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Preface for a Critical Realist Ethnology: Part I: The Schism and a Realist Restorative

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Anthropology is the study of humanness, and the tension between cultural particularity and human universals has always enlivened the sub-discipline of ethnology. For example, efforts to show that logic and emotion vary with culture raise meta-theoretical questions of ontology and epistemology. Since the Boazian and Malinowskian revolution, however, the trend has been to delineate humanness in terms suggested by a given people, avoiding the fraught terrain of species ontology. But just as there is a global ecology, so there is a global culture, seen as the sum of human intelligibilia. Linking the two is the central human problem, which evolved consciousness must solve. Critical realism offers a meta-theoretical description of the human–world relation capable of grounding both particular and comparative discussions. This paper uses a critical realist anthropology of consciousness to indicate its ethnological potential. Then by applying the result to two contemporary ethnological statements, by Kirsten Hastrup and Tim Ingold, it explores the approach's practical utility. Essentially, there must be a reality that exists independently of human consciousness, for consciousness evolved. With it emerged morality, and a morally warranted anthropological task is to accurately describe the world's structure as it impinges on any cultural mode of knowing.


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