Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning

Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning

Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning

Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning

Synopsis

Culture in Mind is an ethnographic portrait of the human mind. Using case studies from both western and nonwestern societies. Shore argues that "cultural models" are necessary to the functioning of the human mind. Drawing on recent developments in cognitive science as well as anthropology, Culture in Mind explores the cognitive world of culture in the ongoing production of meaning in everyday thinking and feeling.

Excerpt

Jerome Bruner

The historical separation of anthropology and psychology, whatever may have caused it, must surely be counted as one of the most stunting developments in the history of the human sciences. It would be comforting to say that it is only in recent times that its baleful effects have been felt. But that it is not really so. We are probably more conscious of these affects now because the Cognitive Revolution has made us newly aware, on both sides of the divide, of what we had been missing. And this book, Culture in Mind, must be counted as a major event in the reopening of the frontier between the two disciplines. If it does not settle all the questions about culture and mind that have classically and famously troubled psychologists and anthropologists alike, at least it relocates them in a way that gives real promise of progress. And it does so powerfully and without recourse to any of the tiresome old clichés about "mind internalizing culture" or about the progression, so-called, from the "primitive" to the cultivated mind. And perhaps most important of all, it is a book that thrives on coexistence: Professor Shore makes plain that the study of man requires a division of labor between, indeed a consortium of, psychology and anthropology--not to mention computational scientists and neurophysiologists.

The separation of anthropology and psychology as two free-standing disciplines is full of historical ironies, and it is a story well told in the opening chapters of this book. In spite of their staking out separate territories of inquiry, the two disciplines were never able to ignore each other or, better, never able to resist raids into the other's territory. Just as anthropologists got repeatedly hung up in trying to define "the primitive mind" and the limits of rationality, so psychologists foundered in their efforts to "explain" culture by reference to the human impulse to conformity. But conformity to what? Given the individualistic ontology of psychology--witness the famously bitter rejection of the "group mind" in the early 1920s--it remained obscure what it was "out there" that individuals were conforming to. So increasingly, psychology took the low road of assuming that all things mental could be explained from the inside out, while anthropologists opted for the high road--that the life of . . .

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