Whether anthropology should be included among physical sciences or among social sciences is the subject on which anthropologists differ. Under the influence of evolutionism, anthropology had no such problem in the beginning and it was considered a natural science.
According to this opinion, man is a part of nature and social laws are similar to natural laws. But, on the other hand, German idealistic thinkers regarded human life and nature as two separate things and refused to accept human life as part of natural life.
It has not been clear about so many modern anthropologists whether they regard anthropology as a natural science or a social science. For example, Malinowski, anthropologists, on the one hand, refers to new psychological reactions being at the root of the man’s cultural attempt and on the other hand regards anthropology as a branch of natural sciences. His whole working principle was an attempt to make use of the naturalist philosophy of John Dewey and others in the field of social sciences.
According to him, culture is a means to satisfy bio-psychological needs of man. In this way, according to Malinowski, anthropology stands in between natural and social sciences. But other anthropologists do not present such a viewpoint. Radcliffe Brown, Nadel and other anthropologists regard anthropology as a natural science which studies through the modes of natural sciences.
According to these anthropologists, the work of anthropology is not to give a detailed description about some special culture, but to give a comparative analysis of different cultures and to frame social laws about the origin and change of human society through that analysis. According to these anthropologists there are some such patterns in the social life of many which do not undergo any change with a change in place and time, and the work of the anthropologist Is to discover laws about them.
On the other hand, according to Kroeber, Bidni and Evans Pritchard, culture and nature are different things and have no real unity in them. According to this theory, anthropology is a branch of History. As a matter of fact, both these viewpoints about the relation of anthropology and other sciences are still accepted in different branches of anthropology.
While, on the one hand, the methods of science are owned in physical anthropology, on the other hand, along with these methods, the methods of history and aesthetics are also owned and their examples are found in the writings of Evans Pritchard and R. Benedict.
Redfield says that holistic tendencies are on the increase in anthropology, man is being studied on different levels of culture and interest in the study of values and personality is increasing. All these tendencies show that in future anthropology will come closer to social science in comparison to natural sciences.
The place of anthropology in social sciences is clear from the above discussion. Different social sciences study the different aspects of man and society in different ways. Anthropology is the science of man. It is a study of human nature. It studies human behaviour in every time and place and in different cultures.
It studies man everywhere on earth. It studies man in both the periods historic and pre-historic. It studies man on all levels, civilzed and uncivilized. In the words of Herskovits, anthropology is a science of man and his actions. It studies the origin and evolution of man from material, cultural and social points of view. In this way, different fields of anthropology such as physical anthropology, ethnology and applied anthropology study man in different aspects. It is clear that the anthropologist gets important help from sociology, psychology, history, linguistics, logic, economics and many other social sciences.