrews

in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780195371963
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Beyond Anthropomorphism

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This article discusses “anthropomorphism” in the sense of the attribution of uniquely human mental characteristics to nonhuman animals. One philosophical problem is to figure out how we can identify which properties are uniquely human. The discussion maintains that one goal of animal cognition studies is to determine which cognitive abilities animals use and whether some identifiable cognitive properties are found only in the human species. If the properties are uniquely human, then asserting that some other animal has that property would be false and an example of anthropomorphism. In the empirical and the philosophical literatures, features that have been described as uniquely human include psychological states such as beliefs and desires, personality traits such as confidence or timidity, emotions such as happiness or anger, social-organizational properties such as culture or friendship, and moral behavior such as punishment or rape.

Keywords: attribution; human mental characteristics; nonhuman animals; animal cognition

Article.  13058 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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