Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 457–479 | Cite as

Culture in humans and other animals

  • Grant RamseyEmail author


The study of animal culture is a flourishing field, with culture being recorded in a wide range of taxa, including non-human primates, birds, cetaceans, and rodents. In spite of this research, however, the concept of culture itself remains elusive. There is no universally assented to concept of culture, and there is debate over the connection between culture and related concepts like tradition and social learning. Furthermore, it is not clear whether culture in humans and culture in non-human animals is really the same thing, or merely loose analogues that go by the same name. The purpose of this paper is to explicate core desiderata for a concept of culture and then to construct a concept that meets these desiderata. The paper then applies this concept in both humans and non-human animals.


Behavior Culture Epigenetic Evolution Innovation Social learning Tradition 



I thank Robert Brandon, Andreas De Block, Daniel Dennett, Agustín Fuentes, Dan McShea, Güven Güzeldere, Maya Parson, Charles Pence, Alex Rosenberg, Kim Sterelny, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable input into this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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