Accepted Paper:

Ethnography as Experimental Philosophy: A Place for (Some) Anthropology?  


Farbod Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh (University of Reading)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I argue that some ethnography conducted in anthropology is correctly understood as 'experimental philosophy'. While this proposal demarcates a place for anthropology, I argue that this proposal reveals problems that some anthropology, as the conducting of ethnography, must face.

Paper long abstract:

The discipline of anthropology is one in an identity crisis. It is unclear what, if anything, is unique to anthropology regarding its questions of concern or its methodology. In this paper, I propose a resolution to this crisis. I argue that (at least some) anthropology, conducted through ethnography, is correctly understood as what is today called 'experimental philosophy'. On this view, a set of questions of concern for anthropology (such as the views and beliefs of a society or culture) are revealed, as are the methods of investigation appropriate to such questions (empirical investigation, subject questioning, and so on). It is also a consequence of the view argued for that some anthropology as ethnography is a 'branch' of the discipline of philosophy. However, I argue that, as some anthropology conducted as ethnography is correctly understood as experimental philosophy, anthropology of this kind is subject to the same limitations and objections that experimental philosophy is. In particular, while some anthropology as ethnography (and experimental philosophy) may reveal to us certain cultures and societies intuitions and beliefs, I argue such ethnographic data cannot answer a number of philosophical questions one may think such ethnographic data was relevant to.

Panel P20
'Anthropology is philosophy with the people in'