Article ID: CBB596910880

Epistemological discipline in animal behavior studies: Konrad Lorenz and Daniel Lehrman on intuition and empathy (2023)


Can empathy be a tool for obtaining scientific knowledge or is it incompatible with the detached objectivity that is often seen as the ideal in scientific inquiry? This paper examines the views of Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz and American comparative psychologist Daniel Lehrman on the role of intuition and empathy in the study of animal behavior. It situates those views within the larger project of establishing ethology as an objective science. Lehrman challenged Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen, the main founders of this field, to clarify their epistemological positions regarding how to deal with the subjectivity of the animals they studied as well as the scientist’s own subjectivity. I argue that there was a tension between their desire to eliminate the subjectivities of ethological researchers (and of their subjects) and the public perception that Lorenz had a remarkable ability to enter into the lives of the animals he studied. I explain why Lorenz rejected empathy as valid in scientific inquiry, showing that his epistemological position was grounded in his ideal of science and his proposed ontology for ethology. Yet, Lehrman insisted that full detachment was neither possible nor desirable.

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Authors & Contributors
Taschwer, Klaus
Munz, Tania
Burckhardt, Richard W., Jr.
Brad Bolman
Klassen, Anna
Gräfe, Sophia
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
Rutherford Journal: The New Zealand Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Journal of the History of Biology
Journal for General Philosophy of Science
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
University of Chicago Press
Oxford University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Franco Angeli
Princeton University
Animal behavior
Animal psychology
Lorenz, Konrad
Tinbergen, Nikolaas
Harlow, Harry Frederick
Frisch, Karl von
Bowlby, John
Ainsworth, Mary Dinsmore Salter
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
20th century, early
19th century
United States
Soviet Union

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