Analysis of the practical significance of animism and anthropomorphism in present era



It seems very fetishistic to discuss animism in the 21st century when technology is advancing so rapidly. The academic community remains wary of this proposition and has offered numerous scientific theories to prove the superstition behind it. Until now, however, philosophers and scientists have been unable to explain the soul and consciousness or even dreams. Animism based on life intuition came into being before philosophy, and it has internal connection with philosophy. The basic problem of animism, projected on philosophical thinking, is to demonstrate the existence of the soul. The main problem discussed in Plato's Phaedo is to prove the real existence of the soul, and the significance of soul existence to philosophical way of thinking and philosophical way of life. The scope of its discussion is particularly suitable for examining or discussing the basic problems of animism. This paper focuses on discussing the significance of animism and anthropomorphism in the current development of science. Firstly, the philosophical meaning of animism will be explained from the perspective of western religious belief from the scientific explanation and historical definition of animism. Then reflect on the poetic language expression of animism in the Eastern context. Finally, I will put the perspective on the phenomenon of anthropomorphism in artificial intelligence and talk about the influence and significance of this personalization.


There are four different scientific interpretations of animism: the first is that animism often brings things to life and personifies them. Animism and anthropomorphism are different but often common. It can be said that what is alive is not necessarily anthropomorphized, but what is anthropomorphized must be alive. The second explanation is the "spiritual belief theory" represented by Taylor,he believe that animism is a kind of spiritual belief, and this belief stems from the motivation to explain dreams and death. The third explanation, represented by Jean Piaget, a psychiatrist, holds that children tend to interpret things as living and conscious, which is similar to the connotation of anthropomorphism. Restricted by intelligence and cognitive ability, children's cognitive pattern of the world is similar to that of ancient people. In the eyes of children, man and animal are brothers with similar qualities, and everything is considered in accordance with the qualities of a personified or worshipped zoomorphic god. The fourth explanation also has Piaget overtones, but is merely a delusion that people can see whatever they want to see and what they think is alive, which is obviously an idealization, because there is always a lack of an obvious connection between what is wanted and what is in self- consciousness. (Jiang, 2018) Anthropomorphized communication is widely used in children's world. It is often found that living or non-living things are endowed with human characteristics. Cultural products such as education or entertainment virtually strengthen children's anthropomorphized tendency in cognitive process.With the growth of age, human beings gradually break away from the inherent thinking mode of children and begin to possess objective rational thinking and logical ability. However, the tendency of anthropomorphizing and the need for smooth perception of things in childhood continue. Therefore, we can draw a conclusion: people of any age are unable to resist anthropomorphic thinking and communication.


The word Animism comes from the Latin word "animi," referring to the mystical properties of all living things and natural phenomena, namely deities. This property is in itself imperceptible to the human senses, but Taylor argues that imperceptible deities are more important to the experience of those who hold primitive religious beliefs than directly perceived objects. Animism is a doctrine originally developed by phlogiston Stahl and is the principle of the identity of life and soul. In the sense of primitive religious culture, Taylor used the word "animism" to analyze the universal belief of primitive tribal people in soul and god. Therefore, different from extreme spiritualism, Taylor pointed out that animism only refers to the religious belief of those low tribes. In the process of spreading this concept. It itself in a profound change, but always maintain an unbreakable state, until it entered the modern civilization. "In fact, animism is the basis of religious philosophy, from the barbarian to the civilized. Although at first it seems to offer only a minimal and meagre definition of religion, its significance is immediately apparent. Because all the art forms that have developed since are rooted in it." (Taylor, 1889)


Following Taylor, Fraser, the British anthropologist and evolutionary anthropologist, in The Golden Bough, attempted to establish a coherence about the different stages of human intelligence. According to him, the development of human intelligence has gone through three main stages: witchcraft, religion and science. Thus, in contrast to Taylor's "animism", Fraser argues that the "witchcraft stage" is pre-religious or "pre-animism". In addition, Fraser also demonstrated this primitive cultural phenomenon all over the world with a large number of anthropological materials, and thus believed that primitive people all attempted to control the reality through the means of witchcraft. Fraser pointed out that there were two main thinking rules and principles on which primitive witchcraft was produced and formed, namely the so-called "law of similarity" and "law of contact". Among them, the so-called "similarity law", is the primitive people followed by "similar to each other, or the result is similar to the cause" of the law of thinking and principle. The so-called "law of contact" or "law of infection" is the law of thinking that "all things that have been touched continue to interact with each other even after being out of contact". That is to say, according to the law of similarity, a sorcerer can exert a sorcery influence on someone or something through imitation, thus forming what is called "imitation sorcery" or "homeostatic sorcery"; According to the "contact law", the practitioner of witchcraft can also exert the influence of witchcraft on someone or something, so as to form "contact witchcraft" or "infection witchcraft". Based on this, Fraser also made an analysis of human intelligence and its psychological mechanism in the stage of witchcraft from the perspective of psychology. He believes that the root cause of primitive sorcery is that primitive people perceive and grasp objects and self with "a wrong association". In his view, "mimicry" (or homeopathy) is based on "similar associations," which lead primitive people to mistakenly believe that similar things can become the same thing; "Exposure" (or infection with witchcraft) is based on "associations of contact," which leads primitive people to mistakenly believe that things that have been touched are things that are forever connected. Thus, he says "The identity of the principle of witchcraft is contained in the belief that the primitive man believed that through witchcraft he could regulate inanimate nature. In short, witchcraft is a system of fake laws of nature, an unqualified guide to behavior, a pseudoscience, an art of premature birth. However, Fraser believed that for the practitioners of witchcraft or primitive people, there is only "practical witchcraft", and they will never analyze the psychological process on which their witchcraft practice depends and will never think about the abstract principles contained in the witchcraft activities. Anthropologists and, therefore, researchers at the "philosophy of" only "from the concrete practice (i.e., witchcraft practice) to resolve these abstract principles", can we truly "back to context based on the original thinking on the basis of witchcraft", thus in the original thinking and concept of civilized people thinking between erect a bridge to each other through and interconnected. (Fraser,1980)


Engels pointed out that "in ancient times, people were completely ignorant of the structure of their own bodies, and were influenced by the images in dreams, so they had the idea that their thoughts and feelings were not the activities of their bodies, but a unique activity of the soul that lived in the body and left the body at the time of death. From this time on, one has to think about the relationship of the soul to the outside world. Since the soul leaves the body at death and continues to live, there is no reason to suppose that it itself will die. This gave rise to the idea that the soul could not die." (Engels, 1972)


Gombrich believes that the "anthropomorphism of ideas" originates from the unique linguistic tradition of Indo-European languages and is the "disintegration" and "disinfection" of the gods in the primitive mythology by Greek rationalism. In the Indo-European languages, Greek and Latin, in particular, like to use a personification of rhetoric method, they gave an abstract noun inject vitality, thus makes the abstract concept have a true understanding of objects, such as "justice" corresponding to run Delphi temple of female giant god Themis, "wisdom" corresponds to Athena, love is a sign of Menelaus, etc. (Gombrich, 2015) The pursuit of godliness and perfection leads to the development of epistemology and social culture following the same goal. All questions have answers, and all answers are not made up, and all answers are logically consistent. Enlightenment advocated the human rationality and the lofty realm of human kindness, is a kind of faith in progress and the human ability of self-improvement, advocate everybody has oneself as far as possible the good life, advocate freedom, tolerance, the doctrine, secularization, prompting some disciplines to produce (Summer, 2019), to guide our cognitive, gradually formed the enlightenment of the cognitive strategies. The theological origin and the social cultural origin work together to produce the epistemological origin. Tracing back to the origin of the personification thought in western natural science, Heraclitus, Plato and Hegel all derived their use of personification from the perfection of divinity, which is in line with the early western concept of evolution. Thus, science has been theological from beginning to end.


As far back as ancient Greece, Pythagoras believed that all things were numbered, that mathematics could unite the soul with God, and that God ruled the universe through mathematics. In fact, western classical philosophy, including cosmology, was formed at the same time as the self-consciousness of classical art, and the rise of philosophy caused people to debate about the nature of god. Like the artists of the time, classical philosophy rationalized the animist and humanoid models of the world. Greek world image before a similar philosophy of religion, provides a universe full of human and social relations, the most obvious is Heraclitus says war for the king and his father, he provides an even broader principles, such as make the universe a political entity, an organism, or both.(Williams,1979)The universe is not only social and political, it is alive as a whole. To some extent, it is also often a personified body, with the sky as his head, the stars as his hair, the sun and moon as his eyes, and the air as his wisdom. Many philosophers take the same view, such as Parmanides who described the universe as a sphere: The shape of God's "rotation" is round and spherical, equidistant... in every direction from center to end When we understand that the essence of the human body is its spherical head, we know that the human body is part of this model of the boundless sphere. The head is designed to accommodate the immortal, rational part of the human being, the soul. The rest of the body is attached as a supporting system, and the universe and its constituent parts do not need limbs or other organs for these perfect movements. Their perfect bodies have only one basic element: their heads. Thus, the basic shape of man and the shape of the universe are one, and man and the universe are spiritually similar just as they are physically.


Among the western cosmic gods, the planets, sun, moon and stars are also living and intelligent. Each has its own soul that makes it move, and varying degrees of will and strength. Aristotle, for example, believed that the heavenly bodies were alive, and that their lives were meaningful because they moved. And another anthropomorphism concepts about the universe that it is an artifact, such views tend to be all natural phenomena are made by god (or nature) using various techniques and process design to perform: Plato (whether the whole or part) of the universe is made from a sacred craftsmen, the craftsman created the world is not only a personal, and personality-centered; Aristotle's nature, like Plato's artisans, is a combination of reason and humanity, and he likens nature to a painter whose idea of the personification of the universe was present in European thought from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. (Mitchell, 2005)


In a speech in Vienna, Gombrich said, "There is little difference between the anthropomorphic figures of the virtues of faith, hope and love and angels and saints. If we go to heaven, we will see not only saints, but also images of faith, hope and love as real entities or essence." Gombrich points out that the "anthropomorphism of ideas" is peculiar to Greek rationalism, and that this particular development "has no equivalent in eastern thinking". (Gombrich, 1998)


Gombrich’s sentence caused me to reflect on Chinese traditional culture. In China, Confucianism advocates abstract moral concepts, and the Confucian theory of human nature, which takes benevolence and justice as its content, bears the ethical and political responsibilities in Chinese history from the front. However, in the aspect of conveying moral concepts, Confucianism did not rely on anthropomorphic images like the west, but on specific characters or stories. Filial piety is an important content of Chinese traditional culture and also a basic code of ethics. Confucianism holds that filial piety is the first of all virtues, and filial piety is the foundation of benevolence. Such as "24 filial piety figure" in crying bamboo shoots this picture, the master of the painting called Meng Zong who lost his father when he was young. His mother was very sick. In winter, she wanted to eat bamboo, Zong had no plan to get, but went to the bamboo forest, holding the bamboo and crying. His filial piety moved heaven and earth, even for a moment to crack, a number of bamboo shoots stem. He keeps it as the soup for his mother. After eating, her illness is healed. If only looking at this picture, the audience can not directly experience the filial piety of Meng Zong. It must be combined with the annotations of later generations to feel the filial piety of Meng Zong. Most of the images symbolizing the virtues of filial piety in China are historical figures, mountains, rivers, flowers, birds, insects and fish, such as The Classic of Filial Piety, The Biography of a Filial Son, and the Twenty-four Pictures of Filial Piety, etc., instead of enacting abstract moral concepts as fleshly deities through "anthropomorphism of ideas" as in the West. In Chinese culture, the concept of "the relationship between heaven and man" as the core and "harmony between heaven and man" as the highest pursuit has never wavered. This is one of the most important characteristics of Chinese mythology different from western mythology, and also the inner texture of Chinese culture. In the process of historical development, although the Oriental nations did not personify their ideas like the West, they inherited and continued the original ideas such as "animism view", "mutual infiltration law" and "integration of life". (Asher, 1998) The oriental people recognize the world and external natural things by "self-measure", and to some extent inherit the religious belief, social structure, customs and habits, ethical system, political system, mode of production, mode of life in the primitive period, as well as the way of thinking and national psychology formed thereby. This makes the oriental art maintain a blood relationship with the original art. In the view of eastern nations, man and nature are originally one and the same. There is no subjective and objective distinction, let alone estrangement and gap. Formed the "mind and matter monism", "the unity of heaven and man", the finite and infinite identical philosophy. In ancient India, there are propositions such as "you are him", "I am Brahman", "all things are Brahman" and "Brahman the same". In ancient Egypt, there is "the cycle of life of all things". In Buddhism, there is "Buddha nature in all things". In China, there are "the same heaven and earth", "heaven and man are one", "heaven and man are alike", "heaven and man are interlinked", and "all things bear Yin but embrace Yang". (Chen, 2018) Animism is an important characteristic of primitive thinking, which is a vivid way to grasp and comprehend the world poetically, and also the real source of the later literature and art life. The word "poetic" was first proposed by Vico, an Italian thinker and cultural anthropologist. In his book New Science, he called the thinking mode of early human beings "poetic wisdom". In Vico's opinion, it is by using this poetic wisdom that human beings have created "poetic metaphysical" philosophy, "poetic ethics", "poetic politics", "poetic language" and so on. To be specific, "poetic" means that early human beings are self-centered, create or construct the world through imagination and association of "self-measure", and grasp the world and explain things by way of analogy and symbol. The category of poetic wisdom created by Vico is the "primitive thinking" called by scholars of thinking science in the 20th century. This category is Vico’s research of early human thinking and social consciousness occurs, made it only contains the time on the morphology and thinking on the original meaning of, and some from the perspective of racial discrimination and cultural value to the word "primitive" is equivalent to some undeveloped national the "barbaric" and "backward" and "ignorance" point of view a very different nature. (Binion,2005)Poetic language expression in eastern art includes symbolism, metaphor, anthropomorphism, grotesque and other expressive techniques. Symbolism as an artistic technique originated very early and can even be understood as a historical extension of primitive art. Hegel in aesthetic lectures on art throughout the ages will be divided into three basic types, namely the symbol type, type of ancient classic and romantic, and stick to symbolic art is the beginning of the "art", "art before it should only be regarded as art, mainly originated from the Orient" (1979, Hegel), metaphors in Chinese architectural culture are fully reflected. One of the most fully expressed Taoist "travel" meaning of the garden design intention is "song". Such as humble Administrator's Garden, the path of the garden is tortuous, along the way to configure pavilions, and embellish landscape flowers and plants, step by step, never the same. This leads to the creation of the whole, but just like nature, giving people a long life of the heart experience. In the garden, people can enjoy the natural landscape, but also feel the desolate flow of time. Grotesque first appeared not as an independent aesthetic form, but as a way of thinking. Under the control of the concept of "animism", primitive people use the psychology of "to measure things" to recognize the external natural objects and experience the emotions of the objects being appreciated and created in a sympathetic way aesthetically. In primitive people's eyes, everything that exists in nature has a mysterious power, which can be carried out "interpenetration" between people and things or things belonging to different species. A clan whose totem is an animal believes that its members have only the attributes of that animal, and when they put on the skin of an animal (tiger, bear, wolf, etc.) they become that animal and have the power of that animal. The monster image composed of a variety of animals is a collection of these animals, so it is more mysterious and more powerful. It is under this kind of thinking mode that so many strange image combinations can appear in primitive art. The eeriness of eastern art is the reflection of the emotional tendency of the image combination of primitive thinking. These grotesque images are "unreasonable" to be observed by modern thinking. The characteristics of primitive art are determined by the way of thinking of primitive people, and "rationality" is not feasible here. As Judi says, primitive art in all its types will defeat our interpretation of them as rationalists. (Benjamin,2006) Without understanding the characteristics of primitive thinking and art, it is impossible to understand Eastern art, especially the grotesque art of the East. Any attempt to interpret the grotesque of the East from the perspective of rationalism can only be as helpful as wood and fish. Weirdness is a necessary stage in the process of human thinking and the development of art. Rationality comes from irrationality, and the sense of order and realism comes from weirdness. Grotesque, as an aesthetic form and expression, just as Susan Corey said, "it breaks the conventional way of perception, inspires new associations and explores new meanings through exaggeration, distortion, contradiction, incongruity and shock." (Asher,1998) In fact, the Oriental grotesque is not grotesque. As Levi Breuer points out, "Primitive man saw with exactly the same eyes as we do but felt with a different mind."


Nowadays, science believes that the human form repeats itself. Historians say that anthropomorphism is a complex phenomenon; Geologists and biologists think that anthropomorphic narratives are obvious and even unavoidable; Astrophysicists say stars are sentient, willful or manufactured, and one astrophysicist even described the final stages of star formation as an act of will. Many scientists personify science based on the apparent design or at least order of the universe.

There were definitely objections to the anthropomorphism of science, and the first critic was Francis Bacon. Bacon's view is to shape the world from transcendental categories, rather than seeking experience, anthropomorphism is only a result (Saygin. et al.,2011) Taking aim at the central Aristotelian principle that all things have a tendency to perfect themselves, and that in fact only humans have such impulses, Bacon saw the final result as having a clear relationship with human nature, not with the nature of the universe. Instead, we all tend to think that nature has a purpose just like people. The reason for this is that our constant search for explanations, our attempt to understand nature as ourselves, this impulse to understand nature as ourselves is intrinsic and persuasive, that is, the ultimate goal is really only human, and only human beings are setting and working towards it. As a result, Bacon rejected teleology. Although Bacon opposed anthropomorphism, he did not eradicate the idea, however, in any case he was a turning point figure in that era, Galileo, Spinoza, Hume, Kant and other people after he has questioned the theory of anthropomorphism.


The most successful use of scientific anthropomorphism in the 21st century is artificial intelligence. As a branch of computer science, it is a discipline that uses computers to simulate certain thinking processes and intelligent behaviors of human beings (such as reasoning, thinking, planning, learning, big data analysis, etc.). (He,2021) With a new round of scientific and technological development, artificial intelligence is gradually stepping into the center of scientific and technological research and development. Based on its universality and possible positive effects, anthropomorphism is often used in product design and marketing. The popular "graceful curve" of Coca-Cola and the anthropomorphic image of M&M beans are both classic examples of successful application. With the rapid development of science and technology, artificial intelligence has become a hot field of anthropomorphic application. Robots in science fiction movies tend to be very "human-like", "he/she" has a human appearance, behaves like a human, and is even capable of perceiving human thoughts, emotions and emotions. Since robots are not common in real life, the general public's impression of robots is often derived from these science fiction films (Broadbent et al., 2010). However, there are actually different forms of anthropomorphism. The most basic distinction is the anthropomorphism of appearance and behavior. Behavioral anthropomorphism is less studied, but even when a ball makes a regular motion, people tend to attribute it to a mind. Similarly, it remains to be seen whether an artificial intelligence entity in the form of a non-anthropomorphic machine can be anthropomorphic if it exhibits some regularity in human behavior. But artificial intelligence entities with anthropomorphic appearances are common in everyday life. Some AI anthropomorphic forms are very humanlike, such as some AI entities used for sexual purposes; Some artificial intelligence robots show human characteristics, but in the eyes of ordinary people are not human, just "like human", such as the robot Nao.


But the question is, is artificial intelligence as human-like as possible? There is the so-called "uncanny Valley" effect, that is, if the artificial intelligence entity grows too close to people, people will feel discomfort and even fear. Whether this effect exists is actually controversial (MacDorman & Chattopadhyay, 2016). Based on current research, if an AI robot looks and behaves like a human, this is actually fine. But if one aspect is slightly strange, then the uncanny valley effect kicks in. For example, the uncanny Valley effect occurs when a robot looks like a human but does not behave like a human or feels cold or skinless (Candea,2012). The uncanny Valley effect also occurs if the robot behaves like a human but looks like a machine (Pinar, Thierry, Hiroshi, Jon, & Chris, 2012). Of course, the uncanny valley can also occur if there is a mix of human and nonhuman in one of the dimensions of appearance or behavior. For example, robots with empty eyes are more prone to the uncanny Valley effect than robots with normal eyes (Broadbent, Kumar, Li, Stafford, Macdonald, & Wegner, 2013). There are different theories about why the uncanny Valley effect occurs. The main explanation for the uncanny Valley is that humans perceive robots that are too human-like as corpses, and experience discomfort and fear as a result. But why we feel uncomfortable with dead bodies is also debatable. One explanation is that this could be due to maturity or cultural upbringing, because studies of infants and toddlers have found that only children older than nine find humanoid robots more strange than mechanical ones, while younger children do not. This may be related to whether children judge robots to have minds (Brink, Gray, & Wellman, 2018). The age of 9 is also the time when piaget's so-called heteromeric morality shifts to a self-disciplined morality, which may have something to do with mental perception. The second, of course, is the distal explanation, which is that there is an evolutionary tendency to avoid contact with sick and dead bodies in order to stay healthy (Broadbent, 2017). To some extent, we can relate this psychology to some primitive human mode of thinking.


Since robots are not common in real life, the general public's image of robots is often derived from these science fiction films (Broadbent et al., 2010). In the past 20 years, the continuous emergence of social robots has gradually brought these fantasies into reality (Broadbent, 2017). They are called social robots because they no longer work on isolated assembly lines, but in complex social environments such as education (early education), business (shopping guides) and health care (accompanying the elderly). Their job is no longer just to repeat a single mechanical movement, but to expand to social activities that require human interaction. To play a role in these areas, social robots are required to become not just "tools" but "social partners" of people (Dumouchel & Damiano, 2017). There is no doubt that anthropomorphism can play a powerful role in the gradual transformation of the robot from a mere "machine" to a real machine "human". At the psychological level, we can even say that it is precisely because of the integration of anthropomorphism that robots begin to get rid of simple tools and have more complex sociality.


Turing, the "father of artificial intelligence", proposed the famous Turing test in answer to the question "can a machine think?" and pointed to the creation of a "child machine" (Turing and Stephan, n.d.). The so-called "child machine" is a machine with the ability of children to learn, and the key to making such a machine is to simulate the learning process of children. It is worth noting that Turing also stressed the importance of human-like embodiment, although not only in connection with anthropomorphism. Once a robot succeeds in anthropomorphic form, we tend to think of it as human. For example, when we put anthropomorphic robots on perspective-picking tasks, we tend to view the world from a robot's first-person perspective, and we're less likely to view non- anthropomorphic robots from a theory of mind perspective, just as we do not tend to view the external world from the perspective of animals (Xiao, Fan, Zhang and Zhou, 2021). In fact, human beings do not tend to let artificial intelligence make moral judgments, but if artificial intelligence infiltrates life as the subject of moral responsibility attribution in the future, we must make responsibility attribution for it. The research on the attribution of machine moral responsibility finds that when faced with the train dilemma of killing one and saving five, saving or not saving means act or inaction. For human beings, when they act, they will be subjected to more moral responsibility attribution, while when they do not act, machines are subject to more attributions of moral responsibility (Malle, Scheutz, Arnold, Voiklis, & Cusimano, 2015). When the robot is anthropomorphized, people tend to blame the anthropomorphized robot more in the act situation. In the case of inaction, non-anthropomorphic robots are more often condemned (Malle, Scheutz, Forlizzi, & Voiklis, 2016). When communicating with robots, human beings themselves will show differences in communication with human beings, such as being more polite (Nass, Moon, & Carney, 1999). But ironically, humans unconsciously apply human social norms to anthropomorphic artificial intelligence. For example, studies have found that there is in-group bias when people evaluate robots. Subjects not only evaluate in-group robots better, but also anthropomorphize them more (Eyssel & Kuchenbrandt, 2012). Both of these points should be debatable. Under normal circumstances, human beings think that they are in social communication with anthropomorphic artificial intelligence without bias, without discrimination, fairness, equality and rights protection, but they unconsciously show different social behaviors, which is a contradiction in itself. Humans then automatically assign their social norms and even morality to anthropomorphic artificial intelligence, which is even more paradoxical. In essence, animism and anthropomorphism both push the subject towards anthropology. Even civilization development so fast, the same gene content is born, all of these for scientific investigation, through the detailed observation of nature and of seeking god craftsman type exist, short of space exploration, and so on, all show the self-criticism of anthropomorphism in the system of the ideological field and the technical field of vision. All seem to support the idea that animism and anthropomorphism is inevitable this modern era.


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