Category: Anthropology

Challenges of the Anthropocene

This paper draws on early twentieth-century philosophical anthropology as well as cognitive science and evolutionary anthropology to examine how humans compensated for their biological under-determination by becoming second-natured, empathetic, cooperative, symbol-using creatures. Examining the capacities for cooperation that emerged in our evolutionary history may help clarify our thinking about contemporary problems that require collective decisions.

Erich Fromm: Territorialism and Dominance (1973)

In this short extract from [easyazon_link identifier=”080501604X” locale=”US” tag=”mainacademicsite-20″]The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness[/easyazon_link], Erich Fromm rejects the idea that an instinct of territorialism exists that leads humans and animals to defend vast areas of territory they inhabit. He argues instead that there is a tendency to invade and appropriate new territories. In his view, this has nothing to do with innate human instincts, but with man-made aggressive ideologies and institutions. Here is the excerpt:  The popular picture of animal aggressiveness has been largely influenced by the concept of territorialism. [easyazon_link identifier=”B001UKYQUE” locale=”US” tag=”mainacademicsite-20″]Robert Ardrey’s Territorial Imperative[/easyazon_link] (1967) has left the general public...

Claude Lévi-Strauss: Structural Anthropology. 1958

I am quoting some excerpts from this classic in anthropology. The source is “Structural Anthropology,” 1958. Published by Allen Lane, The Penguin Press. 1968. Chapter II: Structural Analysis in Linguistics and in Anthropology. LINGUISTICS OCCUPIES a special place among the social sciences, to whose ranks it unquestionably belongs. It is not merely a social science like the others, but, rather, the one in which by far the greatest progress has been made. It is probably the only one which can truly claim to be a science and which has achieved both the formulation of an empirical method and an understanding...

Michel de Certeau: To the ordinary man.

Michel de Certeau’s original version of his book “The Practice of Everyday Life” (1984) has a “for-forword” that dedicates it to the “ordinary man.” This ordinary man is the remnant of humanity in an age that moves from the name to the number, from titles to bar codes. We can fill in the blanks: refugees, prisoners, stateless people, migrants, slum-dwellers, people who live in some kind of no-mans-land, or simply the crowds in public spaces. In Certeau’s view, what is left of humanity is an impossible object of desire, the longing for a subject of history, or for a meaningful...

Michel de Certeau

Michel de Certeau (1925-1986) was a Jesuit, an anthropologist, and he was involved with Lacan’s psychoanalytic movement. He writes about mysticism, the practice of everyday life, and the forces that unify people into groups, and that also separate them. What are the models of action for people who are dominated in various ways, for instance as consumers in capitalist societies? His ideas are very similar to Lacan’s, but translated into the domain of anthropology. His Life the Jesuit website www.jesuites.com has an excellent biography of Certeau, written by his friend and colleague Luce Giard. (written on February 5, 2006). Here...

Early History of Civilization

I wanted to know more about the human prehistory; where we come from and what we really know about our own origins.The timeline below gives you a rough overview; it is a fascinating story. One way to sequence human prehistory is by the type of tools that were in use. Early on, researchers came up with a three stage system of stone, bronze, and iron that allowed them to sequence the origins of human civilization. This system, however, does not work for every geographic area. The Stone age period comprises more than a million years, and gets divided into an...

Bateson: The Cybernetics of “Self”: A Theory of Alcoholism

The following excerpt for Ecology of Mind by Gregory Bateson is one of the best articles about alcoholism I have found so far. It is also an example for Bateson’s style of thinking. He outlines some of his basic assumptions. Quoted From: Gregory Bateson: ‘Steps to an Ecology of Mind’ ‘Part III: Form and Pathology in Relationship’  Originally published 1972, University of Chicago Press edition 2000. ISBN 0-226-03905-6 The Cybernetics of “Self”: A Theory of Alcoholism The “logic” of alcoholic addiction has puzzled psychiatrists no less than the “logic” of the strenuous spiritual regime whereby the organization Alcoholics Anony­mous is...

Gregory Bateson – Quotes

What is the pattern that connects all living creatures? (Bateson, Mind and Nature, 1979, p.8) ‘But the bits and pieces of mind which appear before consciousness invariably give a false picture of mind as a whole. The systemic character of mind is never there depicted, because the sampling is governed by purpose. We never see in consciousness that the mind is like an ecosystem – a self-corrective network of circuits. We only see arcs of these circuits. And the instinctive vulgarity of scientists consists precisely in mistaking these arcs for the larger truth, i.e., thinking that because what is seen...

Gregory Bateson

The following description of Bateson’s life and work is quoted from his obituary in the American Anthropologist, Volume 84, Number 2, June 1982: Gregory Bateson died on July 4, 1980, at the age of 76, survived by his wife, Lois; three children, Mary Catherine, John, and Nora; and his adopted son, Eric. Mary Catherine, the child of his marriage to Margaret Mead, is Dean of Faculty at Amherst College and, like her parents, an anthropologist. We have been able to make use of the fine biography by David Lipset, Gregory Bateson, The Legacy of a Scientist(Prentice-Hall 1980) in preparing this...