Re: Biological = trivial?

Adrian Tanner (atanner@MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA)
Mon, 22 Jul 1996 15:51:21 -0230

At 04:12 AM 7/20/96 GMT, Robert Snower wrote:
>At 07:04 PM 7/18/96 +0000, Adrian Tanner wrote:
>>I think I am able to present a good defence as to why widespread, but less
>>that fully universal, cultural phenopmena are of very great significance,
>>and that, moreover, this significance has not, to my knowledge, been
>>adequately acknowledged within our discipline.
>> . . .` But I am saying those who
>>only study the universal in culture, even given all its glorious
>>surface-level cultural variety, are missing out on one of the particularly
>>significant aspects of culture, which is its freedom (indeterminancy sounds
>>more intellectual, and may cover what I am alluding to), including the
>>freedom to *not* have this or that type of cultural practice.
>I would like to accept your offer of the first paragraph. In your previous
>post you used the phrase "entirely social, and therefore non-obligitory."
>>From what standpoint do you see this necessary connection? I am sure it
>never occurs to many people to require such a link. Are you saying freedom
>is part of the definition of "social?" Can there not be a society which is
>totally unfree, and still be society? Then, above, you hedge a little bit,
>and say "one of the particularly significant aspects of culture, which is
>its freedom . . ." Are you referring only to Homo sapiens? Do animals
>have societies? But not culture?
>Best wishes. R. Snower
> entirely social, and therefore non-obigitory
Before starting my respone, I must say how interesting I am finding your
interchanges on with D Read on similar matters, even if (as you may be able
to guess) I start off by finding Read's position more in line with my own
thoughts. Your are right to object to "entirely social, and therefore non
obligatory". This phrase was open to certain missunderstandings (one of
which I had tried to guard against with the phrase "(in some sense)"). I was
using 'social' (in preference to 'cultural', the topic of much of your
debate with Read) in the sense of a form of behaviour that is the opposite
of universal, being instead contingent upon membership in a social group. It
is behaviour which is followed by convention, that is, it is followed by a
group of individuals as a result of social learning, due to their common
membership in a particular social group. Your note has made me realize there
are also forms of behaviour that are in other senses of 'social' and not
restricted in the way I had intended, e.g. behaviour of animals living in
groups which they have not acquired by means of social learning. The
'non-obligatory' part I intended as meaning not absolutely essential for
survival. Of course, there could be a social rule saving it was by
convention an 'obligatory' form of behaviour, but I had intended to suggest
'obligatory' only in the former sense.

With regard to my offer to show that widespread but less than universal
forms of bevhaviour are more common than generally acknowledged, I will
leave that until next time, as I have to run right now.


Adrian Tanner
Memorial University of Newfoundland