Re: Anthropology and prediction.

Matthew S. Tomaso (Tomaso@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Sat, 9 Sep 1995 13:47:52 -0500

Mcreery, as usual, asks difficult and interesting questions:

>If we imagine a universe in which predicted relationships are, as I mentioned
>before, linear, curvilinear, chaotic, complex, etc....Where to anthropological
>predictions stack up? Could this be the real question?

As Max Weber said:
"The establishment of such regularities is not the end but rather the means
of knowledge."

Human relations are indeed 'linear, curvilinear, complex, etc.' This does
not mean, however, that the different aspects of these relations can not be
broken down into reductive models of cultural processes for pragmatic
exploration and problem solving. And, it does not mean that more complex
methods of explanation are necessarily better, more or less parsimonious,
worse or in any way inherently valued in comparison to simpler and more
reductive models. Of course, the reverse is also true. All depends on what
the problem at hand is and entails. Particularistic and complex
explanations or interpretations are required where historical particulars
guide the phenomenon to be explained. Thsi does not mean that
generalizable processes are not acting upon those particulars, in this case,
but rather, that the general processes do not immediately appear to be
relevent to the problem at hand.
In regards to the question, which is difficult to interpret:
" Where do anthropological predictions stack up?"
I'd say that they stack up in the methodology and theory of the discipline
itself. Often, this means that they stack up and gather dust in our
libraries or in the back of somebody's equally dusty and cobwebbed mind, but
sometimes, they linger - think for instance - of how much Darwin, Marx, L.
White, J. Steward, Boas, and others interested in predictive theorizing
continue to effect our interpretations. In terms of Praxis and practice?
Well, I, for one, believe that the epistemology I have grown through the
fertile soil of anthropology informs everything that I do, say and think..

Matt Tomaso.
Anthropology. University of Texas at Austin.
Phone/Fax 512-453-6256