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Images Of Animals

Eileen Crist

Publication Year: 2010

Seeing a cat rubbing against a person, Charles Darwin described her as "in an affectionate frame of mind"; for Samuel Barnett, a behavioralist, the mental realm is beyond the grasp of scientists andbehavior must be described technically, as a physical action only. What difference does this difference make? In Eileen Crist's analysis of the language used to portray animal behavior, the difference "is that in the reader's mind the very image of the cat's 'body' is transfigured...from an experiencing subject...into a vacant object."

Images of Animals examines the literature of behavioral science, revealing how works with the common aim of documenting animal lives, habits, and instincts describe "realities that are worlds apart." Whether the writer affirms the Cartesian verdict of an unbridgeable chasm between animals and humans or the Darwinian panorama of evolutionary continuity, the question of animal mind is ever present and problematic in behavioral thought. Comparing the naturalist writings of Charles Darwin, Jean Henri Fabre, and George and Elizabeth Peckham to works of classical ethology by Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen and of contemporary sociobiology, Crist demonstrates how words matter. She does not attempt to defend any of these constructions as a faithful representation of animal existence, but to show how each internally coherent view molds the reader's understanding of animals. Rejecting the notion that "a neutral language exists, or can be constructed, which yields incontestably objective accounts of animal behavior," Crist argues that "language is not instrumental in the depiction of animals and, in particular, it is never impartial with respect to the question of animal mind."

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii

I WOULD like to thank Arnold Arluke for inviting me to submit this work as part of the series Animals, Culture, and Society, published by Temple University Press. I also thank Marc Bekoff, whose careful, critical reading of the original version was invaluable for the process of rewriting. I thank Chip Burkhardt for...

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Introduction: The Significance of Language in Portraying Animals

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pp. 1-10

A TENSION is built into the pursuit of knowledge about animal life, for it is heir to both the Cartesian verdict of an unbridgeable hiatus between humans and animals and the Darwinian affirmation of evolutionary continuity. The consequence of an intellectual and cultural heritage of opposed visions of the relationship between...

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1. Darwin's Anthropomorphism

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pp. 11-50

CHARLES DARWIN'S work was of pivotal significance for the biological study of behavior. His arguments for evolution established the phylogenetic continuity between humans and animals, thereby irreparably undermining the credibility of the religious doctrines of the fixity of species, of special creation, and of the unique status of human beings. The link between...

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2. Lifeworld and Subjectivity: Naturalists' Portraits of Animals

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pp. 51-87

IN THIS chapter I turn to naturalists' portrayal of animal life. In the naturalist genre, I argue, the understanding of animals is coextensive with the approach to human action that social scientists have called "Verstehen" (Weber 1947; Schutz 1962). Verstehen involves the understanding of action from the actor's point of view; it pursues the...

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3. The Ethological Constitution of Animals as Natural Objects

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pp. 88-122

I NOW turn to the writings of the chief founders of classical ethology, Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen. In contrast to their naturalist predecessors' representation of animal life as immanently meaningful, ethological accounts are external to any possible vantage point of animals, deriving their meanings from models that are theoretical and technical. From naturalist studies to classical ethology, the form of...

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4. Genes and Their Animals: The Language of Sociobiology

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pp. 123-165

IN THE analysis of the behavioral writings of Darwin, Fabre, and the Peckhams, I argued that the affirmation of a subjective perspective in the animal world precedes the possibility of a compelling acknowledgment of mental phenomena, namely, phenomena of intention, memory, understanding, thinking, and emotion. Knowing animals as...

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5. Words as Icons: Comparative Images of Courtship

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pp. 166-201

CENTRAL TO the question of animal mind, and the perplexities it presents to behavioral investigators, is that mental phenomena are not a homogeneous ensemble of "objects" united by a common essence. As the philosopher Stanley Cavell aptly puts it, "We don't know whether the mind is best represented by the phenomenon of pain, or...

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6. Unraveling the Distinction Between Action and Behavior

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pp. 202-222

My AIM in this work has been to show the powerful role of language in the portrayal of animals. Beginning with the observation that animal life is represented in profoundly divergent ways by different authors and schools of thought within behavioral science, I have explored the formative import of all aspects of language use in the...


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pp. 223-230


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pp. 231-241


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pp. 242-245

E-ISBN-13: 9781439904725

Publication Year: 2010