Investigating cultures: A critique of cognitive anthropology

- The objectivity of anthropological investigation When we deem an investigation a scientific one, one of the aspects we might be trying to emphasize is the importance of objectivity in our judgments about the phenomenon we are studying. At least, we might agree that physical scientists are bound to adhere to certain norms of investigation such that, if someone else of sufficient training and expertise were to investigate as well, he or she would come up with the same results. In science, differences between scientists — those who at least are operating within the same theoretical constraints — are considered irrelevant to the success of particular experiments. Perhaps this is because in science, the phenomenon under investigation is thought to have an existence that is independent of the investigator, whose job is to discover it, describe it, and follow its movements or track it. His job is not to bring it into being or have a role in creating it. In the social sciences the relation between the investigated and the investigator is hazier. This is due to the fact that in the social sciences, the object of investigation involves people, or groups of people, and interactions among them. Coming to an understanding of the people or their practices will certainly involve taking into account the subjects’ points of view. Perhaps social scientists can hope to achieve something approaching an objective consideration of the points of view under investigation. The essential subjective element might thus be contained within the bounds of an investigation, for example, in which differences between the investigators make no difference to the outcome: anyone equally well-trained or wellequipped would come up with the same results. Or perhaps the subjective point of view cannot so easily be accommodated within such a study because it is of an indeterminate nature, hence difficult to identify in the first place, let alone track. To render the phenomena more determinate for the purpose of tracking it may be to buy precision at the cost of distortion..
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