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Re: [xmca] Bateson's distinction between digital and analog

On Feb 19, 2012, at 4:40 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

> the purpose of culture is not adaptation to the environment, but rather the imaginative reconstruction and then revolutionary transformation of the environment, and with respect to THAT great work we are all, more less, stranded in the past, just as we are all differently defective.

Hi David,

This is a very appealing statement, but I'm not sure it provides a basis for a solution to the problem of how to think about primitive/indigenous/traditional peoples.

For one thing, it contains a built-in bias in favor of innovation over tradition. Neanderthals lived happily (one supposes) for 300,000 years without changing their life style. They had culture (tools, clothing, perhaps even song), but they didn't innovate. They transformed their environment, building shelters and so on, but hardly in a revolutionary way. The revolution came when homo sapiens showed up and wiped them out. Just who was defective there?

And many homo sapiens have sought to reproduce their traditional form of life, rather than constantly innovate. I'm reluctant to say they lack imagination. Or that they are defective, even in the politest way.

In the same way, I'm reluctant to say that use of divination should be considered a defect
because it implies acceptance of being poor and hungry, rather than the imaginative drive to change things. The closest I'd be willing to go in this direction would be to suppose that one could argue that some groups are not in a position to reconstruct their circumstances imaginatively, because others are preventing them from doing so, and as a consequence they turn to practices such as divination. But I don't see much evidence for that.

No, I'm afraid the idea that there is an intrinsic purpose to culture amounts to a teleological account of history, with all the problems that gets us into. 


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