Transforming the Philosophical Tradition (Part 2)

So what should philosophy be in the future? … communit[ies] of collaborators making progress … [with] a comprehensive framework … the ancient goal of philosophy.”1“What Is The Present Nature, And The Future, Of Philosophy?” Response to the question submitted by John Talley, Rutherfordton, NC. Retrieved online: 04/06/2018.  Those who have studied philosophy at some point might recall Plato’s ideal for an academy was largely based on its worthwhile search for practical, comprehensive solutions to problems in the daily life of Athenians. It was a central aim not only in his Dialogues, but also of the ancient philosophic tradition. Unfortunately, the Aristotelian school initiated a trend that dominates curricula today, the effect of which has isolated the academy from effectively enriching the pulse of life on the street. The various fields of inquiry have become fragmented and isolated in part because a false hierarchy of subjects was imposed that not only distorted, but also placed a disproportionate burden on, the function of “mathematical sciences”.  “So Sir David Ross remarked of Aristotle: ‘Throughout the whole of his works we find him taking the view that all other sciences than the mathematical have the name of science only by courtesy, since they are occupied with matters in which contingency play a part.’” Quote is taken from Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 1972, 3. See footnotes 3 and 4 below.

The quotation above captures the spirit behind the academy’s need to get our global minding in order. Is it not evident that the current structure of “academic disciplines,” originated centuries ago by the philosophical tradition, is simply not up to the job3This relates to our effort to redefine “academic discipline,” the neglect of which, as we previously noted, is because raising questions about process or method and in its application has been strangely unpopular in philosophy. – that our universities have lost their way?2The academy has been “[l]ost in some no man’s land between the world of theory and the world of common sense,” while reducing most intellectual labour to the status of “merely academic,” and ultimately, the fate of most graduates to economic servitude.

Might you share similar sentiments envisioning a “comprehensive framework” for “collaboration” and “progress”  “the ancient goal of philosophy”?

That will be our emphasis in these final chapters: how empirical method will transform established routines in the world’s academic communities from its present state of isolation and inertia to an efficient and dynamic organism of collaborative creativity. We are searching for a restructured academy that will establish a “positive Anthropocene4The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change. (Retrieved 03/07/18) The expression, “positive anthropocene” denotes a reversal of the currently dominant “negative anthropocene” and its harmful impact on human life and the world.


The purpose of the exercise is two-fold: first, to present data and facts from description of the third and fourth years in the sample syllabus, and secondly, to introduce a list of key terms and expressions highlighted in bold and italics. We will expand on the meaning of the terms and expressions in upcoming chapters.

Task A.

Using the sample below as a guide, search your own syllabus for data and highlight patterns of expression that use either the terms (in bold) or language that approximates the terms (in italics).


Year Three

In the third year, students learn about how anthropologists design and conduct research in the context of contemporary issues and questions. Fieldwork questions, methods and practices are the principal focus of the core course.

Year Four

…As a discipline focused on society and culture, anthropology aims to make sense of wide ranging social processes and practices to evaluate shifting relations between individuals and society. Anthropological theories aim to interpret social action and explain social transformations.

In this course, we examine how different schools of thought in anthropology, at different historical and political junctures, have forwarded different theories of social and cultural life. …Our aim is to examine the contributions of these theorists and the ensuing debates. This course is organized such that by the end of the year you will understand the ‘high points’ of different theoretical schools and see how theory in anthropology is produced and circulated. In addition to this, we will also examine the current debates that have critically informed questions of ethnographic methods, writing, and representation. In the fall semester we examine historically significant texts that have contributed to the foundation of anthropological theoryhow modern anthropologies of the twentieth century were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned. In the winter semester we examine a range of concepts central to contemporary anthropology, such as contemporary theoretical productions and the kinds of anthropologies it may be possible to imagine, that can deal with the global conditions for public life in the world today. How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of change? How is this possible today within the contexts of globalization, new forms of public culture and new ways of conceptualizing life itself?


Task B.

Itemize the terms and expressions from your syllabus in the order below.

  1. Research“how anthropologists design and conduct research in the context of contemporary issues and questions”
  2. Interpretation“Anthropological theories aim to interpret social action and explain social transformations”
  3. History“how modern anthropologies…were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned.”
  4. Debates: “the contributions of these theorists and the ensuing debates…examine the current debates that havecritically informed questions of ethnographic methods, writing, and representation.
  5. Foundation“the foundation of anthropological theory”
  6. Principlesrange of concepts central to contemporary anthropology” How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of change?
  7. Further Possibilities“the kinds of anthropologies it may be possible to imagine, that can deal with the global conditions for public life in the world today.”
  8. Communication of ‘high points’: “understand the ‘high points’ of different theoretical schools and see how theory in anthropology is produced and circulated.”


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