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The anthropological difference: What can philosophers do to identify the differences between human and non-human animals?


Glock, Hans Johann (2012). The anthropological difference: What can philosophers do to identify the differences between human and non-human animals? Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 70:105-131.

Abstract

This paper considers the question of whether there is a human-animal or ‘anthropological difference’. It starts with a historical introduction to the project of philosophical anthropology (sct. 1). Section 2 explains the philosophical quest for an anthropological difference. Sections 3–4 are methodological and explain how philosophical anthropology should be pursued in my view, namely as impure conceptual analysis. The following two sections discuss two fundamental objections to the very idea of such a difference, biological continuity (sct. 5) and Darwinist anti-essentialism (sct. 6). Section 7 discusses various possible responses to this second objection – potentiality, normality and typicality. It ends by abandoning the idea of an essence possessed by all and only individual human beings. Instead, anthropological differences are to be sought in the realm of capacities underlying specifically human societies (forms of communication and action). The final section argues that if there is such a thing as the anthropological difference, it is connected to language. But it favours a more modest line according to which there are several anthropological differences which jointly underlie the gap separating us from our animal cousins.

Abstract

This paper considers the question of whether there is a human-animal or ‘anthropological difference’. It starts with a historical introduction to the project of philosophical anthropology (sct. 1). Section 2 explains the philosophical quest for an anthropological difference. Sections 3–4 are methodological and explain how philosophical anthropology should be pursued in my view, namely as impure conceptual analysis. The following two sections discuss two fundamental objections to the very idea of such a difference, biological continuity (sct. 5) and Darwinist anti-essentialism (sct. 6). Section 7 discusses various possible responses to this second objection – potentiality, normality and typicality. It ends by abandoning the idea of an essence possessed by all and only individual human beings. Instead, anthropological differences are to be sought in the realm of capacities underlying specifically human societies (forms of communication and action). The final section argues that if there is such a thing as the anthropological difference, it is connected to language. But it favours a more modest line according to which there are several anthropological differences which jointly underlie the gap separating us from our animal cousins.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:23 Jan 2012 09:37
Last Modified:18 Apr 2016 17:26
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:1358-2461
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/S1358246112000069

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