Anthropology and Historiography of Science

Anthropology and Historiography of Science

Anthropology and Historiography of Science

Anthropology and Historiography of Science

Synopsis

Whether history or anthropology is the most fundamental social science remains still a controversial and undecided issue. For a proper understanding of this instructive controversy, the presuppositions of these two disciplines need to be critically and philosophically reviewed. Otherwise the true perspective of the controversy remains undisclosed and therefore unintelligible.

A close and comprehensive understanding of language as the basic form of the life-world provides the cues necessary to show correctly the complementary relation between anthropology and history. That synchronic or sociological and diachronic or historical perspectives of science are mutually supportive ways of representing the same social activities has been persuasively argued in this book. Chattopadhyaya has pointedly examined in this connection the conflicting views of Sartre and Levi-Strauss. Also, he has selectively drawn upon, critically assessed, and brought the theories of Husserl, Heidegger, Popper, Quine, and Kuhn to bear upon the problem. The author's conclusion centers around his own concept of "human universals." The positive thesis of the book rejects the trichotomy of three cultures: scientific, humanistic, and technological.

That this view is not a theoretical creature but a historical and cultural finding has been plausibly reasoned by Chattopadhyaya. The main trend of his reasoning clearly shows that the gulf between analytic philosophers and phenomenologists is either imaginary or highly exaggerated. In this specific case, the author, a student of Popper, perceptively aruges to the effect that if theorizations is primarily problem-oriented rather than school-based, one can see one's way to rational solution in the convergent light of different but affine human or cultural origins. But his presentation and assessment of the views and arguments of Husseri, Popper, Quine and Kuhn are likely to prove controversial."

Excerpt

Whenever I have tried to make clear to myself the main reason of undertaking the project of writing this book I have felt a persistent problem within me. For whom I am going to write it? Philosophers of science know their job. So do the historians of science. Anthropologists' concern with science is very marginal and they take the subject as magic or mythic worldview. Given the situation, have I, as a philosopher, anything of interest to tell to any one of these groups? I wondered. Can I arrange a dialogue between them that might prove interesting and fruitful to them? the question intrigued me. I followed it up.

From my intrigued consciousness, on reflection, the answer that started slowly emerging is somewhat like this. Though reared in Indian cultural tradition and familiar with the history of Indian philosophy, our main professional exposure had been to classical European philosophy and the contemporary analytic school. Two points disturbed me deeply. First, while we are trying respectfully to familiarise ourselves not only with their philosophy and science but also, in a way, with their culture as a whole, how those educated in the Western tradition can afford to be more or less indifferent to or at best ill-informed about our culture and its different forms such as philosophy and science? Why do some of them go to the extent of pronouncing that, being incurable metaphysicians, we Indians can have no sense of history? Historyless Indian philosophy and science, to most of them, are only of anthropological interest, specimens of a dead past. More disturbing is the second question: why are the analytic empiricist and his Continental phenomenol-

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