Francis McKay @ Medicine and Its Objects

Medicine and Its Objects presents…

WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 4:30-6:00 PM




 (Earl S. Johnson Instructor in Anthropology for MAPSS)

to discuss



with opening comments by

Sanja Miklin
(PhD Student, Comparative Human Development)



Abstract: The anthropology of morality has, in recent years, highlighted a variety of sine quibus non (virtue, freedom, evil, etc.) that are conceptually needed if anthropologists are to better understand morality. I add to this list the concept of “telos” and offer a phenomenological theory for how it features in the affective life of the ethical subject. Though common in anthropology, “telos” tends to be defined primarily in terms of highly ranked cultural values that provide the normative content subjects aspire to in their ethical striving. This view, however, fails to capture the range of practices involved in making telic judgments. Specifically, it overlooks the fact that people aim not just at high-order cultural values, but also at “final ends,” and that in deliberating about final ends, criteria for evaluating the finality of values is necessary. Summarizing recent work on ethical reasoning in relation to ultimate values (e.g. Robbins and Lambek), and comparing that to my own research on American Buddhists, I argue that such criteria can be found in a range of biocultural emotional experiences I call “teleological affects,” the name I give to a subdomain of moral sentiments through which people appraise the means and ends of life.



Please email Camille ( for a copy of the paper


For any questions and concerns about the workshop, or if you need assistance in order to attend, please contact Camille Roussel (


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