Re: Culture

Lt Commander Data (data@SELWAY.UMT.EDU)
Sat, 29 Jan 1994 11:37:35 -0700

On Fri, 28 Jan 1994, Rafael Candido Alvarado wrote:

> >Lt Commander Data has written:
> >Culture is, simply, learned behavior. Embodied in that simple statement
> >are all the apsects of culture that you need: learned = reproduced;
> >behavior = human activity and the products thereof.
> This is a good definition of culture; it includes all of those things
> Tylor mentions. However, as I think Read has been arguing, so long as
> you are going to posit learned behavior, why not use the term culture to
> refer to that which generates learned behavior? The only problem with
> this is that it leads to a substantialized conception of culture--as
> something "in the mind"--when in fact it should be conceived of as the
> complex result of a number of factors, both external and internal.

I put forth my definition in order to simplify the idea of what it is
that we, as anthropologists, are attempting to study. It is somewhat
tautological to say that culture generates learned bahavior (ie: learned
behavior generates learned behavior). I prefer, when positing a
definition, to avoid using that word which I am defining, in the

Your observation on external and internal factors is excellent; I assume
that there are no disbelievers (ie: no pure idealists) who would argue.

> >
> >Homo sapiens is the only animal that has the ability to change its niche.
> >The result is culture (ie: learned behavior). This is a very simplified
> >look at biocultural evolution; for a more detailed view, check out Paul
> >Colinvaux "Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare".
> The result or the cause? Both?

This is an intriguing conundrum: did culture arise after we had gained
the ability to change our niche, or did we learn to change our niche, and
subsequently develop culture? I would argue that it is a case of changing
our niche = development of culture (they are, in other words, the same
thing, and therefore separation of the two is unproductive). My apologies
for the lack of clarity in my previous post.

Data out

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night time."
"The dog did nothing in the night time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.