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If Horses Had Hands …

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image of Society & Animals

This paper examines the contentious and confused notion of anthropomorphism. Beginning with an overview of the term's etymology and present use, it examines the arguments of those who believe it to be unscientific and demeaning, and those who believe it to be an inevitable and useful pragmatic strategy. The German philosopher Heidegger (1937/1984) raises the more serious objection, though, that as a concept anthropomorphism is not even meaningful. Supplementing his argument with examples drawn from evolutionary theory and elsewhere, the paper concludes that use of the term, anthropomorphism, commits one to an undesirable anthropocentrism, which shackles thought concerning the possible relationships between human and nonhuman animal beings.


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