Claude Levi-Strauss: Social Psychotherapy and the Collective Unconscious

Claude Levi-Strauss: Social Psychotherapy and the Collective Unconscious

Claude Levi-Strauss: Social Psychotherapy and the Collective Unconscious

Claude Levi-Strauss: Social Psychotherapy and the Collective Unconscious

Excerpt

Claude Lévi-Strauss is not a philosopher, but a social anthropologist. Although prepared academically for a philosophical vocation, he has committed himself to anthropology. His view toward philosophy, subsequently, is somewhat ambiguous. In describing one of his most philosophically oriented books (The Savage Mind), he states that, despite the possibility of formulating in it an indigenous philosophy, he was determined not to set out upon this route. He seems quite convinced in his determination not to enter philosophical realms; yet, since Lévi- Straussian structuralism, at its core, is an epistemology and has already produced an ethic, it is doubtful that he can be considered to have successfully extricated himself from this philosophical perspective.

One overall problem forms the core of this observation. In Lévi- Strauss, the basic opposition out of which all primitive logic is structured is that between nature and culture. The bridge that logic forms between these binary terms is the priority of the collective over the individual. The question that Lévi-Strauss constantly sets before himself is how the collective is ontologically prior to the individual.

This problem has a long history. Its locus classicus is the debate that takes place between Glaucon and Socrates in the second book of the Republic. The general question of the dialogue is "What is justice?" Glaucon had maintained that the words justice and injustice have no meaning, since individuality is ontologically prior to the collective. If the "just" man and the "unjust" man were both provided with a talisman that would render them invisible (the ring of Gyges), they would both take and do whatever their (individual) natures urged upon them. Hence, for Glaucon, individuals are intrinsically unrelated one to another, and justice is, then, simply a conventional term, not a natural one. The in-

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