When was the last time you read an Anthropology article or book? Did you know that there is a recent “Ethical turn” in anthropology and that anthropologists are writing interesting things about moral development, practical reasoning, virtue, autonomy, and other moral topics – all with reference to specific cultural contexts and practices?
If you are like me only a little while ago, you have never heard of the ethical turn because current anthropology is simply not on your radar. And that is why I am posting! I think this might be of interest to many philosophers, but especially to graduate students.
I learned about the “Ethical Turn” in Anthropology when I emailed an anthropologist who has done very interesting work on moral development in Thai Buddhist Communities (Nancy Eberhardt) and I have now poked around and found significant thought-provoking stuff. In my experience, Anthropologists are engaging with philosophers but it is only “Continental” philosophers such as Foucault and select older analytic philosophers such as MacIntyre and Williams; they don’t seem to engage with current analytic moral philosophy at all. From my admittedly cursory reading of the growing literature, there seem to be numerous untapped opportunities for fruitful influence, connection, and collaboration.
Recent anthropological work on ethics might be of special interest to grad student with empirical leanings or an interest in the topics listed below. Maybe looking into this could help some grad student get a grant that favors interdisciplinary connections?
Here is a list of some topics that I think people could easily link up – and I bet there are more:
(i) Recent work on ignorance and responsibility
(ii) Practical reason
(iv) Definition/concept of morality
(vi) Moral education/cultivation
In case you are interested in poking around – maybe just as a form of potentially productive procrastination – I am happy to share a great resource that Professor Eberhardt kindly shared with me. It is a sort of on-line guide to the Ethical Turn in Anthropology:
In addition, here is an overview piece, to which Eberhardt pointed me to, and a more recent article that surveys the major shifts in the field since the 80s:
Hope this leads someone to read some interesting stuff, if nothing else!
Finally, if anyone knows of better resources of recent work connecting moral philosophy to anthropology of course I am glad to learn more.5