Syllabus for History and Philosophy of Comparative Psychology and Ethology, Spring 2006 Valid HTML 4.01! — version 2006-04-16
HPSC X521 — History and Philosophy of Comparative Psychology and Ethology
Meeting time: Tu 3:00-5:30; Location: Goodbody 107
Instructor: Colin Allen, PhD <>
Office / Telephone: Goodbody 113 / 855-8916
Office hours: Monday 1:30-2:30 and Thursday 2:15-3:15 in Goodbody 130

Course Description

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.


A one-page reaction to the week's reading is due at each class from week 2 onwards. In class presentations will be based on these reaction pieces. 70% of the grade will be based on the reaction pieces and class participation. A final project will be due on 5/04 for the remaining 30% of the grade. Projects will be custom-designed to suit interests of particular students, and based on contracts to be drawn up before the beginning of April.

Schedule of Readings and Presentations

You will need to obtain a copy of Burkhardt, R. (2005) Patterns of Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Founding of Ethology (University of Chicago Press). Also, if you don't already, you should probably own Darwin's The Origin of Species and Darwin's The Descent of Man. These are widely available so won't be placed on reserve (you can also find them at Project Gutenberg). Any other items not linked will be placed on photocopy reserve in the department. Some of the links will require access from within the IU campus network and others will require a password that will be given out in class.

This section is under construction — links to readings will be added as they become available. Student presentations will also be added later.

[1] 1/10 Animal Behavior: Overview of Philosophy, Psychology, Biology
Manning & Dawkins (1991) An Introduction to Animal Behaviour pp 1-16. (e-reserve)
Domjan & Burkhard (1993) The Principles of Learning and Behavior pp 1-19.
[2] 1/17 Ancient to Modern
Sorabji (1993) Animal Minds & Human Morals pp 7-96. (e-reserve)
Spencer (1995) "Pithekos to Pithecanthropus: An abbreviated review of changing scientific views on the relationship of the anthropoid apes to Homo" in Corbey & Theunissen (1995) pp 13-27. (e-reserve)
Dougherty (1995) "Missing link, chain of being, ape and man in the enlightenment: the argument of the naturalists" in C & T pp 61-70. (e-reserve)
Huxley (1874) "On the Hypothesis that Animals Are Automata, and Its History".
[3] 1/24 Modern to Pre-Darwinian
Johnston (2003) "Three Pioneers of Comparative Psychology".
LH Morgan (1857) "Animal Psychology" (published by Johnston 2002).
Bascom (1869) Principles of Psychology pp 219-228 [full text].
[-] 1/31 and 2/07: Scheduled meetings will not be held. Make up sessions are [4] and [15]
[4] 2/09 4-6pm Darwin
Origin Ch 8
Descent Chs 3 and 4
[*] 2/10 Course-related Colloquium Talk by Paul Griffiths
[5] 2/14 Late 19th C. origins of Comparative Psychology
LeConte (1875) Instinct and Intelligence (e-reserve)
Romanes (1888) Animal Intelligence excerpts
Thorndike (1898) Animal Intelligence Ch 2 (and see excerpts)
CL Morgan (1903) An Introduction to Comparative Psychology Chs III, XII, and XX (and see excerpt from Morgan (1930) The Animal Mind.
[6] 2/21 Making sense of Morgan's Canon
Radick (2000) "Morgan's Canon, Garner's Phonograph, and the Evolutionary Origins of Language and Reason."
Sober (1998) "Morgan's Canon" (e-reserve)
Thomas (2001 preprint) "Lloyd Morgan's Canon: A History of Misrepresentation".
Hermanson (2005 preprint) "Morgan's Canon Revisited"
[7] 2/28 Comparative Psychology Behaviorist-style
Watson (1907) "Studying the Minds of Animals"
Yerkes (1909) The Method of Pavlow in Animal Psychology
Pavlov (1927) "Conditioned Reflexes" — Lectures I, II, and XXIII
Skinner (1948) 'Superstition' in the Pigeon.
Tolman (1948) Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men.
[*] 3/03 lecture by Frans de Waal
[*] 3/06-3/10 Daniel Dennett @ IU as Patten Lecturer
[8] 3/07 Dennett - Post behaviorism
Dennett (1983) "Intentional Systems in Cognitive Ethology: The Panglossian Paradigm Defended"
[-] 3/11-3/19 SPRING BREAK
[9] 3/21 Ethology I
Burkhardt Chs 1-6 Patterns of Behavior
Lorenz (1981) The Foundations of Ethology Part One "Methodology" (pp 13-103).
Brigandt (2003) "Gestalt experiments and inductive observations. Konrad Lorenz's early epistemological writings and the methods of classical ethology" Evolution and Cognition 9: 157-170 preprint version
[10] 3/28 Ethology II
Burkhardt Patterns of Behavior Chs 7-10
Tinbergen (1963) "On the aims and methods of ethology".
[11] 4/04 Instinct's Demise
Lehrman (1953) "A critique of Konrad Lorenz's theory of instinctive behavior" (JSTOR).
Brigandt (2005) "The instinct concept of the early Konrad Lorenz".
Griffiths (2004) "Instinct in the '50s: The British Reception of Konrad Lorenz's Theory of Instinctive Behavior"
Kennedy (1992) The New Anthropomorphism Ch 3. (e-reserve)
[12] 4/11 Perspectives on Anthropomorphism
Fisher (1996) "The myth of anthropomorphism" (e-reserve)
Asquith (1984) "Anthropomorphism in description of primate behaviour" (e-reserve).
Asquith (1995) "Of monkeys and men: Cultural views in Japan and the West" in C & T (1995) pp 309-325. (e-reserve)
de Waal (2003) "Silent invasion: Imanishi's primatology and cultural bias in science".
Burghardt (1991) "Cognitive ethology and critical anthropomorphism: a snake with two heads and hognose snakes that play dead."
Keeley (2004) "Anthropomorphism, Primatomorphism, Mammalomorphism: Understanding cross-species comparisons" Biology & Philosophy 19, 521-540.
[13] 4/18 Integrative Approaches
Beer (1975) "Was Professor Lehrman an ethologist?" (e-reserve)
Timberlake & Lucas (1989) "Behavior systems and learning: From misbehavior to general principles.
Timberlake & Hoffman (1998) "Comparative analyses of learning".
Timberlake (2002) "Niche-related learning in laboratory paradigms: the case of maze behavior in Norway rats"
Grau & Joynes (2005) "A neural-functionalist approach to learning".
[14] 4/25 Cognition with (or without?) Consciousness
Burghardt (1985) "Animal awareness: perceptions and historical perspective".
Cheney & Seyfarth(1990) How Monkeys See the World Ch1: "What is it like to be a monkey?" (e-reserve)
Allen & Bekoff (1998) Species of Mind Ch 8 (e-reserve)
Shields et al. (2003) Comparative psychology of uncertainty monitoring and metacognition (refs)
Griffin & Speck (2004) "New evidence of animal consciousness".
[15] 5/02 Emotions
Dror 1999 The Affect of Experiment: The turn to emotions in Anglo-American Physiology, 1900-1940 [pdf 6MB!]
Panksepp 2003 "Laughing" rats and the evolutionary antecedents of human joy?
Panksepp 2005 Affective consciousness: Core emotional feelings in animals and humans

Some Additional Resources

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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.