anthropomorphism

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anthropomorphism

(ăn'thrəpōmôr`fĭzəm) [Gr.,=having human form], in religion, conception of divinity as being in human form or having human characteristics. Anthropomorphism also applies to the ascription of human forms or characteristics to the divine spirits of things such as the winds and the rivers, events such as war and death, and abstractions such as love, beauty, strife, and hate. As used by students of religion and anthropology the term is applied to certain systems of religious belief, usually polytheistic. Although some degree of anthropomorphism is characteristic of nearly all polytheistic religions, it is perhaps most widely associated with the Homeric gods and later Greek religion. Anthropomorphic thought is said to have developed from three primary sources: animismanimism,
belief in personalized, supernatural beings (or souls) that often inhabit ordinary animals and objects, governing their existence. British anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor argued in Primitive Culture
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, legend, and the need for visual presentation of the gods.

anthropomorphism

the attribution of human form or characteristics to natural phenomena, animals, deities, spirits, etc. Anthropomorphism is a central feature of many systems of religion and cosmology which frequently assert a relationship between human affairs and the natural and supernatural realms.

Anthropomorphism

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Religions are typically expressed in anthropomorphic ways. The term comes from the Greek anthropos ("man") and morphe ("form") and refers to the human tendency to visualize nonhuman concepts in human form. We say the waters of a placid lake "lie still." A fire "rages" within a forest. Gods, spirits, and abominable snowmen take on human attributes.

This concept is summarized by Kurtis Schaeffer of the University of Alabama in a review of Stewart Guthrie's book Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion:

Our tendency to find human characteristics in the non-human world stems from a deep-seated perceptual strategy: in the face of pervasive (if mostly unconscious) uncertainty about what we see, we bet on the most meaningful interpretation we can. If we are in the woods and see a dark shape that might be a bear or a boulder, for example, it is good policy to think it is a bear. If we are mistaken, we lose little, and if we are right, we gain much. So in scanning the world we always look for what most concerns us—living things, and especially human ones. Even animals watch for human attributes, as when birds avoid scarecrows. In short, we follow the principle, better safe than sorry.

Genesis teaches that humans were created in the image of God (although the television character Archie Bunker of All in the Family fame would later remark, "I won't say you can't tell us apart"). Some posit that, in art and literature, humans have recreated God in our image, both "Father God" and "Mother Earth."

Although all religions, even pantheistic ones, tend to see God or gods in human form, anthropomorphic expression of the divine found full expression in the Greek pantheon. Gods were, quite literally, made in the image of men. This tendency, however, was predated by biblical descriptions of God as a being with human form (Exodus 15:3)—with feet (Genesis 3:8), hands (Exodus 24:11), a mouth (Numbers 12:8), and heart (Hosea 11:8)—while at the same time displaying human emotions (Exodus 20:5). To be sure, when God is described as "a consuming fire," natural forces as well have been called upon to conceptualize the divine.

Much later, the Qur'an attributes noble human emotions to Allah, calling him "most merciful" and reminding us that "Allah heareth and knoweth all things."

Biblical writers must have been aware of this tendency, because they grappled with the problem of reducing spirit to human language. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, Alexandrian Jewish scholars felt the need to freely translate a few texts. Because the Israelites "saw no form" at Mount Sinai on the occasion of the delivery of the Ten Commandments, resulting in the instructions to make no images or idols of the divine, the translators felt free to add a descriptive word or two from time to time. Where Numbers 12:8 says, "I will speak with Him mouth to mouth," the Greek version reads, "I will speak to Him mouth to mouth apparently."

Perhaps it was the problem of anthropomorphism that caused early Hindu writers to insist that Brahman, the ultimate, universal creative principle, could not be "soiled by the tongue." The Upanishads describe Brahman as "Him the eye does not see, nor the tongue express, nor the mind grasp." Although there are said to be thirtythree million gods in India, ultimately all are faces of the inexpressible Brahman.

Anthropomorphism

 

a resemblance to man; the attribution of human psychological characteristics to objects and phenomena of inanimate nature, celestial bodies, animals, and mythical beings.

Naive, dogmatic anthropomorphism is a primitive ideology which is expressed in the endowment of inanimate objects with the ability to act, live, die, have experiences, and so forth. (For example, the land sleeps, or the sky frowns.) Such an anthropomorphism was the prevailing world view during the early stages of development in human society. Echoes of such a conception of the world exist even in the languages of modern cultures—for example, numerous impersonal verbs such as morosit (it is drizzling), svetaet (it is dawning), and others. They exist also in the arts, especially poetry. As a way of thinking, however, such a type of anthropomorphism is today characteristic only of a child’s psychology; among adults it is usually a symptom of infantilism. Naive, dogmatic anthropomorphism developed into religious anthropomorphism; the image and characteristics of human beings were transferred to fantastic objects. This transference is inherent in religious conceptions of gods and other supernatural beings. The gods of the so-called higher religions are also anthropomorphic, although this is denied in theology.

Elements of anthropomorphism have even penetrated into scientific consciousness. For example, such terms as rabota (work) and napriazhenie (voltage) are anthropomorphic in their derivation, although their real meanings long ago lost any connection with their derivation. With the development of science, anthropomorphism has been replaced by the scientific world view, although in certain branches of knowledge anthropomorphic concepts remain ex tremely strong—for example, in animalpsychology: Some researchers have ascribed human thoughts, feelings, and even ethics to animals. In modern scientific, technical, and especially cybernetic literature, there are uses of anthropomorphic concepts (the “prolonged life” of particles, the concept that the machine “remembers” and “solves problems,” and so forth). Such usages are based upon the objective similarity between the functions and results of human actions and the functions and results of machine actions. They are fully justified, if essential, differences between human and machine processes are taken into account.

V. A. KOSTELOVSKII

References in periodicals archive ?
Both anthropomorphs remain clearly visible, although initial sketches (by Bruno David) from the 2001 recordings, and subsequent computer enhancement in 2002 detected a distinctive Torres Strait-style 'headdress' extending from the head of one anthropomorph (a single curved line with a series of smaller downward curved lines extending upwards at approximately 45 degrees and spaced at intervals) (Figure 11 upper right).
Bird/human transforms are more frequent in caves, including the upright avimorph holding ceremonial maces from 11th Unnamed Cave (Figure 6) and a winged anthropomorph with visible flight feathers from 12th Unnamed Cave (Figure 8b).
For example at Elimberrie Spring, a 22cm high anthropomorph has been drawn with a small hat, or head-dress, to the left of two arced lines and indeterminate black drawn shapes that may at one time have formed another figure (Figure 8a).
Well known PNG mainland examples include the petroglyphs in the Sogeri area of Central Province, which include deep pits with central incisions, cupules, concentric motifs, rayed stars and anthropomorphs, and the geometric designs and scrolls found on boulders in Goodenough Bay (Rosenfeld 1988: 128, 130).
Documented motifs include anthropomorphs, zoomorphs, material culture objects, faces/masks, anda large quantity of geometric and abstract images.
Rosenfeld (1982) also studied this site, noting its specialised nature and the 'restricted theme' of elaborate anthropomorphs.
A very large, one-armed rectangular body anthropomorph is associated with the armoured horse; however it is unclear whether this figure is intended to represent a rider.
After the 1930s, the idea that anthropomorphs represented mythical beings became more widespread and was extended to zoomorphic figures combining features of different species (Breuil & Begouen 1930; Begouen & Breuil 1934; Breuil & Lantier 1951: 347).
Concepts illuminated here include beast fables, anthropomorphs, humanimals, and l'animot.
Studio boss Michael Eisner is said to have decreed that the prehistoric critters talk like good company anthropomorphs should, no doubt in order to maximize the marketing potential of the reportedly $200 million production.
At one of the major art complexes, the recent very small yellow anthropomorphs are suggestive of a changing design vocabulary (Frederick 1997).
The assemblage of about 35 drawings consists mainly of naturalistically drawn aurochs, but it also seems to include some anthropomorphs similar to the stylised human figures at Qurta.