Philosophical Aspects of Culture

Philosophical Aspects of Culture

Philosophical Aspects of Culture

Philosophical Aspects of Culture

Excerpt

My purpose in this study is to look beyond the descriptive aspects of culture to what may be called its metaphysical and ethical aspects. It seems reasonable to distinguish at the outset metaphysical from ethical questions, even though in the final analysis the two may merge into one. The metaphysical are those which pertain to the sense in which we may regard culture as real -- whether it is an expression of reality, or whether it is a sham, a deception, an illusion, to cover up realities man cannot quite bring himself to acknowledge. The ethical questions, which are certainly related to the metaphysical, pertain to the wholeness, the completeness, the perfection of cultures, and secondarily to their capacity to evoke stirrings in men which lead to the promotion of civil life. Some elaboration of the questions may prove helpful as an introduction to what is to follow.

It is doubtful whether metaphysical questions can ever quite be eliminated from philosophical debate. Especially in matters relating to culture, it is doubtful whether they can reasonably be eliminated. Culture is by its very nature a trans-individual affair -- or so it seems -- and therefore the extra-private character of it becomes of prime concern. It would seem to be so because we want to know how things are interrelated, whether some are epiphenomenal expressions of others or whether there are independent existences, and if so, which are independent, and consequently which are dependent, and the like. Again, we want to know whether culture engenders the vitalities of human existence, and if it relates men to the world or if it only alienates them from it. To provide the reader with further clues, it may be well to specify more particularly what is involved in some of these questions.

In describing various cultures as whole cultures, the ethnologist usually tells us about the patterns which seem to characterize the life of a people, as if the reality lay in the pattern itself. We . . .

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