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After sensing that no other monkeys saw him tumble, he marched off, back high, head and tail up, as if nothing had happened.

Once again, comparative research in neurobiology, endocrinology, and behavior is needed to learn more about the subjective nature of embarrassment. The best way to learn about the emotional lives of animals is to spend considerable time carefully studying them—conducting comparative and evolutionary ethological, neurobiological, and endocrinological research—and to resist critics' claims that anthropomorphism has no place in these efforts. It is important to try to learn how animals live in their own worlds, to understand their perspectives Allen and Bekoff , Hughes Animals evolved in specific and unique situations and it discounts their lives if we only try to understand them from our own perspective.

To be sure, gaining this kind of knowledge is difficult, but it is not impossible. And I'm just not sure what I can say. Let me think about this. They believed that they could be scientific and at the same time use other types of data to learn about animal emotions; that is, that it is permissible for scientists to write about matters of the heart although at least one prominent biologist has had trouble publishing such material; Heinrich , p. Whether we will or no, we must be anthropomorphic in the notions we form of what takes place in the mind of an animal.

Washburn , p. The way human beings describe and explain the behavior of other animals is limited by the language they use to talk about things in general. By engaging in anthropomorphism—using human terms to explain animals' emotions or feelings—humans make other animals' worlds accessible to themselves Allen and Bekoff , Bekoff and Allen , Crist But this is not to say that other animals are happy or sad in the same ways in which humans or even other conspecifics are happy or sad. Of course, I cannot be absolutely certain that Jethro, my companion dog, is happy, sad, angry, upset, or in love, but these words serve to explain what he might be feeling.

However, merely referring acontextually to the firing of different neurons or to the activity of different muscles in the absence of behavioral information and context is insufficiently informative. Using anthropomorphic language does not have to discount the animal's point of view. Anthropomorphism allows other animals' behavior and emotions to be accessible to us. Thus, I maintain that we can be biocentrically anthropomorphic and do rigorous science. These sources include natural history, individuals' perceptions, intuitions, feelings, careful descriptions of behavior, identifying with the animal, optimization models, and previous studies.

Burghardt and others feel comfortable expanding science carefully to gain a better understanding of other animals. However, Burghardt and other scientists who openly support the usefulness of anthropomorphism are not alone see Crist Some scientists, as Rollin points out, feel very comfortable attributing human emotions to, for example, the companion animals with whom they share their homes. These researchers tell stories of how happy Fido a dog is when they arrive at home, how sad Fido looks when they leave him at home or take away a chew bone, how Fido misses his buddies, or how smart Fido is for figuring out how to get around an obstacle.

Yet, when the same scientists enter their laboratories, dogs and other animals become objects, and talking about their emotional lives or how intelligent they are is taboo. This is supported by recent research. Based on a series of interviews with practicing scientists, Phillips , p. A broad and motivated assault on the study of animal emotions will require that researchers in various fields—ethology, neurobiology, endocrinology, psychology, and philosophy—coordinate their efforts.

No one discipline will be able to answer all of the important questions that still need to be dealt with in the study of animal emotions. Laboratory-bound scientists, field researchers, and philosophers must share data and ideas. Indeed, a few biologists have entered into serious dialogue with philosophers and some philosophers have engaged in field work Allen and Bekoff As a result of these collaborations, each has experienced the others' views and the bases for the sorts of arguments that are offered concerning animal emotions and cognitive abilities.

Interdisciplinary research is the rule rather than the exception in numerous scientific disciplines, and there is no reason to believe that these sorts of efforts will not help us learn considerably more about the emotional lives of animals. Future research must focus on a broad array of taxa, and not only give attention to those animals with whom we are familiar e. Much information can be collected on the companion animals with whom we are so familiar, primarily because we are so familiar with them Sheldrake , Species differences in the expression of emotions and perhaps what they feel like also need to be taken into account.

Even if joy and grief in dogs are not the same as joy and grief in chimpanzees, elephants, or humans, this does not mean that there is no such thing as dog joy, dog grief, chimpanzee joy, or elephant grief. Even wild animals and their domesticated relatives may differ in the nature of their emotional lives. However, research that reduces and minimizes animal behavior and animal emotions to neural firings, muscle movements, and hormonal effects will not likely lead us significantly closer to an understanding of animal emotions.

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Concluding that we will know most if not all that we can ever learn about animal emotions when we have figured out the neural circuitry or hormonal bases of specific emotions will produce incomplete and perhaps misleading views concerning the true nature of animal and human emotions. All research involves leaps of faith from available data to the conclusions we draw when trying to understand the complexities of animal emotions, and each has its benefits and shortcomings.

Often, studies of the behavior of captive animals and neurobiological research is so controlled as to produce spurious results concerning social behavior and emotions because animals are being studied in artificial and impoverished social and physical environments.

The experiments themselves might put individuals in thoroughly unnatural situations. Indeed, some researchers have discovered that many laboratory animals are so stressed from living in captivity that data on emotions and other aspects of behavioral physiology are tainted from the start Poole Field work also can be problematic. It can be too uncontrolled to allow for reliable conclusions to be drawn.

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It is difficult to follow known individuals, and much of what they do cannot be seen. However, it is possible to fit free-ranging animals with devices that can transmit information on individual identity, heart rate, body temperature, and eye movements as the animals go about their daily activities.

This information is helping researchers to learn more about the close relationship between animals' emotional lives and the behavioral and physiological factors that are correlated with these emotions. It is essential that researchers have direct experience with the animals being studied. There are no substitutes for ethological studies.

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INT - Interdisciplinary

Although neurobiological data including brain imaging are very useful for understanding the underlying mechanisms of the behavior patterns from which inferences about emotions are made, behavior is primary; neural systems subserve behavior Allen and Bekoff In the absence of detailed information on behavior, especially the behavior of wild animals living in the environments in which they have evolved or in which they now reside, any theory of animal emotions will be incomplete. Without detailed information on behavior, and a deep appreciation of the complexities and nuances of the myriad ways in which animals express what they feel, we will never come to terms with the challenges that are presented to us.


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In the future, skeptics should be required to mount serious defense of their position and share the burden of proof with those who accept that many animals do indeed experience myriad emotions. Explanations about the existence of animal emotions often have as good a foundation as many other explanations that we readily accept e.

I and others readily accept that in some instances the emotions we attribute to animals and humans might not be realistic pictures of their inner lives as expressed in overt behavior and perhaps supported by neurobiological data , but that in other cases they might well be. Allowing stories of animal emotions to motivate research that begins with the premise that many other animals do have rich emotional lives will help us learn more about them. We truly can ask such questions as do animals love one another, do they mourn the loss of friends and loved ones, do they resent others, or can they be embarrassed Bekoff Panksepp provides a useful thought experiment at the end of his encyclopedic survey of emotions.

Imagine that you are faced with making a devil's choice concerning the existence of animal emotions. You must answer correctly the question of whether or not other mammals have internally experienced emotional feelings.

Reflections on Going Interdisciplinary – actualham

If you give the wrong answer you will follow the devil home. In other words, the stakes are high. Panksepp asks how many scientists would deny under these circumstances that at least some animals have feelings. Likely, few. Sheets-Johnstone , p. Clearly, there is much disagreement about the emotional lives of other animals.

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The following questions can be used to set the stage for learning more about the evolution and expression of animal emotions: Our moods move us, so why not other animals? Emotions help us to manage and regulate our relationships with others, so why not for other animals? Emotions are important for humans to adapt to specific circumstances, so why not for other animals?

Emotions are an integral part of human life, so why not for other animals? By remaining open to the idea that many animals have rich emotional lives, even if we are wrong in some cases, little truly is lost. By closing the door on the possibility that many animals have rich emotional lives, even if they are very different from our own or from those of animals with whom we are most familiar, we will lose great opportunities to learn about the lives of animals with whom we share this wondrous planet.

The future holds many challenges and perhaps surprises for those who want to learn more about animal emotions. The rigorous study of animal emotions will require harnessing the best possible resources. There is ample room for hard and soft science in the study of animal emotions.

There are many worlds beyond human experience. There are no substitutes for listening to, and having direct experiences with, other animals. I thank Colin Allen for comments on an ancestral draft of this essay and Jane Goodall for discussing many of these issues with me. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Sign In or Create an Account. Sign In.

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