Creative Commons license icon

'Wired' explains anthropomorphism

Edited by GreenReaper as of Sun 19 Aug 2012 - 02:32
Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (4 votes)

Is 'anthropomorphism' too vague for you? Wired’s Matt Simon explains the real meaning of anthropomorphism, in the first 1:40 minutes of this August 15th “Footnotes” video.

Did you know that the earliest-known writer on anthropomorphism was the Greek philosopher Xenophanes (c. 570-c.475 B.C.)? He criticized the then-current practice of imagining the gods to be super-humans of the worshippers’ ethnicity – Greeks imagined the gods to be super-Greeks; Thracians imagined them to be super-Thracians; Africans imagined them to be super-Africans, etc. He theorized that if cattle and horses and lions were capable of rational thought, they would each imagine the gods to be super-cattle or –horses or –lions rather than super-humans.

But if cattle and horses and lions had hands ?or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do, ?horses like horses and cattle like cattle? also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies ?of such a sort as the form they themselves have.


Your rating: None Average: 3 (4 votes)

Well some non-human Animals already have similarities, a similar mind, similar head, and more. In a way, all creatures on this planet has similarities. Perhaps every creature is Anthropomorphic already. We are not separated, we have similar minds, etc. :P

So if I was alone and had a dog, and wanted to treat the dog as a friend, I would be viewing him in an already same person, not adding any "human thoughts over" I think. Well maybe some sometimes but again, humans them selves share the same thing already, same for the dog. Hard to explain. Mainly because Dogs for example already have an Equal life living thing the same way as Human animals.

Interesting video I think. xD

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (4 votes)

No, you are anthropomorphisizing the dog; what you are describing is a textbook case of anthropomorphisizing an animal. "Friendly" may be a human only trait, it may be shared with dogs; we don't know, and cannot not truly prove that what we feel as "friendliness" is a shared feeling by the dog.

This is why anthropomorphisizing is actually considered a harmful thought pattern in science (furry is art, so we're okay); we want, instinctively, as humans to share our feelings with others, including dogs. However, science demands proof, not want.

Furthermore, you can anthropomorphisize anything; it doesn't have to be an animal. The word "anthropomorphic" is actually most likely to in religious discussions; the Greek gods are very anthropomorphic, because they basically are humans with some extra superpowers. The Egyptian gods are actually less anthropomorphic because of their animal qualities. Meanwhile, if you prefer your Bible stories, the book of Genesis is basically two creation stories; one is from a group of early Israelite priests who see there God as very inhuman, very not anthropomorphic (this is the "darkness over the deeps," God, kind of an ineffable, hovering, well, force of creation), and the other has a bit more of the common touch, and literally "walks" (anthropomorphic!) with Adam and Eve and "talks" (anthropomorphic!) with them and tells them they are his own. This version of God even has a gender (anthropomorphic!), if you notice.

The book of Genesis is really (at least) these two versions of God's stories as told by various groups of ancient Jews welded together with a really obvious set of seams running up the middle. The level of anthropomorphisation of God is just one of the more obvious ways to check which thread you're currently on, though, seriously, the threads in Noah's story don't even keep the number of animals he took with him the same. Fundamentalists are stupid, is what I'm saying.

Anyway, the whole completely (or at leat mostly) unanthropomorphic God from the "priestly" thread of the creation story is kind of one of the things that set the "Abrahamaic" religions (basically Judaism and its offshoots Christianity and Islam and their offshoots, like Mormonism) apart from other early religions; Zoroastrianism did have an obvious influence on the beliefs of the early "Abrahamists" or whatever you call them, but the Zoroastrianist or whatever you call them did have a very anthropomorphic creator God. That's kind of the thing that Judaism added to the table; a God that is not like us.

Which is kind of what the Wired guy is talking about with the "if horses had Gods" philosophising; we want our gods (and dogs) to be like us. A god (or dog) that is ineffably different from us is, well, scary.

Ironically, the "if horses had gods" thought experiment is also anthropomorphisizing, again, because we don't know if horses have gods, and if they would "equimorphisize" them if they did, or if seeing ourselves in things that aren't us is only a human thing.

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (4 votes)

Hmm well, it is possible that another species can have a similar thought, say on another planet, there was a group of people that was about 80% similar (And there probably is, who knows), they even had "Friendly thoughts" (And a culture like us). Would they be Anthropomorphic? Or is it only called that if a Human (Or another form) had added that over to another species or an object? But only in thought. But if they were created by nature or a machine, would it just be another species even if they looked too similar? Remember, every creature already has similarities and yet, even some were probably created by an "effect" of evolution from Humans, How we treat the air, etc. (Yet, we might be caused by an effect from others)

Sorry, when ever I see a creature like an "Elf" or even a walking "Object" on TV, Books, Games etc, I use my "Science thinking" and view them as a completely other species (I think), but with similarities, culture, and more. (Based on the similar thing we kind of have on this Planet and outside) It's kind of a fun sci-fi thought. And yet, might be more safe for science. Since this is like a more possibility thing, and kind of proven thing. (Similarities, effect, etc)

About friendly thoughts (Just the idea), that might just be an invention.. In a way, if there was a creature that is very smart, we can teach him or her about that, and he or she would have the "Friendly thoughts". lol Sometimes, it can be possible to be re invented by others... on another planet. :D Even though for now, I do believe there can be non-human creatures to have similar or same thoughts, etc.

Sorry if this doesn't make sense.

Anyway, interesting history though.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

There is actually a good case for animals sharing the same feelings and emotions. The more studies that are done on animals the more depth we find to them. It's not anthropomorphising a dog to say it feels pain. We see they respond the same way, have the same physiology etc and it's reasonable to assume they are the same there. If we see them behaving the same way as we would expect if they were friendly then it is reasonable to assume that they are also capable of being friendly.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 3 (4 votes)

I guess that is true yeah. ;)

Reply to any:
But also, I don't feel comfortable to believe that a certain feeling, mind, and especially Equal is "only something humans can have".

When it comes back to the Dog for example, I say it's not always Anthropomorphic to even treat the Dog as a friend because the Friend thing is something any creature maybe can have (And everything else).. So if I look at the dog Equal as a Human, it's just that.. A dog who has an Equal way of living as a Human. Thinking like that to me makes more sense.. Maybe Anthropomorphism should just mean to let the Dog or other have something they didn't have through mind, say for example, Imagine Human ears. But if a creature already had that (Close similar or not) (Created by human machine or not), it's no longer Anthropomorphic. If it is, than everything once again is Anthropomorphic because we are all connected (Parts, Mind parts, Souls, etc) to every creature on Earth and even other Planets. :P

I say, if you want to view it as Anthropomorphic personality it's fine but not everyone will. It's all true in some way to each I guess.

I guess in art, if I draw, I may be on the side of "scientific explanation of the possibilities of similarities and that they share the same on some" when I draw a "Race that looked close to Humans" but view it as a different culture similar. I guess I may sometimes use Anthropomorphic thinking if I wanted. :P

Your rating: None Average: 2.2 (5 votes)

Basically, there is a word for the what you're describing, and that is "anthropomorphism;" essentially, you can't prove any of what you are saying, but since you're not running a lab, its okay.

But, honestly, we can't ultimately prove we have souls, never mind dogs.

Your rating: None Average: 2 (4 votes)

Reasonable, but not provable. So, from a scientist's perspective, it is unscientific to say a dog is friendly. For a non-scientist, though, totally reasonable, even natural, to anthropomorphisize a dog this way.

Science is not about being "reasonable." That is for wishy-washy philosophers. Science is about being right. It's that scene in the third Indiana Jones movies where he points out there is a difference between "truths" and "facts."

Your rating: None Average: 2.8 (4 votes)

Well we cannot prove Emotions, etc is something only Humans can have for now also..
Anthropomorphism is not really proven also.. It was made by writer to describe something for "Separated" reasons or it looked like that. It was describe "Putting humans to animals".. And I was saying the things that was claimed only humans can have is not a real thing or wasn't proven.. I was saying it's possible for the things that was claimed "Humans only have this" to be possible for non-human creatures.. The "Only humans can have this" is very faded and for evidence, the only evidence I am seeing is creatures having similar things which gets more evidence that non-human animals has the possibility and even the possibility to create.. (In other words: Humans only have this theory fading away)

So if I see the dog as a friend, I think I am saying that the so called "Human can only have this" thing is something the dog has and shares. Friends I mean is like the acting like a friend, trust, etc. And that's what some dogs already do.. is this Truth? Well is this fact? It's a fact that they do that.. But is it fact that Dogs has the same thing? Kind of. But why do I say this? I say this for the definition of Anthropomorphic. And the Humans to Animals is not even a proven thing it's self. That's why I been saying "Similarities, parts, or so"

Equality is something anyone can have. Looking at the dog equal isn't a "Adding human thing" it's adding a thing that life it's self got. If that's not proven, than Equality it's self isn't.

Back to the Anthropomorphism thing, the reason why I had trouble with this was because of how it's viewed. "Humans to Animals" But that's not proven that Humans has something any creature doesn't. And the fact AND truth that Humans are Animals. If a theory, there is good evidence.

Again, Anthropomorphism is found sometimes in dictionaries but forcing it against a person who doesn't think Anthropomorphism but instead thinks of a thing that others can have in art, etc isn't the best idea.

IMO, evidence is the best path to go. The Big Bang is a theory based on some evidence, same thing for anti-specialism theory.

I know I know, It's NOT proof it's self, well kind of but it can be good enough, but remember even the "Adding Humans to Animals" is not proven also (Yet we are animals too). Perhaps the other way kind of has more evidence from what I see. To me evidence can be connected to Truth or Fact, what ever you mean to be proof.

Kind of get what I mean?
I would see the Anthro part, and I was trying to theorized that the meaning of it it's self isn't even proven, not even good evidence for a part of the meaning.

Your rating: None Average: 2.8 (4 votes)

"IMO, evidence is the best path to go." well if we can't find proof yet.

Edit: Also, Science to me is fact, like probably what you said.. But
anything can be science too in another term. (People has there own view on
science) say if I see a Car driving, that is a fact. A fact that I am seeing
that. In words of friends, it's a fact that the person is using the term..
Also, if it's not science to call a dog a friend, it's the same for Humans
too. Because well, that's also not proven maybe. :P

Again, if I draw a walking umm Cat, it's another type just like any type is
(And I already explained why it can be a different still, parts, to another
whole, etc). Perhaps maybe it can be Anthropomorphism at the same time? But
if it is, for that definition, than everything is Anthropomorphism even if
we just draw a Frog that has "no added parts", the frog already shares the
same adams, matter, similarity action. Those are facts already, and I am
comparing them with the dictionary word that anyone can also make up a new
word... Adding humans parts, actions.. And I am using those fact
explanations that Frogs already have that. If that is not proof that they
do, than it's not proof that 2+2=4.

Sorry for writing a lot again. >_>

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (4 votes)

Actually, the scientific method is in place and used by all scientists so that they can't have their own view on the science they're doing. Or at least to minimize personal interpretation.

Other than that, you still write like maybe English isn't your first language, and are struggling with it, so I kinda ... am not sure either of us has any clue what the other is talking about.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (3 votes)

Well some people has the right to view science in there own way.. But my view might be already what a lot are doing. The fact thing. And about Truth and Fact, I think you might be right about them being different but they can sometimes be the same if you don't lie on what you see, etc.

Anyway, I say it's hard to understand because I was trying to connect all the reasons why the dictionary term with the "Humans to Animals" of that one word. And trying to say that since Non-Human Animals already have the same parts in many ways, it starts to get odd with that meaning in my view. The term "Humans to Animals" sounds like a separated thing. And that sort of reminded me of a tiny bit of Specialism also, maybe it's not that but the term is odd to me so I don't use the "Nope these creatures I draw are Anthropomorphic" a lot. Instead, I just use, these are a new species with similar parts like what other species already had. I follow this way based on the scientific view of similarities, etc.

Again, explaining this from me isn't too easy. Maybe I am lacking words to short this out..

Your rating: None Average: 2 (3 votes)

In a completely unrelated tangent, I am looking forward to more use of the Xenophanes tag.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <img> <b> <i> <s> <blockquote> <ul> <ol> <li> <table> <tr> <td> <th> <sub> <sup> <object> <embed> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <dl> <dt> <dd> <param> <center> <strong> <q> <cite> <code> <em>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

This test is to prevent automated spam submissions.
Leave empty.

About the author

Fred Pattenread storiescontact (login required)

a retired former librarian from North Hollywood, California, interested in general anthropomorphics