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The Intertwining of Culture and Nature: Franz Boas, John Dewey, and Deweyan Strands of American Anthropology

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 76, Number 1, January 2015
pp. 139-162 | 10.1353/jhi.2015.0002



This article argues that John Dewey, influenced by Franz Boas and early American anthropology, made the first attempt to understand nature from a modern anthropological perspective. We first explain how Boas helped develop the culture concept, which played a key role in the development Dewey’s own understanding of experience. In support of our interpretation of Dewey’s anthropology of nature, we conclude with some consideration of how Dewey’s anthropological philosophy served as an inspiration for anthropologists Ruth Benedict, Gene Weltfish, Alexander Lesser, and Leslie White.