Evaluates the significance and usefulness of anthropomorphism for the scientific understanding of animals by presenting diverse ideas from historians, philosophers, anthropologists, primatologists, psychologists, behaviorists, and ethologists.
People commonly think that animals are psychologically like themselves (anthropomorphism), and describe what animals do in narratives (anecdotes) that support these psychological interpretations. This is the first book to evaluate the significance and usefulness of the practices of anthropomorphism and anecdotalism for understanding animals. Diverse perspectives are presented in thoughtful, critical essays by historians, philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists, behaviorists, biologists, primatologists, and ethologists. The nature of anthropomorphism and anecdotal analysis is examined; social, cultural, and historical attitudes toward them are presented; and scientific attitudes are appraised. Authors provide fascinating in-depth descriptions and analyses of diverse species of animals, including octopi, great apes, monkeys, dogs, sea lions, and, of course, human beings. Concerns about, and proposals for, evaluations of a variety of psychological aspects of animals are discussed, including mental state attribution, intentionality, cognition, consciousness, self-consciousness, and language.
Robert W. Mitchell is Associate Professor of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University and co-edited Deception: Perspectives on Human and Nonhuman Deceit, also published by SUNY Press. Nicholas S. Thompson is Professor of Psychology and Ethology at Clark University and editor of the Perspectives in Ethology series of Plenum Press. H. Lyn Miles is UC Foundation Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and Director of Project Chantek.
"…a thoughtful work which can provide valuable insights for the non-scientist. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Nilas)
"It is rare when opponents of anthropomorphism can be brought to offer explicit arguments for their stance yet, several have done so here. Just bringing the two sides together for a debate makes this anthology extremely valuable. Another tremendously valuable feature is the enormous breadth of the sub-topics covered, e. g., the articles that try to explain the nature and function of anthropomorphism, as opposed to the related topic of whether it is valid as a way of thinking about animals and explaining their behavior.
"The topic is very significant, both because of the controversy in fields that are devoted to explaining animal behavior and because of the wide-ranging ramifications going beyond animal mentality to the question of how we understand human behavior and mentality. Thus, I think it is also relevant to philosophy of mind which, until recently, treated as peripheral the question of animal mentality. " — John Andrew Fisher, University of Colorado, Boulder
"What I find compelling is that all of the essays have raised important challenges to the way we view ourselves and other species, and many of them have subsequently attempted to identify alternative approaches. This collection is intellectual in that the authors have attempted to explore their own belief systems, as well as challenged readers to do likewise. " — Jo Liska, University of Colorado, Denver