Maria Kronfeldner
Central European University
Continuing Franz Boas' work to establish anthropology as an academic discipline in the US at the turn of the twentieth century, Alfred L. Kroeber re-defined culture as a phenomenon sui generis. To achieve this he asked geneticists to enter into a coalition against hereditarian thoughts prevalent at that time in the US. The goal was to create space for anthropology as a separate discipline within academia, distinct from other disciplines. To this end he crossed the boundary separating anthropology from biology in order to secure the boundary. His notion of culture, closely bound to the concept of heredity, saw it as independent of biological heredity (culture as superorganic) but at the same time as a heredity of another sort. The paper intends to summarise the shifting boundaries of anthropology at the beginning of the twentieth century, and to present Kroeber?s ideas on culture, with a focus on how the changing landscape of concepts of heredity influenced his views. The historical case serves to illustrate two general conclusions: that the concept of culture played and plays different roles in explaining human existence; that genetics and the concept of Weismannian hard inheritance did not have an unambiguous unidirectional historical effect on the vogue for hereditarianism at that time; on the contrary, it helped to establish culture in Kroeber's sense, culture as independent of heredity.
Keywords culture  heredity  cultural anthropology  superorganic  Alfred L. Kroeber  Franz Boas
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2009
DOI 10.1007/s00048-009-0333-6
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Upload history
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Human Nature and the Limits of Science.John Dupré - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance.Ernst Mayr - 1985 - Journal of the History of Biology 18 (1):145-153.
Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present.Diane B. Paul & Marouf A. Hasian - 1998 - Journal of the History of Biology 31 (2):292-295.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Reconstituting Phenomena.Maria Kronfeldner - 2015 - In Mäki U., Votsis S., Ruphy S. & Schurz G. (eds.), Recent developments in the philosophy of science. Springer. pp. 169-182.
Divide and Conquer: The Authority of Nature and Why We Disagree About Human Nature.Maria Kronfeldner - forthcoming - In Elizabeth Hannon & Tim Lewens (eds.), Why we disagree about human nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 186-206.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
427 ( #14,261 of 2,329,884 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
10 ( #60,017 of 2,329,884 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes