Varieties of Culture

Authored by: Grant Goodrich

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138822887
eBook ISBN: 9781315742250
Adobe ISBN:


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The past several decades have seen increased interest in animal culture. Much of the debate has focused on whether any animals have culture, and on how human culture might differ from the culture of animals. Framing the debate in these ways has led to a consideration of culture being a uniquely human phenomenon (Galef 1992), as a single kind of phenomenon that is shared across several (perhaps very many) species (Laland and Hoppitt 2003; Ramsey 2013), or as existing in many species but coming in a unique form in humans (Tomasello 2016). While I think that many species have culture, and that humans may have unique adaptations for cultural learning, the way that most researchers talk about culture is problematic. Most researchers speak of culture as being a single kind of thing that animals either have or don’t have, or if both animals and humans have it, what the humans have is its own single kind of thing, “human culture”. The problem is, I shall argue, that culture comes in a variety of kinds, and that a single species, including humans, may have multiple kinds of culture.

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