CCS/Holy Trust Conference 2023: Anthropology’s Philosophy (27-29 June 2023)

Anthropology’s Philosophy

Organizer: Prof Nigel Rapport (University of St Andrews)

Held at the University of St Andrews

Social Anthropology has been characterised as ‘the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities’ (Eric Wolf). It has been argued that only as a fundamentally non-specialist ‘interdisciplinary discipline’ (Gregory Bateson), ‘born omniform’ (Clifford Geertz) and exercising a license to blur genres and ‘poach’ intellectual expertise can anthropology hope to approach the complexities of human being. Anthropology’s ways of knowing are necessarily eclectic, as are its modes of representation. Furthermore, since the writings of Immanuel Kant, anthropology has promised not only a way to look at humanity but also a vision for humanity. Anthropology has supposed its knowledge to have consequences, political and moral, the better to improve the human lot and to fulfil the potential of each finite individual life.

A characteristic of the St Andrews Department over recent decades—even a foundational characteristic—has been its resistance to narrowly defining what ‘social anthropology’ does, could or should entail. Anthropology’s project is necessarily mediated by work conducted in ‘other’ disciplines, whether humanities (philosophy, literature, history), social sciences (politics, sociology, economics) or natural sciences (biology, physics, medicine). This conference invites an international assemblage of speakers to join members of the St Andrews Department to discuss such comprehensiveness: anthropology’s intrinsic inter-disciplinarity, pluri-disciplinarity, even anti-disciplinarity.

The idea behind Anthropology’s Philosophy is that each speaker selects a theoretical concept that is ostensibly associated with another discipline—existence, freedom, individuality, love, well-being, moral duty, bioethics, digression and so on—and shows how its anthropological deployment is key to a holistic appreciation of the human condition. Each speakers relays how they have personally used the concept in their anthropological description and analysis and made it their own.

The contribution of the conference will be towards an open and ambitiously overarching vision of anthropology.

This conference is jointly funded by CCS through the School of philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies and The Ladislav Holy Memorial Trust.