Convention, Translation, and Understanding

Philosophical Problems in the Comparative Study of Culture

By Robert Feleppa

Subjects: Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Logic and Language
Paperback : 9780887066740, 317 pages, July 1988
Hardcover : 9780887066733, 317 pages, July 1988

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Table of contents


Chapter 1 Meaning and Understanding
Meaning, Metaphysics, and Translation
Some Approaches to a Theory of Meaning
Ideational Theories and Their Place in Semantics and Epistemology
Entificational Theories: Behavioral
Nonentificational Theories
General Criticisms of Intension
Intension and Synonymy in Translation
Radical Indeterminacy

Chapter 2 Methodological Problems in the Study of Alien Culture
Boasian Themes in Twentieth-Century Anthropology
Etics, Emics, and Componential Analysis
Componential Analysis and Psychological Reality
Descent to the Unconscious
Transformational-Generative Theories
Structural Anthropology
Cognitive Anthropology: Recent Developments and Problems
Ascent to Social-Behavioral Context

Chapter 3 Pragmatism, Physicalism, and Indeterminacy
Etics and Emics Revisited: Cultural Idealism versus Cultural Materialism
Emics and Pragmatism
Underdetermination and Indeterminacy
Quine and Boas on Imposition
Theoretical Underdetermination
Quine on Ontology and Epistemology
Epistemology and Meaning
Ontology and Meaning
Physical Equivalence and Translational Conflict
Ontology and Scientific Legitimacy
The Epistemological Thesis Revisited

Chapter 4 Translation and Convention
Translation Rules
The Conventional Character of Translation
Whither Translation?
Some General Consequences for Linguistic Analysis

Chapter 5 Translation in Anthropology
Emics Reconstructed
Componential Analysis: Neither God's Truth Nor Hocus-Pocus
Recent Pragmatic Trends
Wittgensteinian Aspects of Ethnography
Is "Rationality" Universal?
The Function of Translation in Anthropological Theory




This book surveys several theoretical controversies in anthropology that revolve around reconciling the objective description of culture with the influence of inquirer interests and conceptions. It relates them to discussions by followers of W. V. Quine who see the problems of anthropological inquiry as indicative of conceptual problems in the basic assumptions operative in the discipline, and in the study of language in general. Feleppa offers a revised view of the nature and function of translation in anthropology that gives a plausible account of the problems that traditional semantics introduces into anthropology, while avoiding the severe methodological import Quine envisions.

Robert Feleppa is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wichita State University.


"The author addresses a key philosophical problem, discusses it clearly and intelligently, and shows the importance of the problem for certain issues in anthropology. His command of the relevant literature is impressive without overwhelming the reader. The book can be read by both philosophers and anthropologists. " — Kenneth Barber

"This book addresses issues that are of current interest to social scientists and those interested in the philosophy of science. It also utilizes anthropological theory to relativize and question leading theories in the philosophy of language and epistemology. In turn, it also challenges many of the presuppositions of componential analysis and cognitive anthropology. " — Robert C. Ulin