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[xmca] Inappropriate affect
I think there are some very interesting arguments that even
supposedly innate drives, such as the drive for hunger or for
sex, are culturally mediated. That is, if you consider hunger
to be something that is experienced and not just a description
of a biological state of an organism.
As an example, it seems possible to imagine two people who
have precisely the same biological state of "needing food"
(e.g., both haven't eaten for a week). It seems plausible that
one could experience this as "hunger" whereas the other might
experience this as "ecstasy" (as in the case of some religious
rituals that include severe fasting). You can say that they
are both "hungry" if you use a purely biological definition,
but "hunger" does not simply describe a biological state of an
organism. Rather, "hunger" (as with all emotions) describes an
experience of a biological state, and this experience of a
biological state is heavily mediated by cultural and social
context for its realization.
As another source to consider, in Marxism and the Philosophy
of Language, in addition to his discussion of hunger (pp.
88-89), Volosinov writes:
“Thus, the personality of the speaker, taken from within, so
to speak, turns out to be wholly a product of social
interrelations. Not only its outward expression but also its
inner experience are social territory. Consequently, the whole
route between inner experience (the “expressible”) and its
outward objectification (the “utterance”) lies entirely across
social territory. When an experience reaches the stage of
actualization in a full-fledged utterance, its social
orientation acquires added complexity by focusing on the
immediate social circumstances of discourse and, above all,
upon actual addressees” (p. 90).
I would propose substituting "emotion" for "personality" in
the above passage as a way of capturing the nature of emotion
as a thoroughly social feature of human experience - as
Volosinov's interpreters say "across social territory" (cf.
Peirce's notion of the Self as a "vicinity"). I'd also suggest
Volosinov's Freudianism as a good place to look at a more
socialized view of what might be our most favorite of the
drives - the drive for sex - Enjoy!
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 2009 08:44:20 -0600
Subject: Re: [xmca] Inappropriate affect
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
I am not stating that culture does not mediate individual
responses. My point is that humans have inate drives that
emotions. Hunger is not mediated by culture. How one
hunger can be culturally mediated. How one responds to
emotions can be
mediated by culture but I do not believe it to be a priori
emotional responses are culturally mediated.
The Department of Comparative Human Development
The University of Chicago
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