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The Philosophical Roots of Anthropology cover

The Philosophical Roots of Anthropology

William Adams

Anthropologists claim to have made mankind aware of its own prehistory and its importance to human self-understanding. Yet, anthropologists seem hardly to have discovered their own discipline's prehistory or to have realized its importance. William Adams attempts to rectify this myopic self-awareness by applying anthropology's own tools on itself and uncovering the discipline's debt to earlier thinkers.

Like most anthropologists, Adams had previously accepted the premise that anthropology's intellectual roots go back no further than the moral philosophy of the Enlightenment, or perhaps at the earliest to the humanism of the Renaissance. In this volume, Adams recognizes that many good ideas were anticipated in antiquity and that these ideas have had a lasting influence on anthropological models in particular. Adams has chosen five philosophical currents whose influence has been, and is, very widespread, particularly in North American anthropology: progressivism, primitivism, natural law, German idealism, and “Indianology”. The author argues that the influences of these currents in North American anthropology occur in a unique combination that is not found in the anthropologies of other countries. Without neglecting the anthropologies of other countries, this work serves as the basis for the explanation of the true historical and philosophical underpinnings of anthropology and its goals.

William Adams is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Translated into Spanish and Chinese.


  • Preface
  • 1 Ideology, Philosophy, Anthropology, and the Other
  • 2 Progressivism: The Tap Root
  • 3 Primitivism
  • 4 Natural Law
  • 5 “Indianology”
  • 6 German Idealism
  • 7 Other Roots; Other Trees
  • 8 In Search of the Anthropological Self
  • An Annotated Bibliography of Seconday Sources
  • Index


ISBN (Paperback): 1575861283 (9781575861289)
ISBN (electronic): 1575866412 (9781575866413)

Subject: Anthropology; Philosophy

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