3 August 2012
The Anthropology of Ethics
The purpose of this seminar is to examine two approaches to the empirical study of ethical life, psychological and ethnographic, in order to investigate their points of convergence, congruence, and difference. The motive is twofold, to survey the emerging social sciences of morality and ethics, and to rethink the possibilities for comparison in anthropology. Ethics and morality have received renewed attention in both cognitive/psychological sciences and socio-cultural anthropology in recent years. One reason is that current developments in such areas as global religious movements, human rights discourses, biotechnology, and secularism seem to demand an account of values and judgments that may not be entirely reducible to calculations of interest or underlying relations of power.
New approaches suggest we cannot understand cultural or political life, or even ordinary social interactions, without a grasp of people’s underlying and often tacit commitments to ideas of the good. Moreover, background ideas of the good may be inseparable from subjectivity itself. The ethical turn may lead us to critically reevaluate some of the core organizing concepts in the human sciences, such as power, discourse, culture, self, subject, and mind. This seminar will begin with theoretical readings to ask “what are the problems to which ethics is posed as the answer?” We will then explore contrasting approaches to the topic, ethnographic and cognitive. By means of this comparison, we can ask what each approach helps make visible, and what it tends to obscure. Empirically, studies of ethics often focus on religion, and we will ask what are the consequences in public life when religion and ethics or morality are, or are not, identified with one another.
Professor Webb Keane
PhD students, postgraduate students
To provide PhD research training at the highest level.
NOK 3200: The tuition fee cover parts of the required reading material, lunch every course day, as well as some social arrangements.