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This philosophy of anthropology section is within philosophy of social science, so the term 'anthropology' is here taken as short for social and cultural anthropology. Philosophy of anthropology aims to contribute to our understanding of anthropology as a discipline through doing philosophy. Most works within this category fall into one or more of the following areas. (1) Attempts to answer questions about the nature or value of anthropology, e.g. what distinguishes anthropology from other disciplines? is it possible to pursue  anthropology as a science? what moral obligations does anthropology give rise to? (2) Attempts to identify the commitments of a given type of anthropology, e.g. functionalist anthropology, structuralist anthropology; and also philosophical evaluations of these commitments. (3) Attempts to define more general concepts that are closely connected to anthropological research, e.g. the concept of a culture, the concept of a belief system; and also assessments of their value to anthropology.

Key works Wittgenstein 1967, Quine 1957, Jarvie 1967 and Davidson 1973 are key works written by philosophers. A number of key works are by anthropologists reflecting on their discipline. See Malinowski 1922 (introductory chapter), Radcliffe-Brown 1940, Evans-Pritchard 1961, Levi-Strauss 1969, Geertz 2003, Harris 2001, Sperber 1985, Sperber 1996, Clifford & Marcus 1986, Spiro 1986, Spiro 1996, Strathern 1987, Strathern 1987, Strathern 1990, Moore 2013, Csordas 1990, Gell 1992, Gell 1992, Abu-Lughod 1991,  Henare et al 2005 and Ingold 2014
Introductions Jarvie 1967 and Sperber 1985 are good places to start. Hacker 1992 is useful for understanding Wittgenstein's criticisms of Frazer. Lynch 1997 serves well as an introduction to what a conceptual framework is and whether there can be alternative conceptual frameworks. Zahle 2015 provides information on how participant observation relates to the divide between the natural and social sciences.
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1999 found
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1 — 50 / 1999
  1. Human Person According to John Dewey.Baiju Anthony - manuscript
    Dewey’s approach to the study of human nature is consistent with the standpoint of scientific psychology. Man according to him is the product of the process of evolution. His nature has changeable and unchangeable elements. Dewey’s approach to the study of human nature is characterized by a scientific spirit. He rejects the dualistic view, faculty view, and the tabula rasa view on human nature. Deweyan presentation on human nature is in a way was one of his most cherished dreams. In (...)
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  2. What is Spoken of when We Speak about Being.Niel Bezrookove - manuscript
    τὰ ὄντα ἰέναι τε πάντα καὶ μένειν οὐδέν: Another look at being, asking what a interlocutor means to show by saying they feel themselves to be something. An ambiguity of the verb "to be" is disambiguated to reveal that it can be meant to show what something is and a process of being something. The relationship between being and essence is made by describing engagement through the encounter, giving us a non-exhaustive account of something's essence. Practice is then understood as (...)
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  3. Social anthropology summary: A.R. Radcliffe-Brown’s objections to Sir James Frazer.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This is a one page handout presenting some objections A.R. Radcliffe-Brown makes to Frazer on rites and Frazer's evolutionism.
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  4. Why Bacup? An Oxford-style response.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper presents what I at least regard as a University of Oxford style response to a question often posed to social anthropologist Jeanette Edwards, “Why Bacup?” The question can be a brief way of communicating various puzzles which an inquirer is seeking to solve and I presume “an Oxford person” is going to ask for a clarification of the question, perhaps offering some options.
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  5. Gregory Bateson on the sense of the unity of science.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Anthropologist Gregory Bateson says that a sense of the fundamental unity of science was once achieved by successful specialist scientists expanding into borderline areas of research. I distinguish two ways in which this expansion can occur and note how one of these ways was, from Bateson’s perspective, troublesome for social anthropology.
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  6. On the distribution of why-fieldwork-there questions.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Jeanette Edwards tells us that she is often asked about why she did fieldwork in the English town of Bacup, whereas she has not heard anthropologists who did fieldwork in Papua New Guinea asked why there. She commits herself to a certain explanation for this: potential inquirers assume that non-Western societies are legitimate objects of study for social anthropology but this is not assumed for Western societies. I propose another explanation: it is not about the legitimacy of the object of (...)
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  7. A solution to Elizabeth Colson’s paradox of anthropological empathy.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper presents a relativistic interpretation of Elizabeth Colson's paradox of empathy and a solution.
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  8. The Golden Bough and colonialism: on Mary Beard’s other relationship.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Mary Beard considers the thesis that Frazer’s book The Golden Bough was popular because it provided practical aid for colonialists. But she introduces another relationship between the book and British colonialism: that it provided an image of the British colonial project as a whole. I present two objections to the proposal that there was this relationship, as well as – in the appendix – flagging a concern about the internal coherence of Beard’s paper with the introduced relationship.
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  9. A fourth solution to a Victorian anthropology paradox: underdeterminism.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Historian of anthropology George Stocking tells us: from the point of view of parts of the Victorian middle class, Victorian society was highly evolved yet also contained savage components. Why don’t they change their ways, or why didn’t they? There is a Quinean solution.
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  10. Societies differ in how they handle the same facts: an axiom of social anthropology?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper challenges Marilyn Strathern’s claim that it is, or was, an axiom of social anthropology that societies differ in how they handle the same facts. I present a set of foundational commitments for conducting social anthropology which leave the truth of the proposition as an empirical question of the discipline.
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  11. British structural-functionalist anthropology, feminism, and partial connections.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Marilyn Strathern’s arguments against the possibility of feminist research bringing about a paradigm shift in social anthropology have led to a number of responses. Regarding one argument she presents, her own writings suggest a response: the argument that feminist research cannot bring about such a shift, because it is only concerned with part of society. A foray into the history of British social anthropology is of value for appreciating this argument and the response.
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  12. Why did Frazer not do fieldwork?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Probably the most famous story about the armchair anthropologist Sir James Frazer is about how, when asked by William James about doing fieldwork, he said, “But Heavens forbid!” I propose that it was rational for Frazer to avoid fieldwork given his theory of what is rational for so-called savages: to kill returning tribesmen and visitors, to protect against disease.
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  13. George Eliot and the explanation of rituals.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I contrast the Frazerian approach to rituals with an approach suggested by George Eliot in her esteemed novel Middlemarch.
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  14. Anthropology at home and economics.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Anthropologists sometimes tell us about alternative theories for coping with the data of life. It seems to me that going to economics can provide one with similar material to report. I flesh out the proposal in this paper.
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  15. On the meaning of “legitimate fieldwork” in social anthropology.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This is a one-page handout specifying five kinds of legitimacy.
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  16. A solution to a Victorian anthropology paradox.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper considers a paradox which the historian of anthropology George Stocking draws attention to: from the point of view of parts of the Victorian middle class, Victorian society was highly evolved yet also contained savage components. I clarify the paradox and propose a solution.
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  17. The social organism analogy in British anthropology and analytic political philosophy.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This is a one page handout, which specifies four uses of the social organism analogy in British structural-functionalist anthropology and contrasts these uses with uses in analytic political philosophy.
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  18. Does the persistence of genius depend on social obstacles? Troubles with displacing Wittgenstein on The Golden Bough.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper considers the debate between teams of skilled contributors versus a genius by focusing on a specific case: a team project to overturn some remarks by Wittgenstein on Frazer’s The Golden Bough. In theory, there can be a team which does this, but in actual practice, such a team seems unlikely to arise.
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  19. Max Gluckman’s objections to Sir James Frazer.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This is a one page handout presenting objections from Gluckman's book Politics, Law, and Ritual in Tribal Society.
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  20. British social anthropology, wider processes, and causal overdetermination.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    British structural-functionalist anthropology famously faces an objection that it is incapable of dealing with the influence of wider processes. An analytical response to this objection, which at least needs to be registered, is that some wider processes can be ignored when there is causal overdetermination.
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  21. Societies differ in how they handle the same facts: an axiom of social anthropology? II.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Marilyn Strathern claims that it is, or was, an axiom of social anthropology that societies differ in how they handle the same facts. I present two clarifications neither of which looks suitable for axiomatic status.
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  22. What is an exotic culture?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This brief paper distinguishes between two intuitive concepts of what an exotic culture is. The first concept applies when the customs and beliefs of others are very different. The second concept applies when there is a significant departure from a natural baseline.
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  23. Gluckman versus Frazer: if-I-were-a-horse arguments.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I present anthropologist Max Gluckman’s explanation of what “if-I-were-a-horse” arguments are and introduce three questions. How do we define this kind of argument? Are earlier anthropologists “guilty” of them? And is it a bad idea to make them? I address the first two questions, proposing that Frazer is not much guilty of precisely these, though his project calls for them.
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  24. Off the verandah? A puzzle from Malinowski and British social anthropology.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This one page handout presents a seemingly inconsistent triad from Malinowski, concerning the requirement to do intensive fieldwork, and solutions to it.
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  25. Against the diversity objection to group worldview description.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper defends the practice of attributing a worldview to a group against the objection that this practice overlooks different views within the group and wrongly portrays the group as homogeneous.
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  26. Frazer and the social function of gift exchange norms.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Why is there a norm of reciprocity in certain societies – the recipient of a gift should give a gift in return? Or what is its function? Sir James Frazer provides an unobvious answer to the function of such a norm in one society: it serves to establish who is alive.
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  27. Max Gluckman versus the structureless again: what did he actually say?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    What did Max Gluckman actually say about apparently structureless societies? I introduce a fictional example to make sense of what he says regarding the Tonga.
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  28. Beyond tribalism: an attempted solution to the kalela dance paradox.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I propose a solution to the paradox of the kalela dance, as presented by Richard Werbner, based on a variety of liberalism I once identified.
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  29. Societies differ in how they handle the same facts: an axiom of social anthropology? III.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    According to Marilyn Strathern, it is, or was, an axiom of social anthropology that societies differ in how they handle the same facts. I present a challenge which I anticipate and respond to it.
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  30. “What is the difference between your objection to Marilyn Strathern on feminist anthropology and Kamala Visweswaran’s objection?”.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I respond to the charge that one of my objections to Marilyn Strathern’s rejection of feminist anthropology is the same as an objection made by Kamala Visweswaran. They may seem very similar to begin with, but I argue that there is both a difference in focus - in which premises we are concentrating on - and in method.
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  31. Henrika Kuklick on the functionalist paradigm in British social anthropology.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    In Britain and also in France, arguments have been put forward against the claim that there are or have been paradigms in British social anthropology. But historian of anthropology Henrika Kuklicka supposes that there was a paradigm from the late 1920s to just before the 1960s. I raise an objection to her portrait of this research community and observe that her text implies two quite different replies.
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  32. On the very idea that social anthropology can contribute to the study of specialization.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I present an argument against the very idea that anthropology can contribute to the study of specialization. But an obvious reply is “Actually anthropologists at home can study specialization.” I provide some details concerning this reply, focusing on incentives to specialize directed at sensitive souls.
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  33. A third solution to a Victorian anthropology paradox: structural-functionalism.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper presents a structural-functionalist solution to a paradox that historian of anthropology George Stocking dug up: from the point of view of parts of the Victorian middle class, Victorian society was highly evolved yet also contained savage components.
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  34. “The term ‘function’ has no place outside mathematics”: is this even coherent?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper argues that a criticism attributed to Gregory Bateson – that the term ‘function’ is from mathematics and has no place in social science – looks incoherent, when subject to clarification.
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  35. Never been a colonialist? A further response to Mary Beard’s other stuff argument.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Mary Beard argues against the claim that its relationship to British colonialism adequately explains why The Golden Bough was popular, drawing attention to other stuff in the book aside from information about British colonies. I make an objection that British colonialists would have been interested in expanding their empire.
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  36. All-or-nothing reasoning and the kalela dance paradox.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    An explanation for why the Bisa do not perform a traditional dance to express their identity is all-or-nothing reasoning: “We would have to water it down for this audience and that is not a Bisa dance.”.
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  37. Tribalism again? Annie Saumont’s ghostly story and the kalela dance paradox.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I draw attention to how Annie Saumont’s “You Should Have Changed at Dol” provides a solution to the paradox. With appropriate background knowledge, Saumont’s story, despite its modern form, displays various convergences with Descartes’ meditations; likewise the Bisa dance may feature convergences with traditional dance.
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  38. Anthropology away versus anthropology at home: a deconstruction.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    It is tempting to represent anthropology at home versus anthropology in exotic places like so: “Whereas the latter is obviously legitimate and of interest to the discipline, the former is a borderline phenomenon at best and no department could function with just it. It is probably parasitic.” This paper offers a deconstruction of this portrait, but not a spectacular one, in which anthropology at home is presented as essential for accountability.
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  39. Why was The Golden Bough so popular?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I presume numerous readers would have reacted as later critics famously did: we lack the sources to pursue Frazer’s goal of explaining why there was this rite of succession. Consequently, I find the popularity of his book puzzling. I cast doubt on Marilyn Strathern’s explanation and offer a wild conjecture.
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  40. How much was known about Bacup beforehand?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper considers Jeanette Edwards’ claim that she knew little about the town of Bacup beforehand, in response to the question of why she did fieldwork there. I draw attention to dissatisfaction with this answer as avoiding the question. Also, there is an argument that she and you and I all know a lot about Bacup, compared to various groups studied by social anthropologists.
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  41. R.R. Marett’s 1923 objections to Sir James Frazer’s anthropology.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This is a one page handout presenting R.R. Marrett's objections to Frazer from an article reviewing books by Frazer and also one by Malinowski (and others not referred to here).
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  42. British anthropology and colonialism: what did Max Gluckman add?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    British structural-functionalist anthropology was criticized for ignoring colonial relations. What did Max Gluckman do to solve this problem? I quote from the pioneering anthropologist and use a fictional example to make the question more forceful. The fictional example reveals a minimal solution.
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  43. The virgin birth debate: is there practical value in the denial of paternity?Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Various tribes deny that males have a role in causing pregnancy. Edmund Leach thinks members don’t actually believe tribal dogma. I propose that there is a practical value in denying our biological knowledge.
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  44. Fieldwork places: legitimate, illegitimate, obviously legitimate, better, worse.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Jeanette Edwards observes a pattern of questions of the form “Why do anthropology fieldwork in location X?” - she only hears the question posed of some places - and she explains this pattern by saying that some places are taken to be obviously legitimate for anthropology fieldwork whereas others are not. I draw distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate, obviously legitimate and not obviously legitimate, and better and worse. The distinctions lead to a different explanation.
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  45. On a quick argument downplaying British anthropology’s colonialist role.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I introduce and examine an argument presented by American anthropologist Herbert S. Lewis against thinking that British anthropology played a significant role in supporting colonialist projects: the British empire was large and centuries old, so it seems very unlikely that two dozen anthropologists late on made much difference.
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  46. A sixth kind of legitimate fieldwork in social anthropology: cross-disciplinary.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I present the concept of cross-disciplinary legitimacy: the fieldwork which an anthropologist has done is considered legitimate fieldwork in another discipline as well. Also, I present a puzzle regarding how the anthropologist untrained in another discipline can do such fieldwork and a response.
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  47. The Golden Bough as an argument against diffusionism.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper interprets Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough as presenting an objection to diffusionism: the diffusionist theory cannot account for the isolation of the rite Frazer focuses on, in the societies studied by classicists.
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  48. Imperialism and British anthropology again, with European intellectual cults.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    I address the problem that British social anthropologists ignored the wider colonial relations which the societies they studied were part of, by proposing a solution from reflecting on the structure of European intellectual cults.
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  49. Savage and civilized on controlling the weather, from The Golden Bough.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough presents a puzzle regarding how primitive peoples believe they can control something which civilized people regard as beyond their control: the weather. I clarify the puzzle and consider Frazer’s solution to it, as well as other solutions.
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  50. British anthropological models: preserving structure while coping with change.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    This paper presents a proposal for how British structural-functionalist anthropology can cope with some change. It may not seem a very sensible proposal, but I think it needs to be registered. I use a structure of universities in a country to illustrate the proposal.
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1 — 50 / 1999