In our papers on the rationality of magic, we distinghuished, for purposes of analysis, three levels of rationality. First and lowest (rationalitYl) the goal directed action of an agent with given aims and circumstances, where among his circumstances we included his knowledge and opinions. On this level the magician's treatment of illness by incantation is as rational as any traditional doctor's blood-letting or any modern one's use of anti-biotics. At the second level (rationalitY2) we add the element of rational thinking (...) or thinking which obeys some set of explicit rules, a level which is not found in magic in general, though it is sometimes given to specific details of magical thinking within the magical thought-system. It was the late Sir Edward E. Evans-Pritchard who observed that when considering magic in detail the magician may be as consistent or critical as anyone else; but when considering magic in general, or any system of thought in general, the magician could not be critical or even comprehend the criticism. Evans-Pritchard went even further: he was sceptical as to whether it could be done in a truly consistent manner: one cannot be critical of one's own system, he thought. On this level (rationalitY2) of discussion we have explained (earlier) why we prefer to wed Evans Pritchard's view of the magician's capacity for piece-meal rationality to Sir James Frazer's view that magic in general is pseudo-rational because it lacks standards of rational thinking. (shrink)
Polanyi's and Popper's defenses of the status quo in science are explored and criticized. According to Polanyi, science resembles a hierarchical and tradition-oriented republic and is necessarily conservative; according to Popper's political philosophy the best republic is social democratic and reformist. By either philosopher's lights science is not a model republic; yet each claims it to be so. Both authors are inconsistent in failing to apply their own ideals. Both underplay the extent to which science depends upon the wider society; (...) and neither makes sufficient allowance for the ways it can disrupt the social order. Polanyi even demands extraterritorial exemption for science from the scrutiny of incompetent outsiders. In their different ways, each minimizes the problems of institutionalized science and fails to consider the value, even the long-term necessity, for science of democratic criticism and control. Transnational control of science is an open challenge for democratic polities. (shrink)
Popper holds to the unity of scientific method: any differences between natural and social science are a product of theory, not a pretheoretical premise. Distin guishing instead pure and applied generalizing sciences, Popper focuses on the different role of laws in each. In generalizing social science, our tools are the logic of the situation, including the rationality principle, and unintended conse quences. Situations contain individuals, but also social entities not reducible to individuals: conspiracy theory is the extreme form of individualism. (...) Action in situations has unintended consequences. Both social and natural laws may be required to explain outcomes. The fate of Popper's ideas is a case study in the logic of the situation. Professional philosophers of social science lean toward individualism and a priorism (either intuitionist or rational choice). There are social and political explanations of this outcome, but little critical engagement with Popper's ideas. (shrink)
The following intellectual as opposed to practical reasons for all anthropologists doing fieldwork are examined: fieldwork: (1) records dying societies, (2) corrects ethnocentric bias, (3) helps put customs in their true context, (4) helps get the "feel" of a place, (5) helps to get to understand a society from the inside, (6) enables appreciation of what translating one culture into terms of another involves, (7) makes one a changed man, (8) provides the observational, factual basis for generalizations. None of these (...) is found sufficient to make fieldwork imperative for all anthropologists, although they are quite sufficient to allow that it is imperative for anthropology as a whole that fieldwork in some form by some people continue. In place of the view of fieldwork as an essential preparation for doing anthropology, an alternative role for it is explored: namely as a testing procedure. The implications of this--that the study of problems and the articulation of theories can usefully proceed prior to or even independently of fieldwork--are drawn out, and a new institution of selective fieldwork is proposed. (shrink)
Anthropology, the science of human culture, includes in its scope the anthropology of scientific cultures. Anthropological accounts of these scientific cultures -- which also happen to be the cultures to which most anthropologists belong -- are scarcely adequate. All too often science is assimilated to the practices and thought systems of non-scientific cultures; some anthropologists espousing the anti-scientific methods of symbol analysis and relativism. Arguments of M. Douglas, C. Geertz and F. Hanson are used as critical illustrations.
In his lucid paper “The Objectivity of History” Professor Pass more poses the problem of history's objectivity and seeks to find out in what the objectivity of history might consist. In this note I wish only to criticize his presentation of Popper's views . I think Pass more's failure to report Popper's views correctly causes him to overlook the striking similarity between Popper's conclusion and his own.
In this exciting Handbook, Ian Jarvie and Jesús Zamora-Bonilla have put together a wide-ranging and authoritative overview of the main philosophical currents and traditions at work in the social sciences today. Starting with the history of social scientific thought, this Handbook sets out to explore that core fundamentals of social science practice, from issues of ontology and epistemology to issues of practical method. Along the way it investigates such notions as paradigm, empiricism, postmodernism, naturalism, language, agency, power, culture, and causality.