256Tim Ingoldis intent on doing away with the boundaries bywhich these components have been distinguished.It claims that the human being is not a compositeentity made up of separable but mutually com-plementary parts, such as body, mind, and cul-ture, but rather a singular locus of creativegrowth within a continually unfolding ﬁeld of re-lationships. In what follows, I argue for an obvi-ation approach.Before proceeding further, I should add a noteabout the terms I use for the different ﬁelds of an-thropology. For a start, I do not deal here withthe distinction between social and cultural an-thropology: I believe this distinction is alreadywidely regarded as obsolete, and I have no inten-tion of reinstating it. So when I place the wordsocial before anthropology, I mean it as a short-hand for social-cultural. Likewise, I am not con-cerned with the distinction between biologicaland physical anthropology. To my ear, the latterdesignation has a rather archaic ring, suggestinga preoccupation with measuring skulls and exca-vating for fossil bones. I prefer the designationbiological, since it suggests a more rounded con-cern with the conditions of human life, both nowand in the past. Finally, I shall make no attemptto distinguish between archaeology and prehis-tory, and will use the ﬁrst term indiscriminatelyto cover both.
Social and Biological Anthropology
It is notoriously di≤cult to explain, to those newto the subject, what anthropology is all about.What, they might ask, is this being, this
, from which our discipline takes its name? Itis one thing, it seems, to ask what is
humanbeing, quite another to ask what is human
.The ﬁrst question is an empirical one, the secondis a question of ontology. A modern evolutionarybiologist, for example, might describe a humanbeing as an individual of a species with a suite of built-in characteristics that owe their origin to aprocess of variation under natural selection. Tothis, however, the philosopher might respondwith the observation that the very possibility of such a description is only open to a creature forwhom being is knowing, one that can so detachits consciousness from the tra≤c of its bodily in-teractions with the environment as to treat thelatter as the object of its concern. It is in this tran-scendence over nature, our philosopher mightisist, that the essence of our humanity resides.In short, the human being can only appear as anaturally selected, empirical object in the eyesof the rationally selecting epistemic subject.This paradox, that accounting for our exis-tence in nature means taking ourselves out of it,runs like a thread through the entire history of Western thought and science. And it lies at theroot of the idea that humans—uniquely amonganimals—exist simultaneously in two parallelworlds, respectively of nature and society, in theﬁrst as biological individuals (organisms), in thesecond as cultural subjects (persons). As organ-isms, human beings seem inescapably bound tothe conditions of the natural world. Like othercreatures, they are born, grow old and die; theymust eat to live, protect themselves to survive andmate to reproduce. But as persons, humans seemto ﬂoat aloof from this world in multiple realmsof discourse and meaning, each constitutive of aspeciﬁc historical consciousness. From this ex-alted position they are said to transform nature,both ideationally through the imposition of schemes of symbolic representation and practi-cally through the application of technology,thereby converting it into the object of relationsamong themselves, relations that are taken tomake up the distinct domain of society.Now a complementarity approach would ac-cept this division between the organism and theperson, and would aim to put together the partialaccounts of human life obtainable on each of thetwo planes, of nature and society, to produce acomplete “biosocial” picture. The obviation ap-proach, by contrast, would reject the comple-mentarity assumption, that human existence canbe neatly partitioned into its biophysical and so-