SCOPE OF ANTHROPOLOGY by Robert Marett


In this chapter I propose to say something, firstly, about the ideal scope of anthropology; secondly, about its ideal limitations; and, thirdly and lastly, about its actual relations to existing studies. In other words, I shall examine the extent of its claim, and then go on to examine how that claim, under modern conditions of science and education, is to be made good.

Firstly, then, what is the ideal scope of anthropology? Taken at its fullest and best, what ought it to comprise? 
Anthropology is the whole history of man as fired and pervaded by the idea of evolution. Man in evolution--that is the subject in its full reach. Anthropology studies man as he occurs at all known times. It studies him as he occurs in all known parts of the world. It studies him body and soul together--as a bodily organism, subject to conditions operating in time and space, which bodily organism is in intimate relation with a soul-life, also subject to those same conditions. Having an eye to such conditions from first to last, it seeks to plot out the general series of the changes, bodily and mental together, undergone by man in the course of his history. Its business is simply to describe. But, without exceeding the limits of its scope, it can and must proceed from the particular to the general; aiming at nothing less than a descriptive formula that shall sum up the whole series
of changes in which the evolution of man consists.

That will do, perhaps, as a short account of the ideal scope of anthropology. Being short, it is bound to be rather formal and colourless. To put some body into it, however, it is necessary to breathe but a single word. That word is: Darwin. Anthropology is the child of Darwin. Darwinism makes it possible. Reject the Darwinian point of view, and you must reject anthropology also. What, then, is Darwinism? Not a cut-and-dried doctrine. Not a dogma. Darwinism is a working hypothesis. You suppose something to be true, and work away to see whether, in the light of that supposed truth, certain facts fit together better than they do on any other supposition. What is the truth that Darwinism supposes? Simply that all the forms of life in the world are related together; and that the relations manifested in time and space between the different lives are sufficiently uniform to be described under a general formula, or law of evolution.

This means that man must, for certain purposes of science, toe the line with the rest of living things. And at first, naturally enough, man did not like it. He was too lordly. For a long time, therefore, he pretended to be fighting for the Bible, when he was really fighting for his own dignity. This was rather hard on the Bible, which has nothing to do with the Aristotelian theory of the fixity of species; though it might seem possible to read back something of the kind into the primitive creation-stories preserved in Genesis. Now-a-days, however, we have mostly got over the first shock to our family pride. We are all Darwinians in a passive kind of way. But we need to darwinize actively. In the sciences that have to do with plants, and with the rest of the animals besides man, naturalists have been so active in their darwinizing that the pre-Darwinian stuff is once for all laid
by on the shelf. When man, however, engages on the subject of his noble  self, the tendency still is to say: We accept Darwinism so long as it is not allowed to count, so long as we may go on believing the same old stuff in the same old way.

How do we anthropologists propose to combat this tendency? By working away at our subject, and persuading people to have a look at our results. Once people take up anthropology, they may be trusted not to drop it again. It is like learning to sleep with your window open. What could be more stupefying than to shut yourself up in a closet and swallow your own gas? But is it any less stupefying to shut yourself up within
the last few thousand years of the history of your own corner of the world, and suck in the stale atmosphere of its own self-generated prejudices? Or, to vary the metaphor, anthropology is like travel. Every one starts by thinking that there is nothing so perfect as his own parish. But let a man go aboard ship to visit foreign parts, and, when he returns home, he will cause that parish to wake up.
With Darwin, then, we anthropologists say: Let any and every portion of human history be studied in the light of the whole history of mankind, and against the background of the history of living things in general. It is the Darwinian outlook that matters. None of Darwin's particular doctrines will necessarily endure the test of time and trial. Into the melting-pot must they go as often as any man of science deems it fitting. But Darwinism as the touch of nature that makes the whole world kin can hardly pass away. At any rate, anthropology stands or
falls with the working hypothesis, derived from Darwinism, of a fundamental kinship and continuity amid change between all the forms of human life.

It remains to add that, hitherto, anthropology has devoted most of its attention to the peoples of rude--that is to say, of simple--culture, who are vulgarly known to us as "savages." The main reason for this, I suppose, is that nobody much minds so long as the darwinizing kind of history confines itself to outsiders. Only when it is applied to self and friends is it resented as an impertinence. But, although it has always up to now pursued the line of least resistance, anthropology does not abate one jot or tittle of its claim to be the whole science, in the sense of the whole history, of man. As regards the word, call it science, or history, or anthropology, or anything else--what does it matter? As regards the thing, however, there can be no compromise. We anthropologists are out to secure this: that there shall not be one kind of history for savages and another kind for ourselves, but the same kind of history, with the same evolutionary principle running right through it, for all men, civilized and savage, present and past.

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So much for the ideal scope of anthropology. Now, in the second place, for its ideal limitations. Here, I am afraid, we must touch for a moment on very deep and difficult questions. But it is well worth while to try at all costs to get firm hold of the fact that anthropology, though a big thing, is not everything. It will be enough to insist briefly on the following points: that anthropology is science in whatever way history is science; that it is not philosophy, though it must conform to its needs; and that it is not policy, though it may subserve its designs.

Anthropology is science in the sense of specialized research that aims at truth for truth's sake. Knowing by parts is science, knowing the whole as a whole is philosophy. Each supports the other, and there is no profit in asking which of the two should come first. One is aware of the universe as the whole universe, however much one may be resolved to study its details one at a time. The scientific mood, however, is uppermost when one says: Here is a particular lot of things that seem to hang together in a particular way; let us try to get a general idea of what that way is. Anthropology, then, specializes on the particular group of human beings, which itself is part of the larger particular group of living beings. Inasmuch as it takes over the evolutionary principle from the science dealing with the larger group, namely biology, anthropology may be regarded as a branch of biology. Let it be added, however, that, of all the branches of biology, it is the one that is likely to bring us nearest to the true meaning of life; because the life of human beings must always be nearer to human students
of life than, say, the life of plants.

But, you will perhaps object, anthropology was previously identified with history, and now it is identified with science, namely, with a branch of biology? Is history science? The answer is, Yes. I know that a great many people who call themselves historians say that it is not, apparently on the ground that, when it comes to writing history, truth for truth's sake is apt to bring out the wrong results. Well, the doctored sort of history is not science, nor anthropology, I am ready to admit. But now let us listen to another and a more serious objection
to the claim of history to be science. Science, it will be said by many earnest men of science, aims at discovering laws that are clean out of time. History, on the other hand, aims at no more than the generalized description of one or another phase of a time-process. To this it may be replied that physics, and physics only, answers to this altogether too narrow conception of science. The laws of matter in motion are, or seem to be, of the timeless or mathematical kind. Directly we pass on to biology, however, laws of this kind are not
to be discovered, or at any rate are not discovered. Biology deals ith life, or, if you like, with matter as living. Matter moves. Life evolves. We have entered a new dimension of existence. The laws of matter in motion are not abrogated, for the simple reason that in physics one makes abstraction of life, or in other words leaves its
peculiar effects entirely out of account. But they are transcended. They are multiplied by _x_, an unknown quantity. This being so from the standpoint of pure physics, biology takes up the tale afresh, and devises means of its own for describing the particular ways in which things hang together in virtue of their being alive. And biology finds that it cannot conveniently abstract away the reference to time. It cannot treat living things as machines. What does it do, then? It takes the form of history. It states that certain things have changed in
certain ways, and goes on to show, so far as it can, that the changes are on the whole in a certain direction. In short, it formulates tendencies, and these are its only laws. Some tendencies, of course, appear to be more enduring than others, and thus may be thought to approximate more closely to laws of the timeless kind. But _x_, the unknown quantity, the something or other that is not physical, runs through them all, however much or little they may seem to endure. For science, at any rate, which departmentalizes the world, and studies it bit by bit, there is no getting over the fact that living beings in general, and human beings in particular, are subject to an evolution which is simple matter of history.

And now what about philosophy? I am not going into philosophical questions here. For that reason I am not going to describe biology as natural history, or anthropology as the natural history of man. Let philosophers discuss what "nature" is going to mean for them. In science the word is question-begging; and the only sound rule in science is to beg as few philosophical questions as you possibly can. Everything in the world is natural, of course, in the sense that things are somehow all akin--all of a piece. We are simply bound to take in
the parts as parts of a whole, and it is just this fact that makes philosophy not only possible but inevitable. All the same, this fact does not prevent the parts from having their own specific natures and specific ways of behaving. The people who identify the natural with the physical are putting all their money on one specific kind of nature or behaviour that is to be found in the world. In the case of man they are backing the wrong horse. The horse to back is the horse that goes. As a going concern, however, anthropology, as part of evolutionary
biology, is a history of vital tendencies which are not natural in the sense of merely physical.

What are the functions of philosophy as contrasted with science? Two. Firstly, it must be critical. It must police the city of the sciences, preventing them from interfering with each other's rights and free development. Co-operation by all means, as, for instance, between anthropology and biology. But no jumping other folks' claims and laying down the law for all; as, for instance, when physics would impose the kind of method applicable to machines on the sciences of evolving life. Secondly, philosophy must be synthetic. It must put all the ways of knowing together, and likewise put these in their entirety together with all the ways of feeling and acting; so that there may result a theory of reality and of the good life, in that organic interdependence of the two which our very effort to put things together presupposes as its object.

What, then, are to be the relations between anthropology and philosophy? On the one hand, the question whether anthropology can help philosophy need not concern us here. That is for the philosopher to determine. On the other hand, philosophy can help anthropology in two ways: in its critical capacity, by helping it to guard its own claim, and develop freely without interference from outsiders; and in its synthetic capacity, perhaps, by suggesting the rule that, of two types of explanation, for instance, the physical and the biological,
the more abstract is likely to be farther away from the whole truth, whereas, contrariwise, the more you take in, the better your chance of really understanding.

It remains to speak about policy. I use this term to mean any and all practical exploitation of the results of science. Sometimes, indeed, it is hard to say where science ends and policy begins, as we saw in the case of those gentlemen who would doctor their history, because practically it pays to have a good conceit of ourselves, and believe that our side always wins its battles. Anthropology, however, would borrow something besides the evolutionary principle from biology, namely, its disinterestedness. It is not hard to be candid about bees and ants; unless, indeed, one is making a parable of them. But as anthropologists we must try, what is so much harder, to be candid about ourselves. Let us look at ourselves as if we were so many bees and ants, not forgetting, of course, to make use of the inside information that in the case of the insects we so conspicuously lack.This does not mean that human history, once constructed according to truth-regarding principles, should and could not be used for the practical advantage of mankind. The anthropologist, however, is not, as such, concerned with the practical employment to which his discoveries are put. At most, he may, on the strength of a conviction that truth is mighty and will prevail for human good, invite practical men to study his facts and generalizations in the hope that, by knowing mankind better, they may come to appreciate and serve it better. For instance, the administrator, who rules over savages, is almost invariably quite well-meaning, but not seldom utterly ignorant of native customs and beliefs. So, in many cases, is the missionary, another type of person in authority, whose intentions are of the best, but whose methods too often leave much to be desired. No amount of zeal will suffice, apart from scientific insight into the conditions of the practical problem. And the education is to be got by paying for it. But governments and churches, with some honourable exceptions,
are still wofully disinclined to provide their probationers with the necessary special training; though it is ignorance that always proves most costly in the long run. Policy, however, including bad policy, does not come within the official cognizance of the anthropologist. Yet it is legitimate for him to hope that, just as for many years already physiological science has indirectly subserved the art of medicine, so anthropological science may indirectly, though none the less effectively, subserve an art of political and religious healing in the days to come.

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The third and last part of this chapter will show how, under modern conditions of science and education, anthropology is to realize its programme. Hitherto, the trouble with anthropologists has been to see the wood for the trees. Even whilst attending mainly to the peoples of rude culture, they have heaped together facts enough to bewilder both themselves and their readers. The time has come to do some sorting; or rather the sorting is doing itself. All manner of groups of special students, interested in some particular side of human history, come now-a-days to the anthropologist, asking leave to borrow from his stock of facts the kind that they happen to want. Thus he, as general storekeeper, is beginning to acquire, almost unconsciously, a sense
of order corresponding to the demands that are made upon him. The goods that he will need to hand out in separate batches are being gradually arranged by him on separate shelves. Our best way, then, of proceeding
with the present inquiry, is to take note of these shelves. In other words, we must consider one by one the special studies that claim to have a finger in the anthropological pie.

Or, to avoid the disheartening task of reviewing an array of bloodless "-ologies," let us put the question to ourselves thus: Be it supposed that a young man or woman who wants to take a course, of at least a year's length, in the elements of anthropology, joins some university which is thoroughly in touch with the scientific activities of the day. A university, as its very name implies, ought to be an all-embracing assemblage of higher studies, so adjusted to each other that, in combination, they provide beginners with a good general education; whilst, severally, they offer to more advanced students the opportunity of doing this or that kind of specific research. In such a well-organized university, then, how would our budding anthropologist proceed to form a preliminary acquaintance with the four corners of his subject? What departments must he attend in turn? Let us draw him up a curriculum, praying meanwhile that the multiplicity of the demands made upon him will not take away his breath altogether. Man is a many-sided being; so there is no help for it if anthropology also is many-sided.

For one thing, he must sit at the feet of those whose particular concern is with pre-historic man. It is well to begin here, since thus will the glamour of the subject sink into his soul at the start. Let him, for instance, travel back in thought to the Europe of many thousands of years ago, shivering under the effects of the great ice-age, yet populous with human beings so far like ourselves that they were alive to the advantage of a good fire, made handy tools out of stone and wood and bone, painted animals on the walls of their caves, or engraved
them on mammoth-ivory, far more skilfully than most of us could do now, and buried their dead in a ceremonial way that points to a belief in a future life. Thus, too, he will learn betimes how to blend the methods and materials of different branches of science. A human skull, let us say, and some bones of extinct animals, and some chipped flints are all discovered side by side some twenty feet below the level of the soil. At least four separate authorities must be called in before the parts of the puzzle can be fitted together.

Again, he must be taught something about race, or inherited breed, as it applies to man. A dose of practical anatomy--that is to say, some actual handling and measuring of the principal portions of the human frame in its leading varieties--will enable our beginner to appreciate the differences of outer form that distinguish, say, the
British colonist in Australia from the native "black-fellow," or the whites from the negroes, and redskins, and yellow Asiatics in the United States. At this point, he may profitably embark on the details of the Darwinian hypothesis of the descent of man. Let him search amongst the manifold modern versions of the theory of human evolution for the one that comes nearest to explaining the degrees of physical likeness and unlikeness shown by men in general as compared with the animals, especially the man-like apes; and again, those shown by the men of divers ages and regions as compared with each other. Nor is it enough for him, when thus engaged, to take note simply of physical features--the shape of the skull, the colour of the skin, the tint and texture of the hair, and so on. There are likewise mental characters that seem to be bound up closely with the organism and to follow the breed. Such are the so-called instincts, the study of which should be helped out by excursions into the mind-history of animals, of children, and of the insane. Moreover, the measuring and testing of mental functions, and, in particular, of the senses, is now-a-days carried on by means of all sorts of ingenious instruments; and some experience of their use will be all to the good, when problems of descent are being tackled.

Further, our student must submit to a thorough grounding in world-geography with its physical and human sides welded firmly together. He must be able to pick out on the map the headquarters of all the more notable peoples, not merely as they are now, but also as they were at various outstanding moments of the past. His next business is to master the main facts about the natural conditions to which each people is subjected--the climate, the conformation of land and sea, the animals and plants. From here it is but a step to the economic life--the food-supply, the clothing, the dwelling-places, the principal occupations, the implements of labour. A selected list of books of travel must be consulted. No less important is it to work steadily through the show-cases of a good ethnological museum. Nor will it suffice to have surveyed the world by regions. The communications between regions--the migrations and conquests, the trading and the borrowing of customs--must be traced and accounted for. Finally, on the basis of their distribution, which the learner must chart out for himself on blank maps of the world, the chief varieties of the useful arts and appliances of man can be followed from stage to stage of their development.

Of the special studies concerned with man the next in order might seem to be that which deals with the various forms of human society; since, in a sense, social organization must depend directly on material circumstances. In another and perhaps a deeper sense, however, the prime condition of true sociality is something else, namely, the exclusively human gift of articulate speech. To what extent, then, must our novice pay attention to the history of language? Speculation about its far-off origins is now-a-days rather out of fashion. Moreover,
language is no longer supposed to provide, by itself at any rate, and apart from other clues, a key to the endless riddles of racial descent. What is most needed, then, is rather some elementary instruction concerning the organic connection between language and thought, and concerning their joint development as viewed against the background of the general development of society. And, just as words and thoughts are essentially symbols, so there are also gesture-symbols and written symbols, whilst again another set of symbols is in use for counting.
All these pre-requisites of human intercourse may be conveniently taken together. Coming now to the analysis of the forms of society, the beginner must first of all face the problem: "What makes a people one?" Neither blood,nor territory, nor language, but only the fact of being more or less compactly organized in a political society, will be found to yield the unifying principle required. Once the primary constitution of the body politic has been made out, a limit is set up, inside of which a number of fairly definite forms of grouping offer themselves for examination; whilst outside of it various social relationships of a vaguer kind have also to be considered. Thus, amongst institutions of the internal kind, the family by itself presents a wide field of research; though in certain cases it is liable to be overshadowed by some other sort of organization, such as, notably, the clan. Under the same rubric fall the many forms of more or less voluntary association, economic, religious, and so forth. On the other hand, outside the circle of the body politic there are, at all known stages of society, mutual understandings that regulate war, trade, travel, the celebration of common rites, the interchange of ideas. Here, then, is an abundance of types of human association, to be first scrutinized separately, and afterwards considered in relation to each other.

Closely connected with the previous subject is the history of law. Every type of association, in a way, has its law, whereby its members are constrained to fulfil a certain set of obligations. Thus our student will pass on straight from the forms of society to the most essential of their functions. The fact that, amongst the less civilized peoples, the law is uncodified and merely customary, whilst the machinery for enforcing it is, though generally effective enough, yet often highly indefinite and occasional, makes the tracing of the growth of legal institutions from their rudiments no less vitally important, though it makes it none the easier. The history of authority is a strictly kindred topic. Legislating and judging on the one hand, and governing on the other, are different aspects of the same general function. In accordance, then, with the order already indicated, law and government as administered by the political society in the person of its representatives, chiefs, elders, war-lords, priest-kings, and so forth, must first be examined; then the jurisdiction and discipline of subordinate bodies, such as the family and the clan, or again the religious societies, trade guilds, and the rest; then, lastly, the international conventions, with the available means of ensuring their observance.

Again, the history of religion is an allied theme of far-reaching interest. For the understanding of the ruder forms of society it may even be said to furnish the master-key. At this stage, religion is the mainstay of law and government. The constraining force of custom makes itself felt largely through a magnifying haze of mystic sanctions; whilst, again, the position of a leader of society rests for the most part on the supernormal powers imputed to him. Religion and magic, then, must be carefully studied if we would understand how the various persons and bodies that exercise authority are assisted, or else hindered, in their efforts to maintain social discipline. Apart from this fundamental inquiry, there is another, no less important in its way, to which the study of religion and magic opens up a path. This is the problem how reflection manages as it were to double human experience, by setting up beside the outer world of sense an inner world of thought-relations. Now constructive imagination is the queen of those mental functions which meet in what we loosely term "thought";
and imagination is ever most active where, on the outer fringe of the mind's routine work, our inarticulate questionings radiate into the unknown. When the genius has his vision, almost invariably, among the ruder peoples, it is accepted by himself and his society as something supernormal and sacred, whether its fruit be an act of leadership or an edict, a practical invention or a work of art, a story of the past or a prophecy, a cure or a devastating curse. Moreover, social tradition treasures the memory of these revelations, and, blending them with the contributions of humbler folk--for all of us dream our dreams--provides in myth and legend and tale, as well as in manifold other art-forms, a stimulus to the inspiration of future generations. For most purposes fine art, at any rate during its more rudimentary stages, may be studied in connection with religion.  
So far as law and religion will not account for the varieties of social behaviour, the novice may most conveniently consider them under the head of morals. The forms of social intercourse, the fashions, the festivities, are imposed on us by our fellows from without, and none the less effectively because as a general rule we fall in with them as a matter of course. The difference between manners and morals of the higher order is due simply to the more pressing need, in the case of our most serious duties, of a reflective sanction, a "moral sense," to break us in to the common service. It is no easy task to keep legal and religious penalties or rewards out of the reckoning, when trying to frame an estimate of what the notions of right and wrong, prevalent in a given society, amount to in themselves; nevertheless, it is worth doing, and valuable collections of material exist to aid the work. The facts about education, which even amongst rude peoples is often carried on far into manhood, throw much light on this problem. So do the moralizings embodied the traditional lore of the folk--the proverbs, the beast-fables, the stories of heroes.  There remains the individual to be studied in himself. If the individual be ignored by social science, as would sometimes appear to be the case, so much the worse for social science, which, to a corresponding extent, falls short of being truly anthropological. Throughout the history of man, our beginner should be on the look-out for the signs, and the effects, of personal initiative. Freedom of choice, of course, is limited by what there is to choose from; so that the development of what may be termed social opportunity should be concurrently reviewed. Again, it is the aim of every moral system so to educate each man that his directive self may be as far as possible identified with his social self. Even suicide is not a man's own affair, according to the voice of society which speaks in the moral code. Nevertheless, lest the important truth be overlooked that social control implies a will that must meet the control half-way, it is well for the student of man to pay separate and special attention to the individual agent. The last word in anthropology is: Know thyself. 
SCOPE OF ANTHROPOLOGY by Robert Marett SCOPE OF ANTHROPOLOGY by Robert Marett Reviewed by roikan soekartun on 10:07 AM Rating: 5

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