This paper seeks to examine how three anthropologists, E.B. Tylor, Bronislaw Malinowski and Levi-Strauss address the question "is man one or many?" They were chosen on the basis of their being the leading figures of three different schools of thought, evolutionary anthropology, structural functionalism, and structuralism. The paper will, at first, explore the schools of thought and illuminate the respective anthropologist's theories in a chronological method. Next, in light of these theoretical frameworks, it will seek to compare and contrast the three anthropologists' positions on whether man one or many. Finally, it will explore how the different schools of thought impacted these positions. The dominant intellectual perspective in the mid-nineteenth century was evolutionisms, which even the discipline of Anthropology, weren't able to escape. Evolutionary Anthropology attempted to conduct a scientific and nomothetic investigation of society. In doing so, it superseded the prevailing theological ideologies of origin and the notion that social life was devoid of regulation and pattern (Arkin, 9 September, 2008).
[...] Thus, for Malinowski, while man has the potential to be one, man is many in practice, based on geographical conditions. If all conditions were the same, man could, theoretically, be one. Critics of Malinowski have observed that while his theory on functionalism maintains all aspects of culture are connected, and while his ethnography on the Trobriand Islands also reflects a holistic description of culture, he doesn't explicitly illustrate how the various aspects are functionally unified (Arkin October, 2008). While structural functionalism provided anthropology with a tidy framework that could also be managed in the field, it proved to be too simplistic an approach. [...]
[...] The different schools of thought certainly influenced the different positions on whether man is one or many. Evolutionism, which maintains a historical development of humans from primitiveness to civilization, leaves little room for considering man as many. This is because all of mankind has one origin and from this common point develop slowly into enlightened beings. All processes and developments are the same, and therefore, it isn't differences in plural culture that make man different. Differences that exist are attributable to the different stages of development the same culture is in. [...]
[...] Another social institution Levi-Strauss analyzed was totemism which Malinowski, too attempted. Their different analysis on this subject highlights their different approach to whether man one or many. Malinowski argued that totems served a utilitarian function, i.e. a clan chooses a certain animal as their totem because the animal is good to eat. Levi- Strauss, on the other hand did not see totems as purely nature oriented (Levi-Strauss, 1963). Totems, to him represented a dialectic between the animal world and human world. [...]
[...] While his theory of universal cognitive processes supports the psychic unity of man and may, at first, appear somewhat liberal, there is also a second layer to his analysis. He believed that primitives were only rational in their own cultural context (Tylor, 1889). That is, their method of reasoning, without a scientific foundation, was assumed unfit for civilized society. Thus, it is only under the same conditions that people will think the same. This ethnocentric, armchair approach has been criticized for it's I were a savage what would I think?” stance (Arkin December, 2008). [...]
[...] Next, we will explicitly examine their approaches in light of the question, man one or All three authors, to some extent believe that man is one. Tylor, however, holds this position strongest. Tylor saw culture as a linear development, i.e. all humans evolve through the same stages of savagery, barbarism, and civilization. It is man's, individual, rationality that allows for this evolution of a singular culture. Due to their universally rational minds, all individuals, if found under similar environments, are capable of reinventing the wheel (Tylor, 2008). [...]
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