Culture? "Us" vs "Them"

Thu, 3 Feb 1994 09:27:00 PST

McCreery writes:

"1. Culture is information.
2. Culture is information shared by at least two people....

2-B Culture is thus, in essence, "public" information. ....

3. Culture is information "taken for granted" by at least two people. ...."

Let us look more carefully at this suggestion. Bascially, it is what I have
been calling a rough-and-ready definition: it informs us as to what culture
is NOT, but doesn't tell us what culture IS, and is based on terms that
themselves require further definitions to make them clear. That is, the
definition is of the form: If X belongs to the category culture, then X has
properties A, B, C ..... It does not allow for the converse statement: If X
has properties A, B, C.... then it belongs to the category culture. Why do I
say this? Considuer visual, sensory input. It is information, it typically
is shared by at least two persons, it is public information, it is taken for
granted by one person that other persons share that information, etc. But
certainly visusl, sensory information is not culture.

Now one can certainly add more conditions that would serve to exclude my
counter-example. But then some clever person on this list will think of yet
another counter-example. Again one can add additional conditions to exclude
the new counter-example and perhaps one will eventually arrive at a set of
attributes that only includes things that are agreed are part of culture.
But this kind of brute force approach to a definition suffers from the fact
that it fails to get at any kind of deeper understanding of the phenomena in
question that would provide the basis for developing a serioius theory about
the nature of the phenomena that are given the label "culture".

D. Read