Where thought belongs: An anthropological critique of the project of philosophy

Michael D. Jackson

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Adorno, Arendt, Badiou, Derrida, Heidegger and Rorty have variously called for radically new conceptions of philosophy, but none has made a case for turning from the historical and genealogical past to the anthropological present. Taking the view that thought cannot escape the impress of a thinker's immediate situation, this article invokes the phenomenological notions of lifeworld and lebensphilosophie to explore the social spaces where thought arises and transpires. Beginning with Hannah Arendt's conception of thinking as grounded in the vita activa rather than the vita contemplativa, it is suggested that ethnographic method provides a compelling way of realizing her vision of thought as inextricably political and tied to events - expressions of the power relations between human subjects, and between private and public realms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-251
Number of pages17
JournalAnthropological Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Arendt
  • Ethnographic method
  • Event
  • Judgment
  • Lebensphilosophie
  • Limit situation
  • Vita activa


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