The Anthropomorphism reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Anthropomorphism

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Anthropomorphism, also referred to as personification or prosopopeia, is the attribution of human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, forces of nature, and others. "Anthropomorphism" comes from two Greek words, ανθρωπος, anthrōpos, meaning human, and μορφη, morphē, meaning shape or form.

In religion and myths

Various mythologies are almost entirely concerned with anthropomorphic gods in human forms and possessing human characteristics such as jealousy, hatred, or love. The Greek gods such as Zeus and Apollo often were depicted in anthropomorphic forms. The ten avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu possess human forms and qualities.

Current religious belief generally holds that it is improper to describe the God of Judaism, and Islam as human. However, it is extremely difficult for the average person to picture or discuss God or the gods without an anthropomorphic framework. Traditional Christianity says that Jesus Christ became human while remaining fully God, uniting the divine and human natures in his person, and retaining his resurrected body when he ascended to Heaven. According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon), God the Father has a glorified, perfected physical body in which His spirit dwells. However, in contrast to the human frailties (hate, lying, etc.) attributed to, for example, Greek Gods, monotheist Gods are generally considered omnibenevolent.

Anthropomorphism is also important in many traditions of magic, where it is thought that entities can be affected by appealing to, bartering with or threatening their spiritss.

Anthropomorphism in the form of personification consists of creating imaginary persons who are the embodiment of an abstraction such as Death, Lust, or War.

In literature

Terry Pratchett is notable for having several anthropomorphic personifications in his Discworld books, perhaps most well known the character Death. Piers Anthony also wrote a series regarding the seven incarnations of Death, Nature, Time, War, Fate, Good and Evil. Neil Gaiman is also notable for anthropomorphising seven aspects of the world in his series The Sandman - they are called the Endless: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium.

The Indian books Panchatantra (The Five priniciples) and The Jataka tales employ this trick of anthromorphized animals very effectively to illustrate various principles of life.

Common usage

It is a common tendency for people to think of inanimate objects as having human-like characteristics as well, though few if any actually believe this to have real significance. Common examples include naming one's car or begging a machine to work. Advances in artificial intelligence are beginning to make such foibles into a potentially more significant phenomenon, however, as computers begin to reach the point where they can recognize spoken language. Some computers are already very good at displaying very specific and specialized categories of human-like behaviour, such as learning from their mistakes or to anticipate certain input, playing chess and other games with humanlike capability, and even in the case of robots potentially taking on humanlike form.

Modern occurrences

Characters from the sitcom Dinosaurs
The use of anthropomorphized animals has a long tradition in art and literature. Frequently they are used to portray stereotypical characters, in order to quickly convey what characteristics the author or artist intends for them to possess. Examples include Aesop's fables, George Orwell's Animal Farm and political cartoons, e.g. Maus. Many of the most famous children's television characters are anthropomorphized funny animals: Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Calimero, for example.

In recent years interest in anthropomorphic animals has also spawned a genre of generally more adult-oriented examples, commonly referred to as "furries" or "morphs" for short.

In logical reasoning

Using anthropomorpisized caricatures or projecting human qualities on conceptual entities or inanimate objects in reasoning is knows as committing a pathetic fallacy.

Relevant articles

See also: