The Human Enterprise: A Critical Introduction to Anthropological Theory

By James Lett | Go to book overview

About the Book and Author

The Human Enterprise presents a wide-ranging but well-integrated analysis of contemporary anthropological theory. The author explains clearly and cogently how to evaluate scientific theories and encourages students to think critically about the nature of theory itself. Thoughtful and thoughtprovoking, this text should be a stimulating addition to courses on anthropological theory.

Part One examines the philosophical foundations of anthropological theory, with particular attention to the nature of scientific inquiry and the mechanisms of scientific progress. The author proposes an original approach to the comparison and evaluation of competing scientific paradigms. Part Two explores the nature of social science and describes distinctive features of anthropology such as the concept of culture and the emic/etic distinction.

The author then surveys the range of research strategies employed by anthropologists and presents a detailed analysis of cultural materialism, structuralism, and symbolic anthropology. The final section uses two celebrated issues--the argument about the image of limited good and the sacred cow controversy--to illustrate the current nature of paradigmatic debate and to indicate how a clearer understanding of the nature of paradigms and theory might resolve such controversies.

James Lett has taught anthropology and philosophy at the University of Florida, Barry University, and the Florida Institute of Technology. He currently teaches at Indian River Community College.

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The Human Enterprise: A Critical Introduction to Anthropological Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • About the Book and Author iii
  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Prologue: The Challenge of Theory 1
  • Part One The Philosophy Of Science 7
  • 2- The Activity Of Science 23
  • 3- The Concept Of Scientific Paradigms 31
  • Part Two The Anthropological Perspective 39
  • 4- The Science Of Anthropology 41
  • 5- The Domain Of Anthropological Inquiry 48
  • 6- The Concept Of Culture 54
  • 7- The Importance Of the Emic/Etic Distinction 61
  • 8- The Culture Of Anthropology 68
  • Part Three The Wisdom Of Eclecticism 75
  • 9- The Range Of Alternatives 77
  • 11- The Paradigm Of Structuralism 100
  • 12- The Paradigm Of Symbolic Anthropology 110
  • 13- The Question Of Paradigmatic Commitment 121
  • Part Four The Clash Of Paradigms 127
  • 14- The Sound And the Fury 129
  • 15- The Image Of Limited Good 134
  • 16- The Intractable Sacred Cow 141
  • Epilogue 153
  • Bibliography 157
  • Index 171
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