Re: On the word "primitive"

Robert Snower (rs222@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 17:13:24 +0000

At 03:54 PM 8/1/96 +0000, Wade Tarzia wrote:
>>Of course you don't tell somebody his culture is primitive, anymore than a
>>doctor tells a patient with only one leg that he has only one leg. But the
>>doctor doesn't go off and write an article to the medical journal that his
>>patient has two legs, either. ...
>>Best wishes. R. Snower
>-- A reply to a detail, not the broader argument: doesn't the word
>"primitive" lack that sensitivity we were discussing a week ago in regard
>to enthographic descriptive language? Even if 'primitive' did not hold a
>somewhat negative tone (some people feel so, I believe), it couldn't be
>applied as a descriptive term except in the most specfied way, am I right
>or wrong? One could be using a "primitve" technology while engaging in
>very complex ritual (some Australian aborigines?). (and I suppose the
>technology could be argued to not so primitive if one included in the
>technological decsription the full array of knowledge required to make a
>fishing net, for instance). Just a thought from the anthropologically
>handicapped... --wt

It is not a good word to use. So of course it is used with relish by those
who are challenging my views. I use "prehistoric" often enough, because
that conveys my meaning of "before recorded history," and sometimes
"primordial" because that conveys "origin" and "prototype."

Best wishes. R. Snower