HPSC X755 — History & Philosophy of Comparative Psychology & Ethology
Meeting time: Mondays 10:30:-1:00; Location: Goodbody 107
As with biology generally, the study of animal behavior was revolutionized in the 19th Century by Darwin's theory of evolution. Because Darwin recognized that human mental powers were a potential point of difficulty for his ideas of common descent and gradual differentiation, he and his followers were keen to stress mental continuity between humans and other animals. In their zeal to promote the idea of mental continuity, early comparative psychologists left themselves open to the charge that they were too reliant on anecdotes and anthropomorphic thinking.
The rise of behavioristic psychology in the early 20th Century, particularly among American scientists, fostered distrust of claims about inner psychical causes of behavior, and distrust of field observations as a source of knowledge about animal learning and memory. The quest to discover general laws of learning by experimental methods also moved comparative psychology into a laboratory setting, and effectively limited the range of species studied. In contrast, ethologists, beginning in Europe after the First World War, insisted on the importance of naturalistic observations, and on comparing a variety of species with a view to identifying differences in behaviors that were attributable to specific adaptations to particular niches.
In this course we will study the philosophical and scientific contexts in which these different approaches to animal behavior emerged, and the different approaches to Darwinian continuity that result. A major goal of the course is to relate ongoing debates to their historical antecedents, and students will be encouraged to pursue research projects which deepen our understanding of the philosophical disputes by examining the sources of the presuppositions of key participants in those disputes.
Books & Readings
Most of the readings will be drawn from the three books listed immediately below. Additional readings will be provided electronically via links in the schedule further below. The reading list for the version of this course taught 4 years ago may be useful. (The e-reserve password will be announced via OnCourse.)
This is a 4 credit hour course. Grades will be based on:
Statement for Students with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact IU Disability Services for Students.
Statement about Academic Misconduct
University rules concerning academic misconduct will be rigorously enforced in this class. See IU Code of Ethics, Part II for details. You will also be required to review materials and take the test at IU School of Education plagiarism tutorial. The College of Arts and Sciences also provides a guide to "Plagiarism: What it is and How to avoid it"