By Philippe Descola

Seul l’Occident moderne s’est attaché à bâtir l’opposition, donc los angeles discontinuité supposée, entre los angeles nature et l. a. tradition. L’anthropologie perpétue dans los angeles définition même de son objet - los angeles diversité culturelle sur fond d’universalité naturelle - une competition dont les peuples qu'elle étudie ont fait l’économie. Philippe Descola, professeur au Collège de France, suggest ici, à partir de characteristics communs qui se répondent d’un continent à l’autre, une approche nouvelle des manières de répartir continuités et discontinuités entre l’homme et son environnement : le totémisme, qui souligne los angeles continuité matérielle et morale entre humains et non-humains ; l’analogisme, qui postule entre les éléments du monde un réseau de discontinuités structuré par des kinfolk de correspondances ; l’animisme, qui prête aux non-humains l’intériorité des humains, mais les en différencie par le corps ; le naturalisme qui nous rattache aux non-humains par les continuités matérielles et nous en sépare par l’aptitude culturelle. Chaque mode d’identification autorise des configurations singulières qui redistribuent les existants dans des collectifs aux frontières bien différentes de celles que les sciences humaines nous ont rendues familières. C’est à une recomposition radicale de ces sciences que ce livre invite.

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Even the most relativist of anthropologists, those most committed to describing local realities without reference to a universal human condition or human capacities, tend to have ambitions to speak in a more generalizing way—to at least create theories or interpretive schemes that could be applied elsewhere, to other peoples in other places. Thus the vast majority of anthropologists are not content merely to describe 26 Cheryl Mattingly and Uffe Juul Jensen or catalogue a local scene (however remote and exotic) and view this as an end in itself.

The lived subjective life can never be an object of knowledge. Our inwardness in its infinite depth, a subjectivity discovered beyond language, is the kernel of Kierkegaard’s existentialism (Sartre 1963: 10–11). How is Kierkegaard’s account of the human condition to be understood, and how could it inform anthropologists studying contemporary human practices? Sartre stresses that Kierkegaard is inseparable from Hegel. For Hegel, our inward paradoxes, ambiguities, and dilemmas are manifestations of an unhappy consciousness that can be surpassed or transcended in knowledge.

Why Philosophers Ignored Aristotle’s Division of Labor Jean-Paul Sartre offers a suggestive answer to our questions, drawing upon his own experience of learning (Sartre 1963). Like any other philosophy student, Sartre had studied all the major Western philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant. But at a crucial point in his education he discovered something important about learning and understanding philosophy: something he did, in fact, get from his teachers at the university. What he realized was that at any time, depending upon social and political conditions, there was a selection even among the “great” or “canonized” philosophers about who ought to be read, and how they ought to be received.

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