Concepts and Persons
Published: November 2021© 2021
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 176 Pages
Illustrations: 1 b&w illustration
Dimensions: 5.80 x 8.75
176 Pages, 5.80 x 8.75 x 0.55 in, 1 b&w illustration
The Tanner Lectures are a collection of educational and scientific discussions relating to human values. Conducted by leaders in their fields, the lectures are presented at renowned institutions around the world, including the Universities of Oxford, Harvard, and Yale. In January 2019, University of Toronto’s Michael Lambek, professor, former Canada Research Chair, and member of the Royal Society of Canada, delivered the Tanner Lecture at the University of Michigan’s Department of Philosophy on the topic of "Concepts and Persons."
As well as tracing his career in social and cultural anthropology, Lambek’s Tanner Lecture spoke on the intersection of anthropology and philosophy as a means of articulating the moral basis of human action. By elucidating where anthropology and philosophy might intersect, Lambek’s lecture is a profound examination of the human condition, and is beautifully captured in this publication.
Concepts and Persons recounts the lecture as delivered at the prestigious event, the commentary of three distinguished respondents, and Lambek’s own response to that commentary. The book’s presentation of the lecture also includes a rich and layered set of notes that augment the lecture significantly, as well as additional clarification and thought that has developed since the event.
Elizabeth Anderson, John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
Jonathan Lear, John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago
Sherry B. Ortner, Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology, UCLA
Joel Robbins, Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology, Cambridge University, and Fellow, Trinity College
Preface and Acknowledgments
Response to Ortner
Response to Lear
Response to Robbins
"Michael Lambek’s multifaceted inquiry condenses a wide field of learning into a question about the company people keep: a personal encounter and the conceptual problems it generates create a beautifully polished point of reflection. Light refracted through this prism is scattered and returned through three scintillating commentaries."Marilyn Strathern, Professor Emeritus of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
"Michael Lambek has long been recognized in anthropology for his groundbreaking work on ordinary ethics, which has helped shape current directions in the field. But in the essay, exchanges, and encounters gathered in Concepts and Persons, his thinking obtains a new and powerful philosophical dimension. By reinterpreting ‘the difficulty of philosophy,’ Lambek challenges us to reconsider, in new terms, what it is to live a life."Sandra Laugier, Professor of Philosophy, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
"With his characteristic perceptiveness and broad learning, Michael Lambek explores the building of moral dilemma, the dynamism of ambiguity, and the embodiment of concepts into persons as well as the transformation of persons into concepts. In tight conversation with a trio of insightful commentators, he provides a remarkably original contribution to the age-old philosophical question of how best to conduct one’s life."Philippe Descola, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Collège de France
"Lambek is at home in the odd spaces between anthropology and philosophy, where concepts are personified and people are conceptualized. The metapersons that flourish there – demons, ghosts, gods, and ancestors – are far more than works of the imagination. They are evidence of how humans solve existential problems and why we make such fascinating, invaluable mistakes along the way. Lambek's reflections, and the commentaries that follow, offer a remarkable glimpse of what anthropology and philosophy, artfully combined, can accomplish."Andrew Shryock, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan