Concepts of the Ordinary

dans Andrew Brandel et Marco Motta (dir.) "Living with Concepts: Anthropology in the Grip of Reality"

The study of concepts is one place where anthropology has clearly exerted a transformative influence on philosophy, putting pressure on the classical notion that concepts apply to experience and that particular situations fall under general concepts. I shall start with Wittgenstein: “Concepts lead us to make investigations; are the expression of our interest, and direct our interest” (1986, §570). Veena Das adds: “It is this interest—so what matters to us—that give them life, flesh them out.” Experience and concepts play different roles in the general economy of our relations with things. The ipseity of experience, an ingredient of the “reality” we give to “things” is not the same as the normativity of the concept, which, when it is adequately applied, gets a hold on reality, which can be evaluated and described as true or false, correct or incorrect.


However, many concepts are fed by experience. This is to acknowledge (the meaning of) the fact that to be able to think certain things, we must put ourselves in the place of certain people, have certain experiences, immerse ourselves in forms of life. And that the concrete, the actual ability to think a certain thing, requires a certain form of calibration or “fit” to the real that is only acquired by long practice and itself supposes a number of factual connections with the real.


Cite this book chapter: Laugier, S. 2021. Concepts of the Ordinary. In: Brandel, A. and Motta, M. ed. Living with Concepts: Anthropology in the Grip of Reality. New York, USA: Fordham University Press, pp. 29-49. ⟨hal-03744373⟩