Re: Culture & symbols

Robert Snower (rs222@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 20:58:49 +0000

At 07:06 PM 8/1/96 +0000, thomas w kavanagh wrote:

>Once again, there is nothing in the process of redistribution which
>creates a common identity. Participation in such a system (or in any social
>interaction) may become the basis for a later identification, but
>that participation does not create identity.

Redistribution creates a common identity in the same way tattoos do, or
kinship terminologies do. Except that it is a good deal more powerful. I
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.

>> And kinship (including the metaphorical kind) is the basis for all societies.
>And since we agreed above that neither kinship nor ethnicity "is deeply
>grounded in any non-cultural (i.e. 'biological') reality," therefore
>sociobiology can be of little help in the analysis of society above the
>nuclear family.

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. 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. This
is a little unfair. We both agree, I think, that first it was biology, then
it wasn't. But it is very important (in my thinking) that it all came from
biology, thence a transformation of biology. 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. But I agree with you
completely, there is that point where you have to bring in culture, and its
ability to create links which transcend (there's that word again) biology.
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.

Best wishes R. Snower