Chapter

A German Republic of Science and a German Idea of Truth: Empiricism and Sociability in Anthropology

in Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780226983417
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226983462 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226983462.003.0006
A German Republic of Science and a German Idea of Truth: Empiricism and Sociability in Anthropology

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The German Anthropological Society and its local branches were not merely institutions in which anthropologists conducted their new science but also organizations realizing political goals that had been thwarted in the founding of the German Empire in 1871. This was true above all for Rudolf Virchow, the leader of the German and the Berlin Anthropological Societies, who had been directly involved in the Prussian parliament during the constitutional crisis that had defined the structures of German politics in the last third of the nineteenth century. The comparative, empiricist project of anthropology fragmented the autonomous knowing subject and provided an antiauthoritarian model of knowledge and politics. Anthropologists contrasted their own empiricist, social forms of knowledge with what they perceived to be the authoritarian structure of philosophy, in which, they imagined, a lone thinker issued dictates unchecked by facts. A tradition of associating natural scientific empiricism and political liberalism informed the project of the founders of German anthropology.

Keywords: empiricism; sociability; German anthropology; political goals; social forms; liberalism

Chapter.  9663 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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