Representation and Reality in the Study of Culture

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Abstract

The contemporary debate over the scientific status of ethnographic inquiry is best regarded as a dispute between realist and antirealist treatments of truth and representation. Drawing on some of the work of philosopher Donald Davidson, this essay argues that both treatments are flawed. It concludes that the controversy about cross-cultural truth claims is misconceived and unproductive when carried out in epistemological terms. In fact, the disagreements are largely moral and political and would be more productively discussed in precisely those terms.

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