The science of animal behaviour which has been frequently linked with attempts to explain the causes of War and human aggression by linking human behaviour to that of animals. This approach to the causes of war became popular after Konrad Lorenz's book 'On Aggression" was published in 1967 and blames war on an instinctual aggression which humans have evolved with as a survival trait.

Philosophical ethology develops from the thought of continental philosophers, whose researches involve ethology, philosophy and anthropology. Those authors had taken up the challenges coming from biology, phenomenology, critical theory, the Animal Studies and post-human philosophy. These are all disciplines dealing, each in its own way, with non-human animals and the interactions among living beings, in order to propose a new paradigm able to go beyond the limits of the anthropocentrism, which underlay traditional theories.

The mean critics by those authors is the Cartesian heiress of automata: [1] whereas the classical ethology and behaviourism have described how the animal machine would work and which were the mechanisms regulating processes, nevertheless these authors did not challenge the mean idea, that is an animal is not a machine. Hence the need to elaborate a new multidisciplinary approach able to interpret the animal subjectivity ontologically speaking, and the different ontology correlated issues, such as the cultural dimensions, symbolicity and materiality in non-human animals and their intra and interspecific relationship. [2]

Three recent issues of magazine Angelaki. Journal of the Theoretical Humanities [3] have explored the thought of three scholars considered among the most influential voices in the field of philosophical ethology by the editors of the magazine, Brett Buchanan, Jeffrey Bussolini and Matthew Chrulew: the three authos are Vinciane Despret, Dominique Lestel and Roberto Marchesini.

Vinciane Despret Edit

Belgian philosopher and professor at the University of Liège, Vinciane Despret has written many essays and articles about the history of ethology, psychology and human-animal relationship. [4] [5] All along her career, Despert has worked together with few authors from different disciplines (ethology, arts, literature) and with many non-human animals (elephants, mice, rats, monkeys). [6] These encounters allowed her to build a unique research path.

In Despret’s writings, what is peculiar is the methodological approach and her anecdotal and idiosyncratic style: the author chooses to tell stories about animals (or, better, stories of relationship among animals, humans included) rather than to write about animals. Focal point to the authors is asking the right questions to non-human animals. [7] This means that animals are not texts to hermeneutically interpret, not object to quest via scientific experiments, but they are subjects able to provide their own answers to the questions interesting to them.

Within philosophical ethology, Despret has stressed the repetitivity of any interspecific dialogue: non-human animals are being transformed by the encounter with the human beings, and, in the same way, human beings result transformed by the dialogue with the non-human. Despret’s stories are full of examples got by researchers, farmers, trainers – along with likewise important autobiographical reports – proving the enrichment coming from the encounter with the non-human animals.

Dominique Lestel Edit

A French philosopher and ethologist, Lestel is "Maître de conférences" at École Normale Supérieure of Paris and director of a research team about eco-anthropology and etnonlogy at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle. [8]

His credit is stressing how a cultural phenomenon is not a human peculiarity. [9] To Lestel, it necessary to see at anthropo-poiesis with an evolutionary and pluralist lens and at culture as a domain no longer apart from nature. It is necessary to become aware that we live in a multi-species society where each species produces their own kind of culture. This proximity of space and time among beings from different species allows the emergence of few sincere friendship and relationship, that have a historical, ethical and political importance, to Lestel. [10]

In 2016, during the International days of study GIS about human-animal held in Bologna, Lestel has rolled out his zoo-futurism, a philosophical artistic trend aiming to "re-animalise" the human being. [11]

Roberto Marchesini Edit

An Italian philosopher, ethologist and zooanthopologist, Marchesini is director of Siua (School of Human-Animal interaction), of Study Centre of post-human philosophy and professor at few Italian universities. For over 20 years, he is leading a multidisciplinary project research about Zooanthropology, posts-human philosophy and bioethics to demonstrate that non-human animals have a referent role during the identity structuring (anthropo-poiesis) [12] and the philosophical consequences coming from this kind of relationship.

Main concepts in Marchesini’s thought are Zootropy and animal epiphany. With the term zootropy, Marchesini underlines the natural human tendency to turn to non-humans, like a kind of biophilia [13] rooted in our species that see in ethero-specifics some social counterparts able to contribute to anthropo-poiesis processes. [14]

On the other side, with the concept of "animal epiphany", Marchesini points out the characteristic of enunciation and revelation coming from humans-non humans relationship. Animal diversity let human being imagine new existential paths – in the flight of a bird, human being cannot see just the phenomenon per se, but perceive a new dimension of the thinking it is possible to fly [15] – and experiment an hybridational tension leading to identity slidings.

With the essay Philosophical ethology, [16] Marchesini focus on subjectivity. To him, subjectivity is foundation to conscience, not the opposite. Animals get constantly engaged from the external world through new occurrences asking for creativity and initiative not explicable with any automatism. [17] From this point of view, to Marchesini, desire connects animals and the world, desire make them acting in their present.


The International Ethological Conference was born just after WWII when the organizers and participants wanted to resume the science they loved and renew the friendships they had built before the War. In July 1949 the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior and the Society for Experimental Biology organized a Symposium on “Physiological Mechanisms in Animal Behaviour.” This meeting brought to Cambridge most of the key players in animal behavior at the time, such as Niko Tinbergen, Gerard Baerends (Netherlands), Konrad Lorenz (Austria), William Thorpe, J.Z. Young (UK), Erich von Holst, Otto Koehler (Germany), Paul Weiss and Karl Lashley (USA), an international group representing both sides of the recent conflict in Europe.

In the following year, von Holst invited some colleagues and their students to his lab in Wilhelmshaven for 10 days (Thorpe 1979). It was a small informal group, with no proceedings where “only half-baked ideas” were discussed (Nisbett 1976). The meeting was such a success that the group planned the first International Ethological Conference which was held at Buldern in 1952, a castle in Westfalia and the site of Konrad Lorenz’s first institute (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1985). The second IEC was held in Oxford in 1953 with about 80 participants (Dewsbury 1989) and it has been held at regular two-year intervals since then. “The early fifties were such a marvelous time to be an ethologist. The science was blossoming and practically everything one touched was new. Ethological meetings were filled with intense discussion…” (Hinde 1985)

From the first, the tradition of the IEC has been to hold an informal, international, 10-day conference where a great diversity of topics and ideas could be discussed. The early meetings were small, by invitation only, with a single session “so that nobody need miss anything” and they often went on late into the evening (Manning 1985). Two-way translation was provided by Lorenz, Tinbergen and Baerends. Speakers would stop every 10 minutes or so to have a section translated, a mammoth task for the most senior researchers in the field (who, as a result, could not miss a single session). In fact, the meeting was so exhausting for the participants that a day off was provided mid-way through, a “merciful tradition” (Manning 1985) that continues to this day. Although small meetings certainly have their advantages, by the late ‘70’s many felt that a meeting by invitation only was no longer appropriate (Marler 1985) and so it was abandoned at the 1983 meeting in Brisbane. Although the IEC is now massively larger, requiring many concurrent sessions, it retains much of its earlier character. The IEC encourages international participation while retaining its European roots with alternate meetings held in Europe and abroad the ICE (International Council of Ethologists which plans future IEC meetings) remains informal the long format of the meeting still provides an important means of developing friendships and collaborations the mid-conference field trips are still an important element and all aspects of animal behavior are still considered and discussed.

In its 50th year, the IEC returns to Germany where its initial conference was held, and to one of the centers for animal behavior research over the past 50 years. Like its predecessors, this Conference will emphasize integrative approaches to ethology: the adaptiveness of behavior as well as how behavior evolved, developed and is controlled.

The ICE would like to thank Raimund Apfelbach and the Tübingen Committee for their hard work and organizational skills in sponsoring the 2001 International Ethological Conference.

Bateson, P.P.G. and P.H. Klopfer. 1989. Preface to Whither Ethology. Perspectives in Ethology 8: v-viii.

Dewsbury, D.A. 1989. A brief history of the study of animal behavior in North America. Persp. in Ethology. 8: 85-122.

Dewsbury, D.A. 1995. Americans in Europe: the role of travel in the spread of European ethology after World War II. Anim. Behav. 49:1649-1663.

Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. 1985. “Fishy, fishy, fishy” Autobiographical sketches. In: D.A. Dewsbury (ed.) Leaders in the Study o f Animal Behavior. Autobiographical Perspectives. Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg PA. pp. 69-91.

Frisch, K. von. 1967. A Biologist Remembers. Pergamon Press.

Hinde, R.A. 1989. Ethology in relation to other disciplines. In: D.A. Dewsbury (ed.) Leaders in the Study o f Animal Behavior. Autobiographical Perspectives. Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg PA. pp. 193-203.

Jaynes, J. 1969. The historical origins of ‘ethology’ and ‘comparative psychology’. Anim. Behav. 601-606.

Klopfer, P.H. 1999. Politics and People in Ethology. Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, PA.

Manning, A. 1989. The ontogeny of an ethologist. In: D.A. Dewsbury (ed.) Leaders in the Study o f Animal Behavior. Autobiographical Perspectives. Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg PA. pp. 289-313.

Marler, P. 1989. Hark ye to the birds: autobiographical marginalia. In: D.A. Dewsbury (ed.) Leaders in the Study o f Animal Behavior. Autobiographical Perspectives. Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg PA. pp. 315-345.

Nisbett, A. 1976. Konrad Lorenz. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Podos, J. 1994. Early perspectives on the evolution of behavior: Charles Otis Whitman and Oskar Heinroth. Ethology, Ecology and Evolution 6: 467-480.

Important Scientific Research and Open Questions

The two disciplines historically sparred over the nature-nurture issue: Was behavior a biological or a psychological phenomenon? Endless debates over this issue have yet to see it formally resolved. Contemporary reports of the discovery of a gene for a behavior are routinely retracted following failures to replicate such findings - but the search continues. This is as true in psychology as it is in biology, though many in both camps understand behavior to be a biopsychosocial phenomenon. The significance of both psychological and biological development, long ignored, is now seen to be crucial to a full understanding of behavioral origins. And, though studied now for well over 100 years, there are still new developments to be found in the area of learning.

Ethology - History

In 1997, the late Prof Johannes Odendaal, who was then attached to the Faculty of Veterinary studies at Onderstepoort, was approached by a number of people with an active interest in animal behaviour to develop a course for persons who are not in the position to enrol for full time studies at a tertiary institution to assist them in gaining more knowledge of dog and cat behaviour.

Prof Odendaal, driven by the belief that knowledge has the power to change people’s minds and attitudes, responded by compiling a correspondence course in dog and cat behaviour - the aim being to assist people of all walks of life to fulfil their dreams of having a better understanding of companion animals and thus improving the relationship between owner and animal. This course Basic Animal Behaviour Course: Dogs and Cats was first presented in 1998 as a ‘Short course’ under the auspices of the University of Pretoria. In January 2000 Prof Odendaal left Onderstepoort to accept a position as Research Professor at the then Pretoria Technikon. He, with his wife, Hanna, as Course Manager and co-presenter, established Ethology Consultancy CC (now Ethology Academy) and for the next two years Basic Animal Behaviour Course: Dogs and Cats was presented under the auspices of this institution.

With Ethology Academy well established and

Hanna Odendaal

Hanna was the owner and manager of Ethology Academy CC which she co-founded with her late husband, Professor, Johannes Odendaal.

Having trained as a teacher at the University of Pretoria, she taught history and languages until she married the love of her life, Professor Johannes Odendaal in 1973. Her life and work became entwined with his. They settled in Bloemfontein where Johannes fulfilled his dream—to establish his own veterinary practice that specialised in Companion Animals. Hanna worked as a veterinary assistant in his practice, gaining practical experience in the handling and management of companion animals under his expert eyes. To complement the veterinary practice, the Odendaals also established a pet boarding facility, named ‘Sorgvry’, which Hanna managed.

Founders of Ethology Academy | Prof. Johannes Odendaal

The late Prof. Johannes Odendaal has been described as a “born animal person”. He studied for a Bachelor’s degree in science, majoring in Zoology and Chemistry, and then qualified as a veterinarian. After 14 years of managing a highly successful practice, he joined the Faculty of Veterinary Science.

Jane Goodall

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Jane Goodall, in full Dame Jane Goodall, original name Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall, (born April 3, 1934, London, England), British ethologist, known for her exceptionally detailed and long-term research on the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.

Where was Jane Goodall born?

Jane Goodall was born in London, England, on April 3, 1934.

Where did Jane Goodall get her education?

Jane Goodall left school at age 18. She went to Africa, where she began assisting paleontologist and anthropologist Louis Leakey. In 1965 she earned a Ph.D. in ethology from the University of Cambridge she was one of the very few candidates who received a Ph.D. without having first possessed an undergraduate degree.

What did Jane Goodall discover?

Through her research, Jane Goodall was able to correct a number of misunderstandings about chimpanzees. She found, for example, that the animals are omnivorous, not vegetarian that they are capable of making and using tools and that they have complex and highly developed social behaviours.

Fixed action patterns and animal communication [ edit | edit source ]

An important development, associated with the name of Konrad Lorenz though probably due more to his teacher, Oskar Heinroth, was the identification of fixed action patterns (FAPs). Lorenz popularized FAPs as instinctive responses that would occur reliably in the presence of identifiable stimuli (called sign stimuli or releasing stimuli). These FAPs could then be compared across species, and the similarities and differences between behaviour could be easily compared with the similarities and differences in morphology. An important and much quoted study of the Anatidae (ducks and geese) by Heinroth used this technique. Ethologists noted that the stimuli that released FAPs were commonly features of the appearance or behaviour of other members of the animal's own species, and they were able to prove how important forms of animal communication could be mediated by a few simple FAPs. The most sophisticated investigation of this kind was the study by Karl von Frisch of the so-called "dance language" related to bee communication. Ε] Lorenz developed an interesting theory of the evolution of animal communication based on his observations of the nature of fixed action patterns and the circumstances in which animals emit them.

Empirical Evidence

Before the infants' behavior was assessed in the Strange Situation, researchers closely observed mothers and children in their homes, paying careful attention to each mother's style of responding to her infant in a number of fundamental areas: feeding, crying, cuddling, eye contact, and smiling. At twelve months the infant and his or her mother were taken to the lab and the infant was observed as the infant was separated from his or her mother, as well as upon the mother's return.

Ainsworth noted three distinct patterns in the babies' reactions. One group of infants protested and cried on separation, but when the mother returned, they greeted her with pleasure and were easy to console. She labeled this group securely attached. The second group of infants was characterized by a lack of distress during parental separation, and avoidance of the parent upon return. This group was called insecurely attached, and avoidant. The third group was labeled ambivalent or anxiously attached, and tended to be clingy from the beginning and afraid to explore the room. They became terribly anxious upon separation, yet displayed angry and resistive behavior upon the parent's return.

In designing this study, Ainsworth and her colleagues reasoned that if attachment had developed well, infants and toddlers should use their parents as a secure base from which to explore their environments. In addition, when a parent leaves the room for a brief period of time, the child should show separation anxiety, and an unfamiliar adult should be less comforting than the parent. This concept has been supported by studies that measure infants' reactions in the Strange Situation, which closely resemble their use of the parent as a secure base and their response to the separation in the home environment (Blanchard & Main, 1979).

Allen, Garland E. 1981. “Morphology and Twentieth-Century Biology: A Response. ” J. Hist. Bio. 14: 159–176.

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—— 1997a. “La ménagerie et la vie du Muséum. ” In Le Muséum au premier siècle de son histoire, ed. C. Blanckaert et al., pp. 481–508. Paris: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle.

—— 1997b. “Unpacking Baudin: Models of Scientific Practice in the Age of Lamarck. ” In Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, 1744–1829, ed. Goulven Laurent, pp. 497–514. Paris: Éditions du CTHS.

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Craig, Wallace. 1908. “The Voices of Pigeons Regarded as a Means of Social Control. ” Amer. J. Sociol. 14: 86–100.

Craig, Wallace. 1911. “Oviposition Induced by the Male in Pigeons. ” J. Morph. 22: 299–305.

—— 1913. “The Stimulation and Inhibition of Ovulation in Birds and Mammals. ” J. Anim. Behav. 3: 215–221.

—— 1921–1922. “A Note on Darwin's Work on the Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. ” J. Abn. Soc. Psych. 16: 356–366.

—— 1926. “The Twilight Song of the Wood Peewee: A Preliminary Statement. ” The Auk 43: 150–152.

—— 1933. “The Music of theWood Pewee's Song and One of Its Laws. ” The Auk 50: 174–178.

—— 1943. “The Song of the Wood Pewee Myiochanes virens Linnaeus: A Study of Bird Music. ” N. Y. State Mus. Bull. 334: 1–186.

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—— 1809. Notice des Animaux vivans de la Ménagerie du Muséum d'histoire naturelle. Paris: Gabriel Dufour et Compe.

—— 1810. “Description d'un orang-outang, et observations sur ses facultés intellectuelles. ” Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. 16: 46–65.

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An American specialist on ants, William Morton Wheeler, first used the term 'ethology' in English in 1902.

The study of animal behaviour, which had been going on in an anecdotal way since Aristotle, had its roots in natural history. It became more scientific during the 19th century. The French zoologist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire was the founder of ethology in Europe, and his son Isidore produced a three-volume encyclopaedia Histoire Naturelle Générale. In the third volume he talked about animal behaviour in almost modern terms. [2] The entomologist J.-H Fabre (1823–1915) was a remarkable observer of natural life. His popular writing on natural history kept ethology alive in Europe.

Douglas Spalding (1841–1877) was a British biologist who was the first to notice the effect called imprinting. [3] [4] Instinct and imprinting were the first scientific concepts in ethology. He was able to prove that the behaviour of chicks after hatching from the egg happened even when they had no experience, practice or even information from the senses. Therefore, the capacity was inherited. [2]

Studies by Charles Otis Whitman, Oskar Heinroth and Julian Huxley set the tone in the 20th century. [5] [6] [7] This work was mostly on bird behaviour, especially mating behaviour. The behaviour of birds played a big part in early ethology, but there was a start to studying our nearest relatives. Wolfgang Köhler's Mentality of Apes was a landmark in the study of primates. [8] In 2020, Dr. Tobias Starzak and Professor Albert Newen from the Institute of Philosophy II at the Ruhr University Bochum proposed that animals may have beliefs despite these being more difficult to determine than humans. [9]

The next generation began during the 1930s with the work of Austrian biologists Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, and the Dutch biologist Niko Tinbergen. The three men were joint winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 1973. [10]

Lorenz is famous for his 'longitudinal' studies: he lived with the animals he researched, and made observations throughout their lives. Then he wrote about what he had discovered in long, very readable papers. [11] He researched instinctual behaviour, which he called 'fixed action patterns' (FAPs). Lorenz popularized FAPs as instinctive responses that would occur reliably in the presence of specific stimuli (called sign stimuli or releasing stimuli). von Frisch worked on communication in honey bees: the famous 'bee dances'. [12] Tinbergen experimented with the stimuli which trigger fixed action patterns. He found out that artificial super-stimuli could often work better than the natural stimuli. [13]

Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with a strong relation to certain other disciplines—e.g., neuroanatomy, ecology, evolution. Ethologists are typically interested in a behavioural process rather than in a particular animal group and often study one type of behaviour (e.g. aggression) in a number of unrelated animals.

In the 1960s Nico Tinbergen set out a framework for research on behaviour. [14] It involved four questions and their answers.

Function (adaptation) Edit

  • Function—How does the behaviour affect the animal's chances of survival and reproduction? Why does the animal respond that way instead of some other way?

The only scientific explanation for an animal’s behaviour is that it is well adapted for survival and reproduction in its environment. A trait is the result of its past contribution to survival. In practice, this is simple. For instance, birds fly south in the winter to find food and warmth, and mammalian mothers nurture their young, thereby having more surviving offspring.

Causation Edit

  • Causation—What are the stimuli that trigger the response, and how has it been modified by recent learning?

Evolutionary history Edit

  • Evolutionary history—How does the behaviour compare with similar behaviour in related species, and how might it have begun through the process of phylogeny?

Phylogeny explains why some adaptation is less than perfect. From where it is, there are always some possibilities which a particular species can never get to. This is because all stages in evolution must be viable, else extinction occurs.

Another reason is that not all traits of a species can be maximised at the same time. Increase in armour, for example, is bound to slow down movement. Teeth which are best for vegetation are much less good for meat. The final result is a set of traits, most of which are sub-optimal.

Earlier phylogenetic stages and (pre-) conditions which persist often determine the form of more modern characteristics. For instance, the vertebrate eye (including the human eye) has a blind spot, whereas octopus eyes do not. Once the vertebrate eye had evolved, the only way it could improve was to minimise the effect of the blind spot. We don't notice it ordinarily, because with binocular vision what one eye misses, the other fills in.

Development (ontogeny) Edit

    —How does the behaviour change with age, and what early experiences are necessary for the behaviour to be displayed?

All instances of behaviour require an explanation at each of these four levels. For example, the function of eating is to acquire nutrients (which ultimately aids survival and reproduction), but the immediate cause of eating is hunger (causation). Hunger and eating are evolutionarily ancient and are found in many species (evolutionary history), and develop early within an organism's lifespan (development). It is easy to confuse such questions – for example to argue that people eat because they're hungry and not to acquire nutrients – without realizing that the reason people experience hunger (causation) is because it causes them to acquire nutrients (function). [15]

This is a map of the wheel-ruts of modern English. Etymologies are not definitions they're explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago.

The dates beside a word indicate the earliest year for which there is a surviving written record of that word (in English, unless otherwise indicated). This should be taken as approximate, especially before about 1700, since a word may have been used in conversation for hundreds of years before it turns up in a manuscript that has had the good fortune to survive the centuries.

The basic sources of this work are Weekley's "An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English," Klein's "A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language," "Oxford English Dictionary" (second edition), "Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology," Holthausen's "Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Englischen Sprache," and Kipfer and Chapman's "Dictionary of American Slang."A full list of print sources used in this compilation can be found here.

Since this dictionary went up, it has benefited from the suggestions of dozens of people I have never met, from around the world. Tremendous thanks and appreciation to all of you.

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