Re: Culture as learned behavior

Jackson M Roper (jmrst38+@PITT.EDU)
Tue, 1 Feb 1994 18:42:24 -0500

On Mon, 31 Jan 1994, SS51000 wrote:

> J. Wilson neatly proves that "learned behavior" is too narrow a
> definition of "culture": it includes much of her pet's behavior. That
> is why we need to define culture as the acquisition of a *social
> group*--i.e., two or more members of the same species engaged in
> patterned interaction. --Bob Graber

But then you must include ants and other social animals as having culture
- you need to include the concept of learned in that patterned
interaction, and more importantly this interaction must be based on
SYMBOLS. In other words: interactive (between individuals) behaviors/beliefs
that include an
interpretive aspect- an interpretation that has been arbitrarily (please
do not get too carried away with my use of this word) assigned by users
who share that interpretation. Most nonhuman animals can not use symbols
(this must of course be distinguished from signals). They can not pass on
what they have learned from generation to generation, discuss (or likely
conceive) of past and future, and strangely enough have not developed
culture. Some `higher' primates, and possibly other highly intelligent
animals can do this to a limited degree (dolphins?)- remember Koko
discussing her sadness over the death of her cat? So perhaps these
animals could be argued to have the basis for the formation of some kind
of culture - I won't get into this since it really isn't my area- but I
really see no need to restrict the definition of culture to humans -
I think that's fairly egotistical. I would argue that those nonhuman
animals that can use symbols do so in a significantly reduced manner from
humans, and thus their culture, if we would argue exists, is at a
correspondingly (dare I say it) primitive level. -J.M. Roper