Franz Boas

German-American anthropologist

Franz Boas (July 9, 1858December 22, 1942) was a German-American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology".

The passion for seeking the truth for truth's sake...can be kept alive only if we continue to seek the truth for truth's sake.
- Franz Boas (1945)

Quotes edit

  • Eugenics should, therefore, not be allowed to deceive us into the belief that we should try to raise a race of supermen, nor that it should be our aim to eliminate all suffering and pain. The attempt to suppress those defective classes whose deficiencies can be proved by rigid methods to be due to hereditary causes, and to prevent unions that will unavoidably lead to the birth of disease-stricken progeny, is the proper field of eugenics. How much can be and should be attempted in this field depends upon the results of careful studies of the law of heredity. Eugenics is not a panacea that will cure human ills, it is rather a dangerous sword that may turn its edge against those who rely on its strength.
  • Courtesy, modesty, good manners, conformity to definite ethical standards are universal, but what constitutes courtesy, modesty, good manners, and definite ethical standards is not universal. It is instructive to know that standards differ in the most unexpected ways,
    • Boas (1928) in foreword to Margaret Mead (1928) Coming of Age in Samoa.
  • Anthropology has reached that point of development where the careful investigation of facts shakes our firm belief in the far-reaching theories that have been built up. The complexity of each phenomenon dawns on our minds, and makes us desirous of proceeding more cautiously. Heretofore we have seen the features common to all human thought.
    • Franz Boas (1975) Facial paintings of the Indians of northern British Columbia. p. 4.

Race and Democratic Society (1945) edit

  • The passion for seeking the truth for truth's sake...can be kept alive only if we continue to seek the truth for truth's sake.
    • Introduction.
  • The behavior of an individual is determined not by his racial affiliation, but by the character of his ancestry and his cultural environment.
    • Chapter 2.
  • No one has ever proved that a human being, through his descent from a certain group of people, must of necessity have certain mental characteristics.
    • Chapter 7.

Quotes about Franz Boas edit

  • Boas’s historical particularism, which is closely connected with cultural relativism, consists of the view that every society has its own, unique history, which is to say that there are no ‘necessary stages’ that societies pass through. As a result, it is impossible to generalise about historical sequences; they are all unique. All societies have their own paths towards social sustainability and their own logic of continuity and change, Boas argued. Both this view and certain forms of cultural relativism have always been debated among anthropologists, but they have been deeply influential up to the present.

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