Dr James Laidlaw (Social Anthropology, King's College)
Dr Hallvard Lillehammer (Philosophy, Churchill College)
A series of eight seminars taking place during Lent 2012. This teaching seminar is intended for graduate students in Philosophy and Anthropology as well as students in adjacent disciplines such as History, Sociology and History and Philosophy of Science, spaces permitting. Students should register beforehand. For more information, course outlines and readings, please see the links at the top right hand side of this page or contact the conveners directly.
In thinking about human morality, social anthropologists and philosophers share an important subject matter of common concern. Thus, questions about the nature of agency, the psychology of moral judgement, the interpretation of individual and collective values, and normative conceptions of reason, authority, relativity, pluralism and objectivity have historically stood at the centre of academic debate within both of these disciplines. Yet apart from sporadic moments of engagement during the middle parts of the 20th-century and occasional gestures across the disciplinary divide since then, until recently social anthropologists and moral philosophers in the English-speaking world have largely practised their trade in mutual isolation. The upshot of this history of relative detachment is rich untapped resources in both disciplines for exchange of insights and ideas, and therefore the opportunity to develop a more interdisciplinary approach to the study of morality.
In both disciplines there has been, over the last decade or so, a growing trend for authors to draw on the published works of scholars in the other discipline, although this trend has yet to result in systematic dialogue and discussion across these fields. The aim of our course is to create a forum of collaboration in which philosophers and social anthropologists can address questions of mutual interest in a focused and structured way. A further aim is to facilitate the production of a collection of original essays by contemporary social anthropologists and moral philosophers currently working on a range of topics at the interface of the two disciplines. The aim of this collection will be to make conceptual and normative work in moral philosophy more easily available to front-line social anthropologists, as well as to make state-of?the?art work in ethnography and anthropological theory available to contemporary moral philosophers.