Thu, 22 Feb 1996 12:00:34 CST

I've been teaching a graduate course on anthropological theory for some years
that starts with a consideration of the Enlightenment thinkers, including
Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Hume, and Kant. Over the years my students have
become less and less able to discuss the works of these philosophers. If I
introduce any non-Western philosophers, such as Siddhartha Gautama, Lao-tzu,
or Chuang-tzu, I draw a complete blank. I can recall that in my undergraduate
years in the 1950s several courses covered these writers in some detail--yes,
even the non-Western ones. For my graduate training I was required to read
complete works of these philosophers. (I approached the *Critique of Pure
Reason* with dread but did finish it and fancy that I understood it.) I did
attend some very good schools, but I'm wondering whether anthropological
training still includes immersion in the classics. Certainly at a minimum
we know that Kant's thoughts greatly influenced the formation of American
anthropology. I notice that the most recent textbook on *Anthropological
Theory* by McGee and Warms begins in the mid-1800s. Have we lost something?
Does anyone care? Robert Lawless, Dept. of Anthropology, Wichita State
University. lawless@twsuvm.uc.twsu.edu