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Morgan's Canon, Meet Hume's Dictum: Avoiding Anthropofabulation in Cross-Species Comparisons

Buckner, Cameron (2013) Morgan's Canon, Meet Hume's Dictum: Avoiding Anthropofabulation in Cross-Species Comparisons. Biology & Philosophy, 28 (5). pp. 853-871. ISSN 1572-8404

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Abstract

How should we determine the distribution of psychological traits—such as Theory of Mind, episodic memory, and metacognition—throughout the Animal kingdom? Researchers have long worried about the distorting effects of anthropomorphic bias on this comparative project. A purported corrective against this bias was offered as a cornerstone of comparative psychology by C. Lloyd Morgan in his famous “Canon”. Also dangerous, however, is a distinct bias that loads the deck against animal mentality: our tendency to tie the competence criteria for cognitive capacities to an exaggerated sense of typical human performance. I dub this error “anthropofabulation”, since it combines anthropocentrism with confabulation about our own prowess. Anthropofabulation has long distorted the debate about animal minds, but it is a bias that has been little discussed and against which the Canon provides no protection. Luckily, there is a venerable corrective against anthropofabulation: a principle offered long ago by David Hume, which I call “Hume’s Dictum”. In this paper, I argue that Hume’s Dictum deserves a privileged place next to Morgan’s Canon in the methodology of comparative psychology, illustrating my point through a discussion of the debate over Theory of Mind in nonhuman animals.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Buckner, Cameroncjbuckner@uh.edu
Keywords: comparative psychology anthropomorphism Morgan's Canon Theory of Mind
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Comparative Psychology and Ethology
Depositing User: Dr. Cameron Buckner
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2019 11:56
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2019 11:56
Item ID: 16327
Journal or Publication Title: Biology & Philosophy
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10539...
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007%2Fs10539-013-9376-0
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Comparative Psychology and Ethology
Date: 2013
Page Range: pp. 853-871
Volume: 28
Number: 5
ISSN: 1572-8404
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16327

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