Re: Animal society/human culture

Natalie Marie Underberg (natamu@UCLINK3.BERKELEY.EDU)
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 12:33:23 -0700

YHi Jesse,
Just to be clear, I actually don't have any particular opinion about
whether chimpanzees have "culture;" I just wanted to offer the reference.
I have not read the book, to be honest. But I did take a class with the
author and we spent a few sessions on this question. My offering to this
discussion concerned the issue of toolmaking as incipient culture. This
is his speciality, and this is what he used to make his tentative argument
about whether or not chimpanzees have culture. To my memory, he said the
following: "Do chimpanzees have culture? Sort of." This didn't answer
the question QUITE to my satisfaction, so I'd like to know what all you
experts have to say about the issue of toolmaking or technology in
general as a criterium for culture. I actually got my degree from UCB in
soc/cult anthropology, and not physical, so I am just following this
debate from a semi-informed perspective. I'd be interested
to hear about how toolmaking fits into the argument about what defines
culture. That is, how sophisticated does the toolmaking have to be to
qualify as culture? Or does it not matter, because toolmaking is not a
sufficient criterium to earn the epithet of "culture?" Let me know (any
of you guys) what you think; I'd like to hear from all you physical
anthropology/primatology experts...

On Mon, 5 Aug 1996, Jesse S. Cook III wrote:

> This is a reponse to Ilay Ors and Natalie Marie Underberg. First, I agree
> with Ronald Kephart. No definition of the word "culture" that I am aware of
> (Clyde Kluckhohn, in a survey of the anthropological literature quite a few
> years ago, counted 156, if I remember correctly) has in view any animal
> except the human one.
> Second, just because the authors of two books use the word with referemce to
> nonhuman animals does not mean that they are correct in doing so. Nor does
> it mean that either the denotation or connotations are about to change to
> include nonhuman animals any time soon.
> Third, any resemblence between animal social behavior and human culture is
> purely coincidental (as I think I've said before). And I wouldn't even call
> it "proto-culture" (as I know I've said before, on 28 July 1996, to be exact).
> Jesse S. Cook III E-Mail:
> Post Office Box 40984 or
> Charleston, SC 29485 USA
> "Our attitude toward others is not determined by who *they* are;
> it is determined by who *we* are."