Quotes to Ponder

Quotes to Ponder

In a way,
culture substitutes itself to life,
in another way
culture uses and transforms life
to realize a synthesis of a higher order.

Who said this quote and why?

Another way to look at this:

In a way,
[NUrture] substitutes itself to [nAture],
in another way
[NUrture] uses and transforms [nAture]
to realize a synthesis of a higher order.

The full context is here (thanks to Herve Varenne):

Claude Lévi-Strauss (1949):

Man is a biological being as well as a social individual. Among the responses which he gives to external stimuli, some are the full product of his nature, and others of his condition… But it is not always easy to distinguish between the two… Culture is neither simply juxtaposed to nor simply superposed over life. In a way, culture substitutes itself to life, in another way culture uses and transforms life to realise a synthesis of a higher order. (1969 [1949]: 4 )


Another illustration of the nature/nurture conundrum is as two blades of a scissors. But I do not recall who thought this one up.

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  • jenise  On April 6, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I feel like the best way to look at it is that nature gives us tools, (certain genetic behaviors,) and nurture determines how we put to use these tools, It’s very hard to separate the two, I mean unless someone grew up in total absolute isolation from every other creature on the earth then perhaps you could say that it is all nature, but such a person would have to be abandoned at the moment of birth, and I’m not sure how plausible that would be…

    • jumpinhare  On April 7, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Jenise..I agree that it is hard to separate the two…I reflect back on the identical twins that were separated at birth. Yes they were given the same tools genetically, but the nurturing would be totally different yet they still end up so much alike. To the point that they even chose the same profession. I think were still have a lot to learn in this area and we have barely scratched the surface.

  • mech  On May 16, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    The quote about culture substituting life or transforming life can be made sense of when considered in a cyclical manner. As previously mentioned, it can seem that nature and nurture are very difficult to consider as separate but it seems like they’re not supposed to be separated. I remember a lecture where we discussed the differences between human capabilities, and something we discussed was language. The professor and a student were arguing about whether or not humans are bound to speak, and the professor finally asked the student this, “if a child was born and left all alone would he or she just learn how to speak?” Of course, the conversation ended after this because the student realized the point the professor was trying to make. Language is something that humans are capable of through nature, but without nurture (being TAUGHT to speak) it is almost impossible. Like Jenise said its highly unlikely that a person would grow up in complete isolation, but this scenario is a good example of one of the few ways nurture and nature can be separated.


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