Culture and the Mental

Tue, 1 Feb 1994 15:24:29 CST

In response to D. Read, let me stress once again that I think culture
should be conceptualized to include symbolic interpretations of reality,
such as kinship terminologies, monotheism, polytheism, etc. I consider
this the mental sector in that its contents cannot be directly observed
as can interfacing with environments and interactions between organisms.
I have a "litmus test" for whether phenomenon X ought to be considered
part of the culture of a specified social group: How does it work to
say,"X is a feature of the group's socially acquired way of life"?
"Socially acquired" means "not genetically acquired," and "way of life,"
though it hints at recurrence or "customariness," I prefer to leave as a
kind of "primitive" in my set of definitions. My argument is not that
culture does not include mental phenomena, only that it is not confined
to them. On this issue we find over and over that it is the
materialists who want a broad definition of "culture," the mentalists
who want a narrowly mentalistic one. --Bob Graber