Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism

Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism


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Is anthropomorphism a scientific sin? Scientists and animal researchers routinely warn against "animal stories," and contrast rigorous explanations and observation to facile and even fanciful projections about animals. Yet many of us, scientists and researchers included, continue to see animals as humans and humans as animals. As this innovative new collection demonstrates, humans use animals to transcend the confines of self and species; they also enlist them to symbolize, dramatize, and illuminate aspects of humans' experience and fantasy. Humans merge with animals in stories, films, philosophical speculations, and scientific treatises. In their performance with humans on many stages and in different ways, animals move us to think.

From Victorian vivisectionists to elephant conservation, from ancient Indian mythology to pet ownership in the contemporary United States, our understanding of both animals and what it means to be human has been shaped by anthropomorphic thinking. The contributors to Thinking with Animals explore the how and why of anthropomorphism, drawing attention to its rich and varied uses. Prominent scholars in the fields of anthropology, ethology, history, and philosophy, as well as filmmakers and photographers, take a closer look at how deeply and broadly ways of imagining animals have transformed humans and animals alike.

Essays in the book investigate the changing patterns of anthropomorphism across different time periods and settings, as well as their transformative effects, both figuratively and literally, upon animals, humans, and their interactions. Examining how anthropomorphic thinking "works" in a range of different contexts, contributors reveal the ways in which anthropomorphism turns out to be remarkably useful: it can promote good health and spirits, enlist support in political causes, sell products across boundaries of culture of and nationality, crystallize and strengthen social values, and hold up a philosophical mirror to the human predicament.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231130387
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 02/02/2005
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lorraine Daston is director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and honorary professor at the Humboldt-Universität, Berlin.

Gregg Mitman is William Coleman Professor of the History of Science and professor of medical history and science and technology studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Table of Contents

Introduction. The How and Why of Thinking with Animals, by Lorraine Daston and Gregg Mitman
1. Zoomorphism in Ancient India: Humans More Bestial Than the Beasts, by Wendy Doniger
2. Intelligences: Angelic, Animal, Human, by Lorraine Daston
3. The Experimental Animal in Victorian Britain, by Paul S. White
4. Comparative Psychology Meets Evolutionary Biology: Morgan's Canon and Cladistic Parsimony, by Elliott Sober
5. Anthropomorphism and Cross-Species Modeling, by Sandra D. Mitchell
6. People in Disguise: Anthropomorphism and the Human-Pet Relationship, by James A. Serpell
7. Digital Beasts as Visual Esperanto: Getty Images and the Colonization of Sight, by Cheryce Kramer
8. Pachyderm Personalities: The Media of Science, Politics, and Conservation, by Gregg Mitman
9. Reflections on Anthropomorphism in The Disenchanted Forest, by Sarita Siegel

What People are Saying About This

Marc Bekoff

Thinking with Animals provides a much-needed multidisciplinary and cross-cultural discussion about how we describe, explain, and come to a better understanding of the behavior, minds, and emotional lives of other animals. Anthropomorphism has survived a wide variety of onslaughts and is here to stay. It isn't 'bad' and, when used properly, anthropomorphism can increase our appreciation of animals for who they are - what it is like to be a particular animal - and also aid indesigning future behavioral studies.

Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, editor of Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior

Jonathan Burt

In a book that covers everything from Hindu thought to film and photography, from nineteenth century vivisection to pet keeping and philosophy, this is the most original and subtle exploration of anthropomorphism to date. In the increasing numbers of publications on human-animal relations currently appearing, this collection stands out as essential reading.

Jonathan Burt, author of Animals in Film, cofounder of U.K.'s Animal Studies Group

Harriet Ritvo

This engaging and provocative collection illuminates the issues raised by anthropomorphism, which (whether acknowledged or not) is at the core of most human attempts to understand our relationship with other animals, by juxtaposing the insights of scholars, scientists, and artists.

Harriet Ritvo, MIT, author of The Platypus and the Mermaid: And Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination

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