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Darwin-L Message Log 6:100 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<6:100>From TOMASO@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu  Sat Feb 26 13:49:33 1994

Date: Sat, 26 Feb 1994 13:49:21 -0600 (CST)
From: TOMASO@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu
Subject: Re: DARWIN-L digest 157
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

George and others:

	I suspect that this might be one of the texts in your sociocultural
anthro history of thought class.  But, in any case, the closest thing to
contextualizing of the evolutionary mode of thought that I know of is George W.
Stocking's _Victorian Anthropology_ (1991, Free Press/McMillan).  Be forwarned
that Stocking's approach is historicist and relativist - so he bemoans the
reductionism of claims that social evolutionism was unified and directed enough
to be considered a paradigm, and he certainly would argue that terms such as
'structuralist', 'positivist', etc. mask a lot of heterogeneous discourse.  In
other words, Stocking is anti-reductionist.  I personally like his book, but
it is rather slow.
	Stocking, I think, would argue quite strongly against the 'presentist'
argument that evolutionism can be seen as evidence of structuralist thinking,
or bounded within the structuralist paradigm.  His reasoning, I
speculate, would be that structuralist argumentation had not been formally
explicated while Tylor, Wallace, Spencer, etc. were doing their work - and so
to call their argument structuralist is to argue by analogy or metaphor.
Another point that becomes quite clear in his book is that much of the
oppositions and correspondences posed by evolutionists and 'genists alike
during the 18th century could hardly be recognized as oppositions today.  In
other words, they seem illogical in our present context.  Stocking wants to
provide the contextual details that are missing from 'presentist' arguments in
order to provide a rich textual background for the concepts of evolutionism.
I think he succeeds.

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Matt Tomaso
Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin

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