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Anthropology of Human Behavior


Clifford Geertz’s article Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture is a typical explanation of how culture can be reviewed in a philosophical perspective. It is part of a collection of essays in the book, “The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays”. The essay is mainly about the anthropology of human behavior in different settings. It starts with an explanation from Susanne Langer’s book, “Philosophy in a New Key”, where she remarks that certain thoughts of human beings can trigger people’s minds owing to its immense energy. These thoughts tend to ease challenges and clarify vague issues. In haste, everyone adopts them as a new scientific revolution to achieve system analysis. This affects the intellectual nature of people. The sensitive and active minds resolve to make use of the new ideas. People start to implement such innovative notions in different scopes of life with generality and assumptions that they will work (Geertz 3). More attention should be paid to interpretive anthropology as a way of understanding culture because its methodology is realistic to a cultural study.

This is a typical response paper for anthropologists. It is straightforward in both reading and understanding. The paper argues that human beings become complacent with the use of new ideas after they have familiarized with them. The popularity of those ideas fades and they just become part of people’s theoretical concepts. However, a few continue to apply these notions in different areas where they find them useful. In addition, scientists realize that a new idea can help in a small way although it cannot explain everything (Geertz 4).

Concept of Culture

In the essay, the author argues that this is the same manner in which the concept of culture develops. Anthropology has tried to explain, limit, specify and contain the concept of culture while maintaining its importance.

The author argues out that operationalism does not make significant contribution in social sciences. Understanding of science starts from the initial instances rather than observation of the findings. Anthropology makes use of ethnography to understand concepts. Ethnography entails the process where one establishes rapport, selects informants, transcribes text, takes genealogies, maps fields, and keeps a diary among others aspects of research. The main principle of ethnography is the use of “thick description concept”, the term adopted by Gilbert Ryle. It is a concept that clarifies human behavior and demeanors within different settings. This is paramount in making a reader understand the concept (Geertz 6).


The author is successful in revolving the essay around explanations of the concept of culture. He narrates that culture is symbolic for an individual. It is a self-contained reality with drives and purposes of its own. It contains a pattern of behavioral events associated with given communities. Culture is public in nature because people understand it through a wide scope. Ethnographic research has tried to explore the basis on which people imagine understated culture in a deeper extent. Culture is not a power that can be associated with institutions and social events. It has an association with the people’s intelligence (Geertz 12).

The author seems to postulate that culture can be understood effectively by isolating its elements, specifying the internal relationships among those elements and characterizing the whole system in a general way. This characterization should be in accordance with the core symbols of culture and upon its ideological principles.

The reader can conclude that ethnographic approach to studying culture is effective and represents both real and critical perspectives. However, the approach is just a basis on the way toward establishing theories of interpretive methods to study core elements of the culture. In a nutshell, the essay summarizes that interpretive anthropology may not be the solution to a comprehensive inquest for the sake of understanding of cultural concepts, but it offers a significant contribution (Geertz 15).

The essay uses explicit explanation to offer insights on the meaning of culture. The language is easy and self-explanatory. It explores the meaning of culture through analysis and interpretation of human behavior. My favorite aspect about the article is the basic vocabulary of the author. It makes reading of the research enjoyable.

In my opinion, the essay’s assessment about culture is vivid and ample. It provides anthropologists with a new perspective for analyzing the broad concept of culture.


In conclusion, despite this insightful topic of interpreting culture the essay may be trying to convey, it is highly engaging not only for anthropologists but also scholars who want to understand how culture can be interpreted. The essay revolves around assumptions caused by human behaviour and their characters in different contexts. Only when analyzed comprehensively, this essay shows evidence of underlying significance or problems presented, and those hints may be a coincidence. Though the research is anthropology-centered, it is invaluable for use in the society to increase understanding of culture. The essay is a factual depiction of contemporary anthropology literature.


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