Re: Pragmatic and theoretical...

David Heller (daveh@PANIX.COM)
Fri, 5 Nov 1993 11:15:19 -0500

On Fri, 5 Nov 1993, Stephanie Wilson wrote:

> Maybe I didn't make myself very clear (and maybe Anthropologists also are
> a bit unclear)...What I actually shy away from are paradigms (those every
> elusive, abstract, confusing and in many cases uncomprehensible biases
> that scientists base their life's work on proving or disproving that have
> no basis in reality). Bateson calls these "imperfectly defined explanatory
> notions" or "heuristic concepts": notions that are "so loosely defined and
> so mutually irrelevant that they mix together to make a sort of conceptual
> fog which does much to delay the progress of science (Steps to an Ecology
> of Mind)." He uses examples like: "ego", "intelligence", and "mind". I
> think he would include things such as "post-modern theory"
> in this category (How can anything be POST modern anyway? It is either
> past, present or future....or history). That's one of the reasons why I
> like Bateson: he clears away the B.S. so that more definitive questions
> can be formulated. He wanted to develop more Fundamental concepts such as
> existed in the natural sciences: Laws of Gravity, Theories of Evolution, etc.
> Discussions on the NET lately have focussed so much on definitions of
> "development" or "Third World". Nothing definitive is every created in
> this way. These definition have always and probably will always change
> with the latest politically-correct wind. Talking about them may give
> someone a new perspective from which to look at a problem or situation,
> but it does not help to define a new question. The question still is how
> to improve people's quality of life (health, education, etc.) without
> destroying their culture.
I found your first part to be interesting. I still have problems with it,
because of my response to the last part. I never saw Anthropology with
this particular goal. On what basis are you deciding quality of life?
This is one of my questions. I don't have any answers b/c I think that
anthropology needs to apply itself in some way. I'm personally interested
in a small group in Israel called Beta Israel who are Jews from Ethiopia
who are going to have big problems in their asimilation into Israeli
society, b/c of their cultural differences. Many people describe their
plight and few give solutions. In this way I am sympathetic to applied
anthropology, but I also see that anthropology is a philosophical endeavor
as well, and I enjoy that aspect of it.


*David Heller * New School of Social Research *
*515 W. 122nd St. * Anthropology/Israel/Ethiopia/Jews *
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