Re: Culture & symbols

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 19:35:20 -0500

On Thu, 1 Aug 1996, Robert Snower wrote:

> Redistribution creates a common identity in the same way tattoos do, or
> kinship terminologies do.

I did not follow the BMODs thread so I don't know if this was discussed
there. Tattoos do not *create* identity. They might express a pre-existing
one or be used as the basis of later lumping and/or splittling, but the
act of putting pigment under the skin does not create/establish anything.

>Except that it is a good deal more powerful.

What does this "it" refer to?

> would say it necessarily creates a hypothetical identity, unless it is
> utterly anonymous. It is a metaphor straight from mother nursing and
> parental providing. Even if anonymous, the recipient, I am sure, would
> invent an agent--with whom to identify.

Ah, you are speaking of the relation between a center and a single
recipient; a "collectivity" of two. Ok. And there is no necessary relation
between that collectivity and another other collective arrangement
between either of them and any other center/recipient.

[re ... neither kinship nor ethnicity "is deeply grounded in any
non-cultural (i.e. 'biological') reality"...]

> We have slightly different frames of reference. When you think of "deeply
> grounded" you are thinking, how big a component of the contemporary scene.
> I think, how big a factor as an ancestral origin.

The fact that I have five fingers, a kidney, and graying hair is deeply
grounded in biological reality. The fact that I call several people
"father," and several others "uncles" (and that a man older than me can be
my son) and that my ethnicity is variable depending upon context is not.

> Like "He is attending
> Harvard University" because the airplane took him there, versus "He is
> attending Harvard University" because his father always wanted him to.

non sequitor. I don't see the analogy

As far as sociobiology is
> concerned: sociobiology, via Hamilton's inclusive fitness, accounts directly
> for societies in mammals (including humans) certainly past nuclear families,
> to social bands and groups of varying complexity.

just plain non sequitor: it does not follow. If I remember from a looong
time ago, "inclusive fitness" describes the evolutionary relations between
biological relatives. But human societies "past nuclear families" include
a good many people who are not biological relatives and for whom
"inclusive fitness" does not apply.

> As for whether sociobiology is any help or not, it is in the sense it has
> given us the nature of the concept we are dealing with, like knowing
> personally that man's father in order to know why he went to Harvard.

Sociobiology can tell us why someone went to Harvard?

[to see EOW, of course!]