I'm seeking a word for the idea that humans are fundamentally different from other animals, in that they can't e.g. feel emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy, &c. It's not quite the same as anthropocentric (= "regarding the human being as the central fact of the universe"), but similar. Any ideas?

  • 4
    FYI, animals can feel fear, anger, and jealousy.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 13, 2015 at 18:17
  • 1
    But can a pig feel pique?
    – TRomano
    Jun 13, 2015 at 18:55
  • 2
    This doctrine has a number of names, depending on who's referring to it. For instance, it's part of the standard wingnut doctrine about the earth being created in 4004 BC, with humans part of the creation, already separate from animals. Racism and speciesism (which is a hard word to say) will do the job, too. As far as the data for animals feeling emotions, etc. is concerned, this is doctrine, not science or history; facts are irrelevant in the face of a Higher Truth. Jun 13, 2015 at 18:56
  • 1
    'anthropocentrism' still works. Some people use the word 'speciesist' but that is only to say that people are 'better' than animals.
    – Mitch
    Jun 13, 2015 at 20:15
  • @Tushar Raj: Sure, I just want a word better than anthropocentric to describe someone who claims they don't.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 13, 2015 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


We're cognizant. Self-aware. Aware of others. Aware of the ramifications of our actions, not just unthinking automatons.

As the question comments said, so are a number of other species.

EDIT. One person in the comments below is having a particular difficulty seeing how this answer relates to the question. So I will help out with a Google search and quoting from Wikipedia. Sorry for all the extra fluff.

Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.[1] It is not to be confused with consciousness in the sense of qualia. While consciousness is a term given to being aware of one’s environment and body and lifestyle, self-awareness is the recognition of that awareness.

And the article on animal consciousness...

Animal consciousness, or animal awareness, is the quality or state of self-awareness within an animal, or, of being aware of an external object or something within itself.[2][3] In humans, consciousness has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, qualia, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.

The topic of animal consciousness is beset with a number of difficulties. It poses the problem of other minds in an especially severe form because animals, lacking the ability to express human language, cannot tell us about their experiences.[6] Also, it is difficult to reason objectively about the question, because a denial that an animal is conscious is often taken to imply that it does not feel, its life has no value, and that harming it is not morally wrong. The 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes, for example, has sometimes been blamed for mistreatment of animals because he argued that only humans are conscious.

  • 1
    -1 The question is asking for a word for an idea or belief that humans are special. This idea or belief may very well be wrong, but it would be nice to have a word for it. If other animals are cognizant, then this suggestion doesn't work at all.
    – herisson
    Sep 12, 2015 at 18:39
  • No, the question asked for a "word for the idea that humans are fundamentally different from other animals." This is not the same thing. "The idea that humans are fundamentally different from other animals is wrong" is not equivalent to "Cognizance is wrong." "Humans are fundamentally different from other animals" is not equivalent to "Humans are cognizant"; the latter sentence expresses one particular way in which humans might be considered unique.
    – herisson
    Sep 13, 2015 at 7:44
  • @sumelic - Your first comment says that the answer is irrelevant, your second comment is pedantic. Added google+wikipedia basic background on the idea. It's extremely relevant to the question, especially with a little awareness of the history of the idea.
    – stevesliva
    Sep 13, 2015 at 16:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.