Re: Single cause theories

Tue, 25 Apr 1995 16:27:00 PDT

Whitehead writes:

" Oddly, his [Levi-Strauss's] point about the way in which social exchange
overcomes autarky would still be good even if other causes of
incest-avoidance were accepted!"

It should be noted that while Levi-Strauss argued against three common
arguments for the origin of incest (genetic harm, familiarity breeds aversion
and as a purely sociological phenomenon), and saw it as having origin in both
in nature and culture ("The prohibition of incest is in origin neither purely
cutural nor purely natural, nor is it a composite mixture of elements from
both nature and culture" (p. 24, The Elementary Structures of Kinship)), its
origin was not so crucial as its status (in his view) of a rule which
transcended the dominion of nature over human kind ("Before it, culture is
still non-existent; with it, nature's sovereignty over man is ended" (p.
25)). Indeed, he obliquely refers to the non-importance of the origin of
aversion to incest, per se: "Even if the incest prohibition has its roots in
nature it is only in the way it affects us as a social rule that it can be
fully grasped" (p.29).

While dispute over the origins of incest still abound, it should also be
noted that attributing its origin as equivalent to accounting for the
multifarious ways in which the rule is expressed in different societies runs
into the problem of trying to account for a variable with a constant.

D. Read