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Category: Filosofie

Religion has left the hospital: the uneasy silence of professionalization

By Peter Versteeg – Have you ever wondered why something happened to you? I hope you haven’t because this question often arises when people are faced with something really serious, such as a severe illness or a traumatic event. But what is the nature of this “why” question? Does it seek a philosophical answer or is it an emotional outburst that cannot be answered?


Re-viewing The Truman Show

By Peter Versteeg.   “We accept the world with which we are presented” is probably the best summary of The Truman Show, a modern classic film from 1998. We, however, only become aware of this once we start to know the secret of the film. So, everything that can be said about this film should really get an instant SPOILER ALERT. 


The Anthropology of Mortality: Notes on the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series (AALS)

‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ by Damien Hirst, photo by

By Matthias Teeuwen      We had the pleasure to listen to prof. Michael Lambek in last week’s instalment of the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series. Lambek presented us with an ethnography of a practice native to Mayotte, a small island northwest of Madagascar, called ‘mandeving’. Mandeving is a practice by which the dead are commemorated as they are today, after having passed away, and not as they were when they were still alive. Lambek stressed that it is not so much about the individual act of remembering the deceased as about the collective enactment of the whole event. The talk, saturated with ethnographic description, got me thinking about the importance of investigations into death for anthropology.

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Why is Anthropology so Critical?

Portrait of Giambattista Vico by Francesco Solimena

By Matthias Teeuwen            I want to thank Ton Salman for his insightful take on the question whether anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities or the most humanistic of the sciences or both, it gave me food for thought. For one: how is it that anthropology is considered science? It seems that Ton sees the scientific aspect of anthropology in its critical function of looking past the representations and meanings of people and examining the empirical conditions in which they arose.

I very much agree with Ton on this point. But I think that this hybridity is easily misunderstood in the sense that the critical, scientific side of anthropology is emphasised at the neglect of the hermeneutical, humanistic side.

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Anthropology as speculative realism

Photo by Ashley van Haeften on Flickr

By Younes Saramifar            In the following blog, Younes Saramifar responds to Matthias Teeuwen’s contribution to Standplaats Wereld of 13-2-2017, titled “Is Anthropology the most Humanistic of the Sciences and the most Scientific of the Humanities?“.

It was amusing to me to be asked if I have always enjoyed to ‘do science’ whenever I met Western European youngsters. I understood the implications and why they assumed ‘doing anthropology’ is something scientific but I never took my manner of practicing anthropology as something scientific. This is not to imply that ‘anthropology’ is not scientific. But what is scientific perplexes me because it immediately brings to mind a red line between everyday life practices and the study of those everyday life practices. So, my amusement at the question of the ‘scientific-ness’ of anthropology is due to the fact that we are the part of the phenomena around us and we are entangled in the hermeneutics of its making. It is this that distinguishes us from other disciplines. However, this statement brings an avalanche of theoretical, philosophical and psychoanalytical debates, or if you like, ‘scientific’ problems.

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Anthropology's heterodoxy


By Ton Salman            In the following blog, Ton Salman reacts to Matthias Teeuwen’s contribution to Standplaats Wereld of 13-2-2017, titled “Is Anthropology the most Humanistic of the Social Sciences and the most Scientific of the Humanities?

First of all, allow me to thank Matthias Teeuwen for, once again, an intriguing and pertinent contribution to the ongoing dialogue on the nature of anthropology and its potential contribution to contemporary societal issues and challenges. The question is not a new one – but it is correct to make it a persistent one in anthropological reflection, because the –always provisional– answers have real consequences for what sort of endeavor anthropology in the end might be and what its ambitions may entail. A frequently heard characterization of anthropology is that it is something “between the sciences and the humanities”, or “the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities”. The phrase is indeed often attributed to Kroeber, but sometimes also to Eric Wolf or Edward Sapir. But let that be the least of our worries. The substance of the matter is of course about the métier’s epistemology, methods and relation to other disciplines and professions like philosophy and text exegesis, but also sociology, political sciences and other social sciences.


Another Answer to the Question "What is Anthropology?"

Photo by David Barnas on Flickr

By Matthias Teeuwen            As a student of cultural anthropology you are invariably confronted with the question: what is anthropology? It can briefly be answered by pointing to the etymology of the word: ???????? (human; man) + ????? (word; reason) = anthropology, the study of humans. However, this simple definition of anthropology soon gets swamped in the sheer diversity within anthropology: social anthropology, cultural anthropology, anthropology of crises, anthropology of religion, medical anthropology, digital anthropology, anthropology of the city, anthropology of music, etc….

Here I propose an understanding of what anthropology is based on the juxtaposition with philosophy, and with philosophy I mean that branch of philosophy that regards humans: philosophical anthropology. Anthropology and philosophy seem to share an engagement with the limits of the human:[1] What is human and what is not? Or, stated differently: what is the result of nurture and what is the result of nature?


Critical thinking: Who’s up for it?

By Georgette Veerhuis            A month ago on Thursday 21 January 2016 I attended the symposium Diversify Philosophy at the VU. It sounded mysterious. Why does philosophy need to be diversified? It also sounded progressive and modern, and therefore almost incongruent with age-old philosophy. Isn’t philosophy ‘simply’ premised on, and specialised in, critical thinking? Why then should philosophy need to change?