Re: Pluck and Culture Change

Matthew Hill (mhhill@WATARTS.UWATERLOO.CA)
Thu, 2 May 1996 20:29:12 -0400

On Wed, 1 May 1996, Read, Dwight ANTHRO wrote:

> Hill writes:
> "I tried for several years when I was his student to make Taylor realize
> that if culture was something inside peoples heads, it was only studiable
> by some sort of introspective psychology."

Dwight Read is here quoting from a reply to Brunton in which I used the
jocular 'something inside peoples(sic) heads) as a paraphrase of Brunton's
'mental phenomenon'.

> It is not completely clear what is meant here by "'culture was something
> insdie peoples heads". In one sense it is trivially true; e.g., if culture
> has to do with concepts (e.g., "American Flag", Motherhood, etc.) then those
> concepts do reside "inside peoples heads". But remember that "phenomena" can
> be observed both directly and indirectly. E.g., to cite just one exampple,
> in her work Dr. El Guindi studies the conceptual framework underlying
> behavior (the conceptual framework is "inside
> peoples heads") by detailed ethnographic observation of patterns of behavior
> and infers from the behavior to the "unseen culture" which underlies those
> patterns.
> But Hill may be thinking of something different when he refers to "something
> inside peoples heads."

I think not, but I am strongly of the opinion that these 'mental phenomena'
'things inside peoples heads' or 'conceptual frameworks' are explanations
for culture (shared patterns of behaviour not likely to be the result of
inherited characteristics, physical or chemical laws, etc. to be quick and
dirty). Interesting explanations, perhaps, but another order of thing.

Matthew Hill (

> D. Read