pp 1–23 | Cite as

Humans on Top, Humans among the Other Animals: Narratives of Anthropological Difference

  • Filip JarošEmail author
  • Timo Maran


The relationship of humans to other primates – both in terms of abilities and evolution - has been an age-old topic of dispute in science. In this paper the claim is made that the different views of authors are based not so much on differences in empirical evidence, but on the ontological stances of the authors and the underlying ground narratives that they use. For comparing and reconciling the views presented by the representatives of, inter alia, cognitive ethology, comparative psychology, and zoosemiotics, an overarching approach of multi-constructivism is introduced. The paper proposes an analytic model (3C/GUTP) that distinguishes four logical possibilities in representing anthropological difference: Gradualism, Transformativism, Unitarism, and Pluralism. Using this typology, the views of C. Darwin, F. de Waal, M. Tomasello, and T. A. Sebeok regarding the similarities and differences between human and animal capacities for cognition, culture and communication (“3C”) are analyzed. The results indicate systematic differences in the selected narratives by these authors (e.g. Darwin – Gradualism, Tomasello - Transformativism) that can be related to the types of underlying ontologies.


Anthropological difference Narratives Multi-constructivism Humans Apes 



We wish to thank Andrew G. Christensen and Adéla Šrůtková for careful proofreading of the text. Further, we wish to thank Mark Risjord, Helen Verran, Martin Paleček, Jaroslav Peregrin, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The research for this article was supported by the joint Lead-Agency research grant between the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) and the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR), Inferentialism and Collective Intentionality, GF17-33808 L, the Estonian Research Council (institutional research grant IUT02-44 and the individual research grant PUT1363 “Semiotics of multispecies environments: agencies, meaning making and communication conflicts”), and by European Regional Development Fund (Mobilitas Plus, MOBJD124).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SemioticsUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and Social SciencesUniversity of Hradec KraloveHradec KrálovéCzech Republic

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