Truth?(n,1)(1,n)or otherwise

Mon, 22 Apr 1996 17:18:00 PDT

Syers writes:

"Please forgive the scattered and rather cynical sound of this post - I'm
beginning to feel like anthropology is about finding individual truths, that
there are no universals, and that if this is the case, maybe there is no good
reason to study anthropology (aside from personal satisfaction)."

Let me juxtapose this comment against the newpaper report on the growing
trend towards laws that make legally responsible for the actions of their
children. If anthropology is only about finding individual truths, then
whatever is found out about the nature of the family, individual development,
etc. in society X is irrelevant to making sense of what is happening today in
the US. It will have its own "individual truth" according to this argument
and so can only be understood by reference to itself, and not by any
understanding we obtain through theorizing and studying other cultures.
Alternatively, what we find out through fieldwork, theorizing and the like is
relevant to understanding what is happening in our own society because
underlying the specific "created reality" of group X are processes we share
by virtue of our commoness through all being members of the species Homo
sapiens. One good reason to study anthropology then, is to make sense of
what we are like as a species (culturally, socially, biologically,
linguistically and materially) and through that understanding, to better
understand how to deal with the problems of our own society.

D. Read