Early Civilization: An Introduction to Anthropology

By Alexander A. Goldenweiser | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The missing link of biology has its psychological analogue. There are, in fact, many such psychological missing links. Whether our ancestor was the anthropoid ape or his cousin, or a common relative of both and of man, the psychology of our closest known precursors is so far different from our own as to be scarcely commeasurable with it. Nor is this all. If one attempts to picture, in abstraction, this psycho-physical missing link of a man, what are the symptoms of identification to be? Is it language, or the use of tools, or religion, or the art of living together with one's kind in some sort of regulated community? And in accordance with the symptom chosen, the being thus identified would be a different one.

To this a conceivable answer might be that the primitive man in question, the psychological missing link, would be like the man of today or of yesterday, minus civilization. But then, who is there to tell us where civilization ends and the original nature of man begins, or what would be left of man were civilization removed?

The difficulties besetting this problem marred the cogency of the numerous speculations about our psychological forerunner. Some, like Rousseau, conceived of him as of an apotheosized animal before the fall, peaceful, pure and beautifully adjusted to the social life about him; and, with him, of Eve, equally pure and peaceful. It is indeed fairly easy to find illustrations of such quasi-beatific conditions among early communities, and Spencer, who had his own anti-militaristic axe to grind, is fond of quoting such examples whenever required. The theologians of two and three generations ago felt themselves in accord with biblical tradition when they interpreted the civilizations of primitive man as now found on the surface of the globe as representing decaying remnants of once higher civilizations.

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