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On Integrity of Anthropology: A Test Case


Janović, Tomislav
On Integrity of Anthropology: A Test Case // Biological Knowledge And Philosophy: European Perspectives
Rijeka, 2005. (predavanje, međunarodna recenzija, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni)


Naslov
On Integrity of Anthropology: A Test Case

Autori
Janović, Tomislav

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija rada
Sažeci sa skupova, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni

Skup
Biological Knowledge And Philosophy: European Perspectives

Mjesto i datum
Rijeka, 7.-8.04.2005

Vrsta sudjelovanja
Predavanje

Vrsta recenzije
Međunarodna recenzija

Ključne riječi
Anthropology; reductionism; holism; cultural inheritence; anthropocybernetic models

Sažetak
The widening gap between the „ two cultures” is nowhere so obvious as in the science of anthropology. The consequence of unresolved methodological disputes and rival priority claims is the current division between anthropology's research programs, subject matters, and – as the final act of a drama – its institutions. Even for those advocating a holistic approach to the study of human species, it becomes ever more difficult to delineate the ties connecting Social and Cultural Anthropology – let alone the „ postmodern” Cultural Studies – with the discipline's scientific core embodied in Physical and Evolutionary Anthropology and backed up by Population Genetics. For those in favor of the reductionist approach, this is a positive tendency. In the reductionist perspective, the favorite explanatory model of cultural anthropology, together with its obsolete vocabulary, is but a remnant of the empiricist misconception in the social sciences – the „ Standard Social Science Model” (Cosmides, Tooby & Barkow). Therefore, whenever a causal mechanism is introduced as a central part of an anthropological explanation, labeled either as social learning or imitation or cultural representation or rational decision, the right strategy would be not to try to disprove the influence of any such „ cultural force” , but to assume – as a working hypothesis – that the observed behavioral pattern (provided that it is a well defined phenotype in the first place) is a genetically mediated product of the human mind/brain whose behavior-producing mechanism („ module” , „ Darwinian algorithm” ) has evolved as a specific adaptation to a specific fraction of the ancestral environment. But there is also a third position in relation to the (dis)integrity issue in anthropology: the position of an active agnostic, as I shall call it (as opposed to the passive agnosticism of the holistic approach). The active agnostic is satisfied neither with the happy co-existence of diverse methodologies and explanatory models in anthropology, each operating on its own level and according to its own logic, nor with the reductionist's promises. A typical advocate of this position tends to remain neutral – for the time being – in respect to the question of autonomy of the socio-cultural sphere, but clearly retains the naturalistic gist of the reductionist. It is an attempt at constructing a unique type of a general theory – or at least a host of structurally similar explanatory models – applicable both to genetically and culturally transmitted traits. This kind of theory would then be representative of anthropology as a science in its own right. The best known such attempts are: Campbell's (1974), Dawkins' (1976, 1982), Cavalli-Sforza's and Feldman's (1981), Boyd's and Richerson's (1985), Durham's (1991), and Sperber's (1996). Some of them have reached the stage of formally elaborated models, others look more like sketches of a theory ; some are prone to identify the units of cultural transmission (Dawkins' notorious „ memes” ), others are more careless in laying out their ontological primitives. However, what they all have in common is an attempt to construe cultural evolution (transmission of cultural traits) in Darwinian manner, i.e., as a kind of cultural heredity system, operating on the principles of mutation and selection. (This is why most of the enumerated authors construct models very much like those in population genetics ; with an important distinction: mutation is treated as a rule, not as an exception.) This approach, offering theories of „ culture-gene coevolution” (Richerson), is supposed to facilitate the integration of different mechanisms (different „ heredity systems” ) into a unique causal account and the application of this account, as a general explanatory framework, to particular cases. In the central part of my presentation, I want to assess the usefulness of this approach from the perspective of the actual research practice. The model that will serve as my test case is one developed and applied as part of the research project Population Structure of Croatia - Anthropocybernetic Models carried out at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb, Croatia (www.inantro.hr). The model gives interesting insights into the population dynamics (on the phenotypic level) and enables certain predictions (in form of demographic tendencies). However, when it comes to the interpretation of the model, i.e., relating the quantitative expressions of population changes to their possible causal mechanisms, the researcher is left without the kind of theoretical guidance available in population genetics. What is lacking is a general theory covering a class of structurally similar cases under which a particular case can be subsumed thus obviating the need for guesswork and ad hoc explanations. I want to evaluate the prospects for making up for this deficit and draw some more general conclusions touching on the issue of anthropology's methodological integrity.

Izvorni jezik
Engleski

Znanstvena područja
Filozofija, Etnologija i antropologija



POVEZANOST RADA


Projekt / tema
0194206
0196003

Ustanove
Institut društvenih znanosti Ivo Pilar, Zagreb,
Institut za antropologiju

Autor s matičnim brojem:
Tomislav Janović, (200803)