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Chapter 1-4

AN101 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1-4: Coevolution, Materialism, Cultural Relativism

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Amali Philips

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Chapter 1: The Anthropological Perspective on the Human Condition
Dualism: The philosophical view that reality consist of two equal and irreducible forces
Idealism: The philosophical view (dating back as far as Plato in Western thought) those ideas – or the mind
that produces such ideas – constitute the essence of human nature
Materialism: The philosophical view that the activities of our physical bodies in the material world constitute
the essence of human nature
Determinism: The philosophical view that one simple force (or a few simple forces) causes (or determines)
complex events
Essence: An unchanging core of features that is unique to things of the same kind (whether they are chairs,
cows, ideas, or people) and makes them what they are
Holism: A perspective on the human condition that assumes that mind and body, individual and society, and
individual and environment interpenetrate and even define one another
Co-evolution: The relationship between biological processes and symbolic cultural processes in which each
makes up an important part of the environment to which the other must adapt.
Comparative: A characteristic of anthropological perspective that requires anthropologists to consider
similarities and differences in a wide a range of human societies before generalizing about human nature,
human society, or human history
Biological Evolution: Evolution of the resources for human development provided by our genes and other
elements that make up our physical bodies
Cultural Evolution: Evolution of the beliefs and behaviours we incorporate into human development through
the experiences of teaching and learning

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Evolutionary: A characteristic of the anthropological perspective that requires anthropologists to place their
observations about human nature, human society, or human history in a temporal framework that takes into
consideration change over time.
Biological Anthropology: The specialty of anthropology that looks at humans as biological organisms and
tries to discover what characteristics make us different from and/ or similar to other living things
Races: Social groupings that allegedly reflected biological differences
Racism: The systematic oppression of members of one of the more socially defined ‘races’ by members of
another socially defined ‘race’ that is justified within the ruling society by the rulers’ faulty belief in their own
biological superiority
Primatology: The study of non-human primates, the closest living relatives of human beings
Paleoanthropology: The study of the fossilized remains of human beings’ earliest ancestors
Archaeology: The specialty of anthropology interested in what we can learn from material remains left
behind by earlier human societies
Language: The system of arbitrary vocal symbols we use to encode our experiences of the world and of
one another
Linguistic Anthropology: The specialty of anthropology concerned with the study of human languages
Cultural Anthropology: The specialty of anthropology that studies how variation in beliefs and behaviours is
shaped by culture and learned by different members of human groups
Culture: Sets of learned behaviours and ideas that humans acquire as members of society. We use culture
to adapt to and transform the world in which we live

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Informants: People in particular culture who work with anthropologists and provide them with insights about
their way of life: also called respondents, teachers or friends
Ethnography: An anthropologist’s written (or filmed) description of a particular culture
Ethnology: The comparative study of two or more cultures
Applied Anthropology: The use of information gathered from the other anthropological specialties to solve
practical problems within and between cultures
Biocultural Organisms: Organisms (in this case, human beings) whose defining features are codetermined
by biological and cultural factors
Symbol: Something that stands for something else.
Ethnocentrism: The opinion that one’s own way of life is the most natural, correct, or fully human way of life
Cultural Relativism: The perspective that all cultures are equally valid and can only be truly understood in
their own terms
Human Agency: Human beings’ ability to exercise at least some control over their lives
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