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If horses had hands . . .

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the contentious and confused notion of anthropomorphism, the inappropriate attribution of distinctively human characteristics to other entities. Beginning with an overview of the terms historical and current uses, it goes on to consider the work of contemporary writers and thinkers who have explicitly addressed the practice. On the one hand many researchers believe anthropomorphism to be unscientific and demeaning to both human and animal. On the other, there are those who contend that it is an inevitable and useful pragmatic strategy for understanding the minds and behaviour of other animals. As the author demonstrates, however, Heidegger raises the more serious objection that it is not at all clear what is even meant by the charge of anthropomorphism. The chapter concludes that use of the term anthropomorphism commits one to an undesirable anthropocentrism that shackles thought concerning the relationships that are possible between human and animal beings.

Keywords: animals; anthropomorphism; Heidegger; human beings



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