Clark- Apes and the idea of Kindred

Clark- Apes and the idea of Kindred - Apes and the Idea of...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Apes and the Idea of Kindred * STEPHEN R. L. CLARK How Were the Apes Demoted? There was serious debate in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as to the precise limits of humankind. Monboddo, in particular, concluded that such apes as the orang-utan and chimpanzee (counted together as the Ouran Outang) were of our kind, a notion satirised by Thomas Love Peacock in Melincourt, in the person of Sir Oran Haut-ton, a parliamentary candidate for the rotten borough of Onevote. 1 They are exactly of the human form, walking erect, not upon all-four. . . . They use sticks for weapons; they live in society; they make huts of branches of trees, and they carry off negro girls, whom they make slaves of and use both for work and pleasure. . . . But though from the particulars mentioned it appears certain that they are of our species, and though they have made some progress in the arts of life, they have not come to the lengths of language. 2 Monboddo was gravely misinformed in some respects, and engagingly open in his judgement that our species-nature was shown chiefly in war, rape and domination rather than, as tradition said, in the use of language. He guessed right, though perhaps for not entirely happy reasons, that 'if ever men were in that state which [he] call[ed] natural, it must have been in such a country and climate as Africa'. 3 Maybe he guessed wrong about our species-nature. His inclusion of apes within 'our kind' is matched by those of his contemporaries who excluded Hottentots (like Voltaire 4 ). Those who insisted, with J.G. Herder, that 'neither the Pongo [probably the chimpanzee] nor the Longtmanus [the gibbon] is your brother; but truly the American [that is, the Amerindian!] and the Negro are', 5 now occupy the scientific and the ethical high ground. Any attempt to re-open the question is bound to seem offensive, especially if it is conjoined with the somewhat salacious details enjoyed by earlier anthropologists and explorers. I share with liberal critics a suspicion that supposedly 'objective' examinations of, say, the brains of 'Australids' (that is, native Australians), orang-utans and 'Europids' 6 are profoundly racist in their motivation and execution. But there really are important questions here. The story of the exclusion of such apes from 'our' kind requires an examination of the relations between folk taxonomy (which is strongly evaluative) and scientific taxonomy ( by which biological taxa are defined genealogically). 7 What follows is a beginning. Either we are simply natural products of evolutionary processes or we are not. In this part of the chapter, I explore the former hypothesis. My conclusions are very much like those of Richard Dawkins in Chapter 7: if we are products of evolutionary processes, then any objective judge would be likely to count us together with the other apes (just as we think ants or dolphins or finches are of single kinds even though there may be many (strict) species of ant, finch or dolphin). This is not to say that all such kinds display a single nature. Chimpanzees and
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 03/06/2012 for the course DEBA 101 taught by Professor Bob during the Spring '12 term at Colby-Sawyer.

Page1 / 8

Clark- Apes and the idea of Kindred - Apes and the Idea of...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online