Re: Definition of Culture

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Fri, 16 Aug 1996 11:08:48 -0400

In message <34960816124043/0002019573DC2EM@MCIMAIL.COM> J Cook writes:

> Learning to survive is essential to all animals. The nonhuman ones do
> it by imitation.


Do you mean to say that humans don't learn by imitation? I feel sure that you
don't, and yet I also feel that I have to keep pressing on the issue of too
neatly separating humans from other animals, which seems to be a recurring theme
in yur posts.

I don't know if there's even a way of doing the percentages, but I am sure that
a huge amount of what you "know" about being human in your native linguistic and
cultural context is a product of interaction between your genetic programming
and imitation, both unconscious and conscious, of your fellow hominids. No one,
for example, ever sat you down at the age of two or three and said, "OK, Jesse,
one thing you have to remember from now on is that English is NOT a null-subject
language. So, be sure your (finite) sentences have an overt subject."

Of course there are many more subtle things, such as gestures, personal space,
and so on, that are acquired without verbal teaching/learning.

Interestingly enough, cultures differ in the values they place on different
learning/acquisition styles. In some, Teacher explains how to do X to Learner,
and then Learner does it. In others, Teacher does X while Learner watches until
they are ready, and then Learner does it.

So, humans have a mode of learning based on symbolic representations provided by
language, which appears not to be shared with our fellow hominoids; but we also
make extensive use of the soical mode of learning, which we share with many
other animals.

Ronald Kephart
University of North Florida