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Morgan's canon, Garner's phonograph, and the evolutionary origins of language and reason

Radick, G. (2000) Morgan's canon, Garner's phonograph, and the evolutionary origins of language and reason. British Journal for the History of Science, 33 (1). pp. 3-23. ISSN 1474-001X

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Abstract

`Morgan's canon' is a rule for making inferences from animal behaviour about animal minds, proposed in 1892 by the Bristol geologist and zoologist C. Lloyd Morgan, and celebrated for promoting scepticism about the reasoning powers of animals. Here I offer a new account of the origins and early career of the canon. Built into the canon, I argue, is the doctrine of the Oxford philologist F. Max Mu$ ller that animals, lacking language, necessarily lack reason. Restoring the Mu$ llerian origins of the canon in turn illuminates a number of changes in Morgan's position between 1892 and 1894. I explain these changes as responses to the work of the American naturalist R. L. Garner. Where Morgan had a rule for interpreting experiments with animals, Garner had an instrument for doing them: the Edison cylinder phonograph. Using the phonograph, Garner claimed to provide experimental proof that animals indeed spoke and reasoned.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2000 Cambridge University Press. Reproduced in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy. This paper was awarded the Society's Singer Prize for 1998.
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds) > Division of the History and Philosophy of Science (Leeds)
Depositing User: Leeds Philosophy Department
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2007 12:39
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:04
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007087499003842
Status: Published
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Refereed: No
Identification Number: doi: 10.1017/S0007087499003842,
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3257

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