Anthropology and Zoology: What is the Difference. A Discussion of R. Dawinks' and T. Suddendorf's Responses From an Evolutionary Point of View

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Based on the evolutionary account that both the human species and other species are likewise products of the general mechanism of evolution by natural selection, one wonders what distinguishes the human species from others; and implicitly, why we should have two distinct disciplines, anthropology and zoology, whilst evolution theory seems to suggest that humans and animals are one. This thesis shows that this question was at the centre of philosophical debates especially in 19th century. Philosophers came up with two radically opposed answers. One for instance given by Alfred Russel Wallace was that it is mainly the mind that distinguishes the human species from others. And the second, which is opposed to this, is by Thomas Huxley. He thought that both humans and animals are likewise “automata”. There is no difference between them; the mind is just an epiphenomenon; a by-product of the brain, which is material too. Due to this unresolved dichotomy on the part of philosophy, thesis looks at what both biologists and evolutionists would say about the question. Hence, for Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist) though there is natural continuity between humans and other species, it is the presence of “memes” that makes the difference between us and other species. For Suddendorf (an evolutionary biologist and psychologist), the difference between us and other species philosophically is explained by the human higher mental capacities, which in the course of evolutionary history introduced a “gap” between humans and animals. And this difference justifies the need for having both anthropology and zoology as discipline to study the various species. Thus, the task of evolutionary anthropology is to unravel the mystery of the quiddity of the human species, and to account for the evolution of the human mind. The thesis ends by analysing the strengths and weaknesses of each model.
Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen