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Re: [xmca] Levy-Bruhl, concrete psychology and "primitivism"
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] Levy-Bruhl, concrete psychology and "primitivism"
- From: Martin Packer <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2012 23:31:58 -0500
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Yes, the babalawo does not simply consult the oracle and dictate a course of action. He must reason with the client, relating what is in the signs to events in her life, to her concerns and the reasons she chose to consult him in the first place. He must justify the course of action spoken by the Orula, anticipate possible objections, and provide both logical and empirical grounding for his claim about its worth.
On Feb 21, 2012, at 8:19 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
> Very helpful, Martin.
> Martin's analysis causes me to think back to Vygotsky's strong critique in T&S Ch 2 of Piaget's conception of development moving from individualization to socialization; Vygotsky argued it is the other way around. My thinking is this is not just true for children. I am not talking about bourgeois individualization, but a deeper process of learning to be self-actuated, learning self-mastery, etc. in a given society, a given mode of production, system of social relations, cultural practices. The paradox of becoming more socialized and cultured is to also become more individualized.
> The babalawo is giving what sounds to me, in the context (and pretty universally, actually), like common sense advice and argumentation about conducting and taking care of oneself, of continuing to develop beyond over-socialized habits, and developing along the plane of individualization, paying attention to developing better habits regarding one's body, hair, clothes, belongings.
> What is "practical" and what is "symbolic" in this process of moving from (and perhaps sometimes back toward) the over-socialized and develop toward the increasingly individualized are often fused and can be pretty hard to tell apart. This is one of the areas where trying to use one culture, especially middle class life in the advanced capitalist countries, to measure these processes of over-socialization and under-individualization in other cultures can make many mistakes. And where the symbolic aspect may be seen as "irrational" and "backward" and the "practical" as the "real" reason this or that is being done. But this is a reductionist approach to explaining human behavior, reducing people to "practical" activities. That is the way capitalists look at workers.
> As for the luck and divination aspect, if Vygotsky is right, then that very, very deep-rooted (and still very much alive) human approach to how to deal with uncertain outcomes has a history far more extensive and has been around much longer than even the god Orula, who is probably a relative newcomer to the practice of helping us mortals struggle for freedom by soliciting chance to help us recognize and accept necessity.
> Thanks for another great post, Martin.
> - Steve
> On Feb 21, 2012, at 1:57 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
>> I was hoping someone might analyze this passage for me, but I guess I'll have to do it myself!
>> Much of the babalawo's talk takes the form of advice, recommendations, obligations for the future conduct of the client. What she has to do, or ought to do, includes “go to the church and make mass for you deceased relatives,” “look after your mother, by phone,” “arrange a sacrifice,” “pray,” “wear your hair loose,” and so on. In the excerpt above, the advice is to stop lending her clothes.
>> It is worth considering in detail the way this advice is offered. In this excerpt it is grounded in what “Orula says” (93) but immediately a warrant is added: “because that is stealing your luck” (we have translated suerte as ‘luck,’ but it could equally be ‘fate’). This is then clarified, and then the babalawo recommends to the client that she make her own observation; if she does so, she will see that her sister, who on occasion uses her clothes, is happy, content, while she, the client, is not (94-96). This is presented as an empirical demonstration of the Orula’s point: due to the fact that her sister has worn her clothes, the client’s astral has been stolen. It also counters a possible rebuttal: the “If not…” can be glossed as “If you don’t believe me, consider this…” The consequence of this is that the client is unhappy, while her sister is happy. The babalawo then offers additional clarification, “because…” one can wash ones clothes a hundred times, the astral of the person who wore them cannot be removed (96-98). This displays a counter to a possible qualification that the loss of one’s astral might be prevented by the simple expedient of washing the clothes that have been borrowed. Then he adds what could be taken as an appeal to his authority, or a confirmation that he himself lives by the advice he is offering to her: “We, the religious, don’t loan our clothing…” (98). This functions as backing to the validity of the central claims. He elaborates further; not only clothing should not be shared, but also shoes, towels, soap. Nor do they do the reciprocal: they don’t “wear the clothes of another person” (101), this countering the possible objection that if the effect works one way, it ought to work in the opposite direction, but this has not been mentioned.
>> The passage displays a complex and subtle argumentative organization. It starts with the central claim, then a warrant (“because…”), then a more explicit statement of the mechanism that is claimed to be operating (“wear someone’s clothes… steals their luck”), then it counters a possible rebuttal, then counters a possible qualification. Then a backing is provided, and a further warrant. Finally, another possible qualification is countered.
>> Recall Toulmin's model of argument:
>> On Feb 21, 2012, at 9:54 AM, Martin Packer wrote:
>>> Steve mentioned the presentation I gave at ISCAR, on a study conducted by a student here in Colombia (Silvia Tibaduisa) of the babalawo. I discussed an excerpt from a divination session; here it is:
>>> Let me ask a little question. You live in a aparte-studio... in an apartment, with other people. What person wears your clothing?
>>> Yes. Sometimes my cousin or my sister uses them
>>> Orula says not to lend your clothes any more, because that is stealing your luck. That the person who wears someone’s clothes steals their astral, steals their luck. If not, make an observation yourself, of how your cousin lives and how you live. She's all happy, all content, and you’re not. That is how someone’s luck, stability, leaves them. Because [when] one lends their astral, although one washes it 100 times, it takes holds of the astral of the other person as well, and if it’s a negative astral, it also includes one. We, the religious, don’t loan our clothing, we don’t bathe with the same towel or the same soap. We don’t lend underwear, socks, shoes, anything. Because these are one's personal things and that takes hold of your astral. Nor wear the clothes of another person.
>>> The English reads a little oddly because I prefer literalish translations. There are a number of interesting characteristics to this exchange, but I want to focus on the reasoning involved. I would suggest that it is perfectly recognizable to us. Substitute a more familiar premise: not "when someone wears your clothes they steal your astral" but "when someone uses your toothbrush they give you bacteria" and the rest follows logically, doesn't it?
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