In this paper, I explore the possibilities for arriving at a useful conception of methodological reductionism. Some participants in the debate talk about methodological reductionism as a research program. I argue that the concept of a research program, at least in Lakatos’ sense, cannot account for the diverse nature of methodological reductionism. I then present my own concept of a research directive as a useful alternative and elaborate on this by drawing on Hasok Chang’s theory of ontological principles and epistemic (...) activities. According to my view, the reductionist research directive can be characterized as consisting of the principles fundamental ontological homogeneity, part-whole asymmetry, and orderliness, together with the corresponding activities construction of identities, decomposition, and unification. I suggest that looking at reductionism in this way enables us to understand it as a gradual concept and thus go beyond the simplistic yes-or-no-questions that dominate many current debates on this topic. (shrink)
Taken as a philosophical issue, the idea of representation implies the prior assumption of a difference between reality and its “doubles.” Things are paired with images, concepts, or symbols, acts with rules and norms, events with structures. Traditionally, the problem with representations has been their “accuracy,” the degree of fit between reality and its reproductions in the mind. When philosophers lost the hope of ever determining accuracy , they found consolation in the test of usefulness: a good representation is one (...) that works. The proof of its working is that it enables us to act on the world together.1 In such a frame, science, including anthropology, is conceived as the pursuit of privileged representations, privileged in that, by their nature of by their combination, they establish knowledge of a special kind. In the case of anthropology, “culture” has served as a sort of umbrella concept for representations. The strcuturalists have been most explicit about the need to think of representation in the plural, but their position is shared, in varying degrees, by all those who conceive of knowledge as the selection and combination of signs in systems, patterns, or structures, in short, as some kind of conceptual order ruling perceptual chaos. 1. Remember the connection between the Kantian quest for synthetic forms and Émile Durkheim’s idea of collective representations sustained by the moral authority of a society. Durkheim certainly was one to look for the “ethic” in the “ethnic” primitive, and it makes me wonder whether Stephen A. Tyler’s characterization of postmodern ethnography as a return to “an earlier and more powerful notion of the ethical character of all discourse, as captured in the ancient significance of the family of terms ‘ethos,’ ‘ethnos,’ ‘ethics’” might not signal a return to the Durkheimian fold . Johannes Fabian is professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. His publications include Jamaa: A Charismatic Movement in Katanga , Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object , and Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo, 1880-1938 . Two books will appear in 1990: History from Below: The Vocabulary of Elisabethville by André Yav, a commented edition-translation of a colonial history written in Swahili by the colonized for the colonized, and Power and Performance, a study of conceptions of power through popular wisdom and theater in Shaba/Zaire. (shrink)
This book collects published and unpublished work over the last dozen years by one of today's most distinguished and provocative anthropologists. Johannes Fabian is widely known outside of his discipline because his work so often overcomes traditional scholarly boundaries to bring fresh insight to central topics in philosophy, history, and cultural studies. The first part of the book addresses questions of current critical concern. The second part extends the work of critique into the past by examining the beginning of (...) modern ethnography in the exploration of Central Africa during the late nineteenth century: the justification of a scientific attitude and the collecting of ethnographic objects. A final essay examines how the Congolese have returned the 'imperial gaze' of Belgium by the work of critical memory in popular history. The ten chapters are framed by two meditations on the relevance of theory and the irrelevance of the millennium. (shrink)
The place of play in the education of young children has been the focus of much interest in the past. But the findings from this research project demonstrate that there remains a significant amount of confusion about the role that play has in young children's education. In particular we found that there is a clear distinction between the rhetoric and reality of play in the reception class. Further, there was evidence of real anguish for some early years workers who were (...) failing to offer the play activities that they knew should be provided. These findings are particularly interesting at present, since the debate on the role of play has once again emerged as fundamental in the attempt to define a curriculum appropriate to the needs of the 3-6 year olds who, from the year 2000, will be required to work within the highly contentious Foundation Stage of the National Curriculum. (shrink)
Economists, in stressing the prescriptive implications of their analysis, typically have ignored the potential contributions of their theorems and methodological principles to the understanding of human behavior as an end in itself. The purpose of the paper is to establish the principle, by detailed reference to the literature of economics, that the 'deductive pattern of explanation' constitutes a valid approach to the general study of human behavior. As such, it is a potentially useful method of analysis in the other social (...) sciences. Literature from the philosophy of social science bearing on the applicability of deductive theory to the study of human behavior is subjected to detailed critical analysis. (shrink)
Life is a compelling addition to the Darwin College Lecture Series, in which eight distinguished authors each present an essay from their area of expertise devoted to the theme of 'life'. The book forges connections between art, science and the humanities in a vibrant and thought-provoking collection that exposes both conventional and unconventional views on the meaning of life, the enigmatic boundaries between the living and the dead, and what may or may not follow afterwards. This collection arises from the (...) Darwin College Lecture Series of 2012 and includes contributions from eight distinguished scholars, all of whom are held in esteem not only for their research, but also for their ability to communicate their subject to popular audiences. (shrink)
This book brings together researchers from a range of disciplines that use diverse methodologies to provide new perspectives and formulate answers to questions about the meaning, means, and contextualisation of expressive performance in music.
Cutting across boundaries of art and science, evolution is a fundamental process that has beguiled thinkers through the ages. This collection draws together world renowned thinkers and communicators with their own intriguing insights. In these essays they offer a feast of dazzling thoughts and ideas to challenge and enthrall the reader. Why and how do civilisations and societies change over time? Why do our cells develop the way they do? Why are some villages still villages while others have grown into (...) vast cities? Can we learn from our evolutionary past to plan a better future for our health and society? Tracing a line from the history of biological evolution, through the evolution of cultures, society, science and the universe, Evolution brings together intriguing parallels from all levels of life. From the evolution of the developing embryo to the evolution of a developing star, common threads develop into a fascinating story. (shrink)
The article comments on the view of authors Johannes Fabian and Emmanuel Levinas on the Africanist research and social praxis in Africa. Fabian determined his ideas within anthropology, while Levinas used philosophy and ethics. The author emphasized that their reflections articulate the need for a dialogical approach in Africanist scholarship. He argued that coevalness is not enough to redress the effects of colonial and postcolonial objectification of human existence in the country.
Fabian Freyenhagen's impressive reconstruction of Adorno's ‘practical philosophy’ provides a convincing defence of the possibility of making normative claims about the social world we live in without justifying these claims in terms of the right, the good, or human nature. More specifically, and more controversially, Freyenhagen argues that the normative resources Adorno's critique relies on are provided by a negative Aristotelianism. In this paper, I argue that this approach underestimates the extent to which Adorno follows the model of immanent (...) critique, I highlight the socio-theoretical underpinnings of what Freyenhagen calls Adorno's ‘ethics of resistance’, and I discuss the risk of overstating the danger of co-optation that collective political action faces. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer some critical comments on Fabian Freyenhagen's book, Adorno's Practical Philosophy. Although I am largely in agreement with many of his arguments about the value of Adorno's negativism for contemporary critical theory, I raise a few critical questions that are grouped around the following three headings: immanent critique, objectivism, and skepticism. My primary aim in pursuing these questions is not to haggle over fine points of Adorno interpretation but rather to consider how these three issues (...) bear systematically on the vision for critical theory that Freyenhagen has put forward. (shrink)
Our reply to Fabian Freyenhagen’s article “Was ist orthodoxe Kritische Theorie?” raises the question whether his proposal that Critical Theory only “be adequately and appropriately critical” without a program of justification spares the search for any general criteria. Answering negatively we conversely want to recall, particularly with regard to Horkheimers’s and Adornos’s Dialectic of Enlightment as well as Habermas‘s concept of an emancipatory interest, that such a criterion as a normative foundation of critique is crucial not only for systematical (...) purposes, but also recognised as necessary in this respect by Adorno, who Freyenhagen wants to play off against programs of justification. Critical Theory needs to be clear in this respect. Against this background we are questioning Freyenhagen‘s recourse to an “interest in abolishing social injustice” as the “only criterion for Critical Theory.” Because Freyenhagen ignores the fact that Critical Theory has been understood by its representatives in a twofold manner – as a theoretical program of justification for one and secondly as a cultural diagnosis – his plea for an orthodox Critical Theory is endangered by decisionism. (shrink)