Re: teachingtheory

Thu, 22 Feb 1996 11:11:42 -0800

Absolutely right--grads aren't getting a systematic training in
philosophy and theory of any kind, unless they create a program for
themselves that includes such things. Undergrads? Even less so, as far
as I can tell. In anthro, at least part of this might be attributable to
the sheer volume of knowledge about *just* anthropology that exists these
days--how much we have to know in order to have a comprehensive grasp of
the field is daunting, to say the least. It would be easier to tackle if
those who were teaching us were without exception willing to rehash the
classics again and again, for the benefit of those of us who've never
encountered them--but that doesn't happen often, either.
So, how do we fix that?
Donna Lanclos

On Thu, 22 Feb 1996, Robert Lawless wrote:

> 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.