Re: Anthropology and politics

Matthew Stoloff (Magnus2@IX.NETCOM.COM)
Mon, 11 Sep 1995 17:16:13 -0700

>William Price <Wfep@AOL.COM> wrote:

>If I wanted to change the world I wouldn't be an anthropologist. I'd be a

To change the world, be a philosopher.

>I know there are no such things as facts, only interpretations and I know
that no observation is >"innocent" (value free, situated in place, time,
etc.) But aren't there different degrees of >methodological contamination
and wouldn't worst on the list be those findings predicated on
>personal politics? [. . .] Can't we be graded by our colleagues by how
successful we have been >at willing ourselves to being less subjective?

Oh? There are no such things as facts, eh? He who entertains such a notion
does not recognize the value of medicine and engineering; does not
acknowledge the existence of reality; and does not conform to objectivity
and reason. What do you mean when you say that "no observation is
'innocent?'" The object of one's perception -- which is, in this example,
the dependent -- can be interpreted objectively, so long as rationality is
the only means of interpretation. Certainly, interpretation can be
subjective when one distorts his own perception, and this can be done just
by introducing "faith." Remember: believing, thinking, and knowing
something are three very different things. To be less subjective is to use
reason, and that is a fact.

By the way, I've never heard such a thing as a "methodological contamination."

>Is there anyone in anthropology who "knows it all" and has nothing more to
learn about/from >culture studies? If so, you should quit anthropology and
become a politician. Much more >efficient. Here you investigate to learn
not confirm your a priori beliefs. There you put into action >your already
held convictions or those of your constituents.

No one "knows it all" -- in any subject. Few people know many things about
a certain subject. And damned fewer people know a lot about a certain
subject. Politicians are the dumbest people I've ever seen, and I can't
think of anyone dumber. Further, most politicians (if any at all) don't
hold convictions.

>Anthropology is a relatively new field. I think it has a long way to go.

This applies to all subjects, from understanding what is quantum mechanics
in physics and figuring out what is a State of Nature in philosophy.

Matthew Stoloff