Re: reply to Danny Yee

Eve Pinsker (U56728@UICVM.BITNET)
Tue, 1 Mar 1994 07:03:55 CST

On Sat, 26 Feb 1994 18:12:00 PST Read, Dwight ANTHRO said:
>accounting of the fishermen's BEHAVIOR (as opposed to an accounting of their
>conceptual system where things such as termperature-of-the-water are
>irrelevant). That is, I was arguing against (but without knowing if this was
>in fact Lieber's position) the old (but largely if not completely
>discredited) idea that behavior is driven by ideational systems.

If you mean by "behavior driven by ideational systems" that behavior is driven
by consciously-held, easily articulable knowledge (some theorists use the term
"ideology" to refer to this) I would agree that that is not a very useful
position. However, the position that behavior is driven by _perceptual_
systems, which as I understand it is Lieber's (and Bateson's- see his
discussion of pleroma vs. creatura explanatory frameworks in "Form, Substance,
and Difference" in _Steps to an Ecology of Mind_) position, is another matter
entirely, and it is useful and has not been discredited. The idea is that
we can explain the behavior of organisms which respond to their environment
(which means that they're taking in information about their environment), that
is, what the organisms do, by figuring out what information they're taking
in and how they process it, including, but not limited to, whatever conceptual
grids they're using to interpret the information they receive. Bateson used
example of a frog, whose nervous system is such that if you put it in boiling
water it will jump out -- the temperature difference makes a difference to it -
- but if you put the frog in tepid water and raise the temperature very
gradually, you will eventually get boiled frog. The frog never perceives a
difference that makes a difference. The point is NOT to explain why the frog
dies (yes, something that you do not perceive or conceive CAN kill you) but to
explain what the frog does or does not do -- why it does or does not jump out
of the water.
The frog does not have an ideology -- it can not tell you how it feels
about the water, or anything else. Humans do have ideologies, which should be
included in explanations of human action, but that does not mean that you
need to limit your explanation to the ideological level. We respond to things
which we cannot easily articulate -- see Bourdieu's notion of "practice." That
does not mean, however, that a human observer (a social scientist)
cannot attempt to articulate the regularities in how we, or anybody else,
are responding to
what's around us, and create a model or an account of the perceptual and
conceptual filter that makes that response understandable.

Eve Pinsker