Cover of Toward an Anthropology of the Will by Edited by Keith M. Murphy and C. Jason Throop
Toward an Anthropology of the Will
Edited by Keith M. Murphy and C. Jason Throop


240 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804768870
Ebook ISBN: 9780804773775

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Toward an Anthropology of the Will is the first book that systematically explores volition from an ethnographically informed anthropological point of view. While philosophers have for centuries puzzled over the degree to which individuals are "free" to choose how to act in the world, anthropologists have either assumed that the will is a stable, constant fact of the human condition or simply ignored it. Although they are usually quite comfortable discussing the relationship between culture and cognition or culture and emotion, anthropologists have not yet focused on how culture and volition are interconnected.

The contributors to this book draw upon their unique insights and research experience to address fundamental questions, including: What forms does the will take in culture? How is willing experienced? How does it relate to emotion and cognition? What does imagination have to do with willing? What is the connection between morality, virtue, and willing? Exploring such questions, the book moves beyond old debates about "freedom" and "determinacy" to demonstrate how a richly nuanced anthropological approach to the cultural experience of willing can help shape theories of social action in the human sciences.

About the authors

Keith M. Murphy is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. C. Jason Throop is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The will and willing are extremely complex phenomena that have only begun to be explored. This first ever anthropological book on the topic questions what the will is, examines its characteristics and components, and begins to explain its causes and effects. This work challenges implicit assumptions, revealing that, far from being free, the will is constrained by culture, morality, and conflicting goals."

—Roger Ivar Lohmann, Trent University

"Toward an Anthropology of the Will reveals the utility of bringing philosophical and folk concepts of will into anthropological study. The authors' fresh and surprising approaches to the phenomenology and psychology of will open up new vantage points that unsettle longstanding issues in the study of self and society."

—Geoffrey White, University of Hawai'i at Manoa