Investigating cultures: A critique of cognitive anthropology

This paper considers Dan Sperber’s arguments that a more scientific, ‘natural’, approach to anthropology might be pursued by abstracting from interpretive questions as much as possible, and replacing them with questions amenable to a cognitive psychological investigation. It attempts to show that Sperber’s main argument rests on controversial assumptions about the nature of the mental states that are ascribed within our commonsense psychological practices and that any theoretical psychology that accepts these assumptions will be revisionist concerning mental concepts. Sperber is right to point out that there must be constraints on what should count as appropriate interpretations of cultural phenomena. It is argued however, that in hoping to assimilate anthropological investigations to scientific ones, Sperber misconstrues the nature of anthropological claims.
Keywords Dan Sperber  cognitive anthropology
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