Anthropology, Philosophy, and the Challenge of Barbarous Universalism


  • Joseph Grim Feinberg Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences Autor


There is rich tradition of interaction between anthropology and philosophy. This article reflects on the character of this interaction, arguing that it is not a case of two separate, parallel traditions that mutually influence one another, but rather of two interconnected disciplines that have become necessary to one another’s development. Both disciplines aim at a universalistic understanding of the human being, but each does so by different means. Philosophy allows the autonomous work of reason to criticize established categories of thought, positing new concepts of the human; but it risks becoming too autonomous – too self-sufficient and self-referential – thus allowing its categories to become resistant to criticism, established as marks of “civilization” that distinguish philosophical ideas from ideas that are non-philosophical, irrational, and barbarous. Anthropology, for its part, reveals the limitations of premature universalism, pointing to forms of reason excluded from dominant systems of thought. Philosophy can turn to anthropology in order to expand and bring in new concepts. Anthropology can turn to philosophy in order to recall its original impulse toward conceptualizing the universal, in an expansive form that I call “barbarous universalism”.


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How to Cite

Anthropology, Philosophy, and the Challenge of Barbarous Universalism. (2023). Cargo Journal, 21(2), 22-44.